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Improving our Culture: Six questions with Kanya Ferguson

Kanya Ferguson, photo
Kanya Ferguson, MD, says it’s important to embrace a broader definition of what diversity means.
Date: Tuesday, February 23, 2021

In our ongoing series about the UI Health Care Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Task Force, we spoke with Kanya Ferguson, MD, clinical associate professor of dermatology, and co-chair of the DEI Recruitment and Retention Committee.

Why did you become involved with the DEI Task Force?

I’m very passionate about furthering diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives at University of Iowa Health Care and excited to be involved in an opportunity to really try and grow these initiatives within the institution.

What does diversity mean to you?

I believe a lot of us think of diversity when used in reference to race, ethnicity, and gender; I think it’s important to embrace a broader definition of what diversity means. It also includes sexual orientation, national origin, religion, disability, and so forth. For me, diversity is really bringing together different groups of people, being able to have a rich diversity of ideas and perspectives and values that contributes to the overall excellence of our institution.

What does your committee, as a group, hope to accomplish?

Our particular task force committee is looking specifically at recruitment and retention at the health care enterprise. I think some of our big goals are really to identify best practices for recruitment and retention of individuals from underrepresented groups. However, it’s not enough to recruit diverse individuals. We must be very thoughtful about making this a positive experience, where individuals feel welcomed, respected, supported, and valued to fully participate.

You grew up in Zimbabwe, a developing country where many people had little access to health care. Do you believe there are access issues in America as well?
There are definitely access issues in the United States which result in health care disparities. I think this has really been underscored by the fact that Black and Latino patients are disproportionately affected by COVID-19. We must really try to provide the highest quality of care for all our patients, irrespective of their socioeconomic status or racial/ethnic background, or other systemic issues that may act as barriers to patients seeking and accessing health care.

What first drew you to the field of dermatology?

I was looking for a specialty that I was passionate about, that would integrate a lot of my interests. I love that dermatology is such a visual field. I can see adult and pediatric patients, and there’s a significant procedural component to it. I like the fast-paced nature of the specialty, and I have a strong interest in caring for the skin of diverse patients. Some diseases are overrepresented in patients with darker skin, so by integrating clinical dermatology and procedural dermatology, I’m able to help by running an ethnic skin care clinic in my department.

When not at work, how do you spend your time?

I have a two- and a four-year-old, so I very much enjoy and value the time I get to spend with my family. My husband is a musician, so I enjoy when we’re able to see live jazz performances and take in more of the art scene. I think there is something truly unique about Iowa City