Discussions about diversity, equity and inclusion are culturally sensitive and complex. They’re also necessary, said Mike Weaver, M.D., ’77, a member of the UMKC School of Medicine’s first graduating class to complete the school’s six-year program.
The first African-American graduate of the School of Medicine, Weaver reflected on his time at the medical school and navigating the field of medicine as an underrepresented minority as keynote speaker at the Dr. Reaner and Mr. Henry Shannon Lectureship in Minority Health.
Weaver said he was particularly honored and excited to present this year’s Shannon lectureship for two reasons.
“First, because the school of medicine is celebrating our 50 year golden anniversary and I am a proud graduate of the inaugural class,” Weaver said. “And second, because I am a URiM (underrepresented in medicine) member of that class, and I have seen and experienced how diversity, inclusion and equity can have important downstream impacts on students, residents, physicians and health care in our community.”
Weaver said now is a good time for people to reflect on what has taken place in the world around them.
“We are observing an awakening period around issues of diversity, inclusion and equity,” he said. “Not only from a criminal, social justice standpoint, which was brought on by the murder of George Floyd, but also from a health care and social standpoint, brought about around COVID.”
Weaver pointed out that today’s society is recognizing that racism is a social influencer of health and that diversity, equity and inclusion are some of the tools necessary to address the issue. Diversity, he said, is allowing others in the room to be part of the discussion.
“It’s important to remember that representation matters and that inclusion takes place when one is given a seat at the table and has a voice that is valued and respected,” he said. “Equity is what happens when that seat and that voice influences equitable outcomes.”
An emergency medicine physician who retired last summer, Weaver worked in various roles over the years. He served as medical director of Saint Luke’s Kansas City Hospital’s Level I trauma emergency services for 17 years. He was the founding chairman of the hospital’s department of emergency medicine and provided emergency medicine oversight for MAST and Life Flight Ambulance systems for more than 15 years. Weaver was appointed by two Missouri governors to chair the Governor’s Advisory Council on Missouri Emergency Medical Services.
He has also championed the School of Medicine’s efforts in diversity and inclusion. One of four African-American members of the school’s inaugural six-year class, he was the only one of the four to complete the program with his class.
“The school was intentional about diversity, equity and inclusion from the beginning,” Weaver said. “That intentionality created the opportunity for me to be the first African-American to do certain things at Saint Luke’s (Hospital) that positively benefited the community. Our work is to make sure there will be many more students that serve the community. I was able to do many things because the school gave me a chance.”