Diversity Is a Recurring Theme of The MedTech Conference

Speakers at AdvaMed’s Virtual MedTech Conference did not shy away from the subject of racial injustice, and at least one CEO encouraged his peers to “stand up for what is right.”

Amanda Pedersen

October 6, 2020

4 Min Read
Image by Rob - Adobe Stock

Out of 153 executive leaders across 10 large-cap medtech companies, only 17 of those leaders are people of color. As I said during this week's Medtech Unfiltered live stream, it is imperitive that more people of color have a seat at the decision-making tables in this industry. There are signs of diversity and inclusion progress in the industry, however, and diversity has been a recurring theme this week at The Virtual MedTech Conference, hosted by AdvaMed.

Multiple speakers, including Danaher CEO Rainier Blair, touched on diversity during sessions on Monday and Tuesday. The theme continues Wednesday with The Mullings Group podcast featuring three key members of MedTech Color discussing about the growing importance of inclusion and diversity in medtech and beyond.

Blair said one of the leadership traits he most admires in his industry peers is their humility, because it catalyzes their ability to listen to those around them, and to consider, prior to making a rash decisions, what is appropriate for the short term without compromising the longterm.

"When I think about that, especially in these times ... so much of it is falling in our responsibility in the social realm," Blair said during a leadership Q&A on Tuesday. "Leadership that I admire gets off the fence, takes a position, and stands for what is right. I find that knowing what is right is not as difficult as it is sometimes made out to be."

He want on to say that such leaders posess the ability to call out and discuss the "difficult truths."

"So many times leaders will be euphemistic about a given situation, perhaps even put the corporate polish and spin on things," Blair said. "I find that when we're authentic and we speak to the issues at hand honestly and openly, perhaps even when we don't have all the answers, our followership and our trust with our associates and customers grows stronger. ...If we think about the racial injustices that we've all witnessed in recent weeks and months — which in fact has been going on for 400 years — we clearly have to take a position as leaders and stand up for what is right and call out what is wrong."

Bringing empathy to the table and helping everybody through these difficult times needs to be at the forefront, he added.

AdvaMed President and CEO Scott Whitaker exemplafied this leadership trait in early June.

"For too many in this country, the fear of a similar fate [to that of George Floyd] has led to outrage, anger, and hopelessness. We are seeing this expressed in cities across the nation, and for good reason. We are proud of our industry’s employees and the countless others who are taking to the streets to exercise their constitutional right to peacefully protest and plead for long-overdue change," Whitaker said in an open letter intended for the entire medtech community. "We must all stand up. We must all listen. We must all act."

Whitaker acknowledges in the letter that, as a healthcare organization, AdvaMed does not have the solution to a cultural crisis like the one we face today. But, he says, "together we can and we must stand with those who are hurting and suffering ... We can and we must listen to those who offer real solutions to the evil of racism—and then ensure that those who have the power to implement those solutions do so immediately."

Diversity (or lack thereof) in health data

Diversity in clinical data has always been a tough nut to crack because there is not enough racial diversity among investigators, which leads to some minority populations being underrepresented in medical research.

When asked how the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) addresses health disparities in COVID-19 data as well as other clincal research, speakers from CMS pointed to an interactive mapping tool on the agency's website designed to identify areas of disparities between subgroups of Medicare beneficiaries.

"It is an excellent starting point to understand and investigate geographic and racial and ethnic differences in health outcomes," the agency's Office of Minority Health states. "This information may be used to inform policy decisions and to target populations and geographies for potential interventions."

About the Author(s)

Amanda Pedersen

Amanda Pedersen is a veteran journalist and award-winning columnist with a passion for helping medical device professionals connect the dots between the medtech news of the day and the bigger picture. She has been covering the medtech industry since 2006.

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