Rapid Rounds: 5 Minutes with Dr. Kim Kelly

Meet Dr. Kim Kelly (she/her) MD, CCFP (AM), FCFP! She is a family physician and works in addiction medicine. However, she might be best known for being a strong advocate for equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) and even shared her #MeToo medicine experience to affect positive change in medicine.

Continue reading to find out more about how Dr. Kim ensures EDI in healthcare is constantly improving and what being an effective ally means to her.

1. Tell us a bit about yourself! What made you want to get into the medical field and specifically your specialty?

To begin, I identify as a cis-gender white woman settler who grew up in a lower-middle-class family in Alberta. I am a first-generation physician. I have been aware of inequities in our society since I was a young child and remember feeling helpless watching my classmates get bullied because of their skin colour, their socioeconomic status or their assumed sexuality. I was not able to stand up to my own bullies until University, a place where my confidence grew due to greater exposure to diverse opinions. What initially drew me to medicine was my love of science but the opportunity to connect with others and advocate for positive change within society were also strong driving forces.

Family medicine appealed to me because of the wide variety of practice options and because I wanted to be practising in the community before I turned 30. However, I would now declare that my “specialty” is Leadership. This is not yet a recognized specialty in medicine but I hope that it soon becomes one.

2. What inspired you to get involved with Equity in Medicine?

Like many, I have experienced multiple events of sexual harassment, gender bias and gender discrimination over my two-and-a-half-decade medical career. During the #MeToo movement, I was compelled to act and I chose to publicly share my story in early 2018 with the intent of affecting positive change in medicine (full story here).

I founded Equity in Medicine in the summer of 2018 after winning a CMA grant. My mission was to build a community of support and empowerment for those experiencing inequity in medicine. At that time, the existence of gender inequity was being debated by medical leadership across Canada. Equity in Medicine’s first priority was to inform and educate that in fact yes, gender inequity, gender bias, gender discrimination and sexual harassment did exist and were ongoing within medical institutions and organizations across the country. Our next priority was to empower formal and informal leaders to take action.

Equity in Medicine is a grassroots leadership team of volunteer Canadian physicians dedicated to addressing inequities in medicine. I am proud of this team and the tremendous work we have done over the past 3 years to socialize EDI concepts and inspire action across Canada. Some examples of our work include hosting free educational sessions on Anti-racist action, Intersectionality, and Allyship, hosting the only Canadian EDI in medicine conference that I am aware of in 2021 and 2022, building partnerships with other national medical organizations and equity-deserving groups, and establishing a Trailblazer award to recognize the courage and risk required of trailblazers who are typically not celebrated within our current culture.

3. How do you ensure equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) in healthcare are constantly improving?

For me, I ensure EDI in healthcare improves by continuing to speak up. I believe in pushing the boundaries and using my power and privilege to evoke change. It also requires a commitment to lifelong learning, unlearning, the courage to make mistakes and take risks, and the humility to apologize for harm done with a desire to do better.

Physician leaders can contribute to improvements by not hoarding leadership roles, by mentoring and sponsoring those who are different from you, and by growing your competency in succession planning, including creating and adhering to term limits.

EDI and anti-racism work is challenging and requires teams and collaborative leadership. It is not work that can be done as a “lone wolf”. This work also requires appropriate resourcing. It is time for healthcare institutions and organizations to step up and appropriately compensate physician leaders to do this work and to value the work itself.

4. What does being an effective ally in healthcare mean to you?

For me, allyship means listening, believing, and empowering. It means using my power and privilege and sharing advantage. It means taking action to improve things for those working within the system and for those accessing the system.

I challenge myself to feel some discomfort in the actions I take. It’s an indication to me that I am learning and unlearning. If I feel comfortable, I ask myself whether I am doing enough or whether I am actually part of the problem?

5. In what ways can doctors and the wider healthcare community be more inclusive of their LGBTQIA+ peers?

We can be more inclusive by using our pronouns when introducing ourselves, for example, at meetings, and with our patients and peers. Also, by using other people’s preferred pronouns and being mindful and apologetic when we misgender someone by mistake. Using gender-neutral language is something we can all do as well, like eliminating “guys” from our vocabulary and replacing it with “folks”. These seemingly small actions can make a huge difference and increase others’ sense of belonging.

I love that being more inclusive is something that we can all improve on starting today. By self-reflecting on questions like “who is not at the table”, “who is at the table but doesn’t have a voice”, “who is this decision serving”, “how am I supporting and empowering those from equity-deserving groups”, we immediately become more inclusive by intentionally challenging our worldviews and our unconscious biases.

Another important point is to become more comfortable with being “called in” and “called out”. If you truly want to be a better ally, please accept that you will make many mistakes. It’s okay! The important thing is that you’re trying. Receiving feedback helps us become better allies.

6. Share any EDI resources you would like to highlight!

Self-education is the responsibility of each of us. Growing your competencies in EDI is lifetime work. This is not work that can be offloaded to a Diversity Leader or to equity-denied groups. It is work that you must do yourself. No matter how much scholarly and experiential knowledge you have, we can all learn more and improve.

You can read books, newspapers, and journals, attend conferences (like our EiM conference on June 2), watch shows and documentaries, follow people on social media who are different from you, and donate to and attend events hosted by equity-deserving groups. Our website also has resources at www.equityinmed.com and you can subscribe to Equity in Medicine at equityinmed@gmail.com to learn more about upcoming educational events.

The views and opinions of physicians featured in this article do not necessarily reflect the official position of The Rounds. Any physician or HCP featured on our website has an active voice in the Medical Community. If you have any questions or concerns please contact hannah@therounds.com