JOHN FONGE, MD
1. My name is John Fonge, and I hail from the great state of Texas. I earned my B.E. in Biomedical Engineering from Vanderbilt University in 2008 and my doctorate from Ross University School of Medicine in 2014. After completing my medical training in the Combined Internal Medicine and Pediatric Residency Program at UICOMP, I was excited to join the faculty as an Assistant Professor of Clinical Internal Medicine and Pediatrics. In my role as an academic hospitalist, I am energized by and deeply committed to the work of training the next generation of physicians and was recently awarded the 2019 Inpatient Faculty Teaching Award. In addition to teaching, I am the co-director of the medicine consult and procedure service. I also serve on the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Task Force and the Anti-Racism Urgent Action Committee at UICOMP. When I’m not in the hospital, I enjoy spending time with my wife, Daphne, a fellow foodie who shares my love of music, movies, and traveling.
2. One experience that comes to mind when I think about the benefits of diversity in health care occurred during an ICU rotation in my first year as a resident. We were treating an elderly, African American patient who was critically ill and on life support. The patient had a large, loving family that was having a difficult time accepting the poor prognosis. Given my knowledge of the scholarly research on physician distrust among African Americans, I offered to speak with the family — believing that, as the only African American doctor on the unit, they might be more receptive to me and my approach. My assumption was correct. After explaining, in a culturally-responsive manner, that we had exhausted all medical options, the family agreed that — despite their pain — the best course of action was to prioritize the patient’s comfort in his final days. The conversation helped the family to understand that the decision was not a test of their faith, but rather a testament to their love. Years later, I was treating a patient who recognized me as the physician who supported her family through that tough medical decision. The patient thanked me for the care I provided to her loved one and expressed how meaningful it was to see and be treated by a physician who looked like them. These two related encounters demonstrate, for me, the importance of diversity and inclusion in medicine.
4. When attempting to have a dialogue about diversity and inclusion, it is essential to spend time unpacking what these terms mean and what they look like in practice; doing so helps to create a space where everyone has a solid foundation for contributing to the conversation. Moreover, we must work to ensure that all parties have a clear understanding of why these conversations are critically important to our mission of delivering quality health care to all patients.
1. I was born in Chicago, but grew up in the south suburbs. For college, I graduated from University of Wisconsin in Madison with a double major in Mathematics and Biology in 2017 and finally returned to Illinois to start medical school here at UICOMP in 2018. I have been living in Peoria for a little over 2 years now while completing my medical school coursework. In my limited free time, I enjoy listening to music, working out and trying new restaurants.
2. While I was in undergrad I attended Student National Medical Association Annual Medical Education Conference in Atlanta. There were Black medical students and doctors from around the country in attendance, and it gave me a sense of belonging. Coming from a school that lacked diversity, I saw so many physicians of color there and recognized that I have a place in medicine. The influenced me to continue to pursue my goal of being a physician.
4. My advice for engaging in meaningful conversations on diversity would be to not only come with an open heart, but be willing to see someone else’s point of view. I believe one of the best ways to do this is to always be ready to learn the uncomfortable history of different racial, religious, sexual groups so that you can understand some of what may influence people you encounter. In addition, you must be open and honest with your personal beliefs, and be comfortable with those beliefs being challenged. It is of utmost importance to continue to learn and have conversations like these.
DANIEL SACA, MD
1. I was born in Downers Grove, Illinois, and moved to El Salvador a little over a year later. El Salvador was home until completing high school and beginning my college education at Baylor University. I completed a post-graduate year at the University of Pennsylvania before completing medical school training at UICOMP. I have called Peoria home since mid-2015 and have completed most of my medical training here, through medical school and now residency. As far as hobbies, I enjoy watching/playing soccer, playing tennis, video games, audiobooks, and a good gin.
2. It is difficult to pick a singular event, and honestly, at times, there are subtle experiences that linger. For example, entering a patient’s room who is primarily/exclusively Spanish-speaking and being able to provide the opportunity to freely communicate in their native language does not fail to produce a smile. Communicating in a familiar language provides a stark difference in the amount of information that is able to be obtained as well as patient education that is able to be provided as a result.
3. In the same vein as above, the ability to freely and openly communicate in your first language provides a sense of equality in care. To give a concrete example, I was asked to speak with a diabetic patient of a co-resident who was primarily Spanish-speaking and having issues reaching goal glycemic control on oral medications. Discussions need to occur regarding the possible need to initiate insulin therapy if no improvement is achieved by the next visit. Appropriately, my co-resident thought that conversation was best to occur in the patient’s first language and preferably in-person. The short conversation I had revealed a few of the barriers regarding her dietary adherence, apprehension regarding insulin use, and clarified dosing and frequency issues. Ultimately, a 10-minute conversation resulted in significantly improved glycemic control by the next visit and no need for insulin therapy. This simple interaction reinforced the importance of communication and how often good outcomes are not tied with the correct management choices but finding the best way to connect with our patients. To constantly strive for that connection to improve outcomes, regard- less of language and cultural barriers, is the goal of social equality in medicine.
4. Conversations regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion often devolve into accusatory or the perception of accusatory language. I find that this often hinders our efforts to achieve those goals and fails to acknowledge that all participants play a significant role in the process. Moreover, all participants carry biases and preconceived notions that, most often and very importantly, are unintentional. The recognition of these biases and the active participation to account for them is a necessity; a way to bring all participants to eye level to initiate the necessary discussions for change.