UNR Med Cardiologist, Associate Professor, Lorrel Toft, M.D., brings awareness to anti-racism in cardiology practices

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A photo of Lorrel Toft, M.D., UNR Med cardiologist and associate professor with Nina Williams M.D., Warren Clinic Cardiology of Tulsa, Oklahoma.

Lorrel Toft, M.D., UNR Med cardiologist and associate professor, pictured with her trainee, Nina Williams M.D., Warren Clinic Cardiology of Tulsa, Oklahoma, and colleagues, have published "How to Build an Anti-Racist Cardiovascular Culture, Community, and Profession," in the in the Journals of the American College of Cardiology (JACC). Photo courtesy of Dr. Toft. *Photo taken before COVID-19 pandemic and current mask mandates.

Lorrel Toft, M.D., UNR Med cardiologist and associate professor, has published "How to Build an Anti-Racist Cardiovascular Culture, Community, and Profession," in the in Journals of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), along with colleagues, Nina Williams M.D., Warren Clinic Cardiology of Tulsa, Oklahoma; Melanie Sulistio, M.D., University of Texas, Southwestern School of Medicine, Division of Cardiology; David Winchester M.D., M.S., University of Florida Health, Division of Cardiology; and Christine Chen M.D., University of Texas, Southwestern School of Medicine, Division of Cardiology.

This isn't the first time Dr. Toft and Dr. Williams have collaborated. Dr. Williams was a trainee of Dr. Toft at the University of Louisville, and went on to earn the distinction of being the first African American woman to graduate from the institution's Cardiology Fellowship Program.

The JACC article - published March 1 on the final day of Black History Month and just after Heart Month - aims to unite the cardiovascular  physician work force, bring awareness to the lack of diversity amongst cardiology professionals and promote methods of cultivating an anti-racist culture.

"Personal workplace traumas experienced by [underrepresented minorities] are often tucked away for the sake of perceived "professionalism," as the environment and leadership fail to demonstrate intentional support against racism," says Dr. Toft and colleagues in the JACC article.

African Americans are 20% more likely to die of heart disease and 40% more likely to be diagnosed with high blood pressure, according to a 2017 study done by the United States Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health. The report added African American women are at an even higher risk.

For many, the chance to see a doctor who looks like them could change their health habits, according to the American Heart Association.

"Although cardiologists report being pleased with their jobs overall, a study found medical trainees associated cardiology with adverse job conditions, interference with family life and a lack of diversity," an article by the AHA read.

Despite African Americans making up approximately 13% of the U.S population only 3% of cardiologists were African American as of 2015. Dr. Toft's report outlines five areas of change to improve those odds, including:

  • Recruitment, culture
  • Training infrastructures
  • Career
  • Day-to-day practices
  • Personal development 

By promoting a culture of diversity, a medical program can better reflect the community they serve, according to the report's suggestions.

"However, diversity and inclusion efforts cannot stop at recruitment - we must engage in intentional practices to address the personal experience of racism facing [underrepresented minorities] persons in our field," the report read. "... With deliberate, specific, timely actions, leaders can cultivate anti-racist culture in [cardiovascular] training programs, divisions, departments, institutions, and workplaces," said Dr. Toft and colleagues in their JACC report


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The University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada's first public medical school, is a community-based, research-intensive medical school with a statewide vision for a healthy Nevada. Established in 1969, UNR Med is improving the health and well-being of all Nevadans and their communities through excellence in student education, postgraduate training and clinical care, research with local, national and global impact and a culture of diversity and inclusion.

Released: Tuesday March 2, 2021 @ 8:00 AM