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Changing the Status Quo for Women of Color in Medicine

The Story of Duma Lab

Narjust Duma, MD · Duma Lab

Disclosures

August 10, 2021

Like many of you, my identity was tested during medical training. As a Latina in medicine, I am often the only Latinx/Hispanic physician or scientist in the room. As my career continued to grow, I learned that academic medicine was based on stereotypes that were mentioned and reinforced often; I did not look "like doctors supposed to look." Phrases like "you are so Latina" made me feel isolated and like I did not belong in medicine, leading to depression and a growing imposter syndrome that invaded all of my academic activities.

After years of trying to hide key pieces of my personality to fit in, I discovered that I brought something to the table: my unique understanding of the challenges faced by trainees from underrepresented groups in medicine and the Latinx/Hispanic patient population.

This route of self-discovery led to awards and publications, and I realized that my calling was to support others like me. I co-founded the #LatinasInMedicine community (now composed of over 6500 members), developed a mentorship network for underrepresented minorities, and, most importantly, serve as an example to others like me. The face of medicine is changing, and we are here to demonstrate that. Subsequently, I decided to create and grow the Duma Lab, a place where trainees and researchers from all backgrounds will feel welcome, supported, and empowered.

The Duma Lab, formerly known as the Social Justice League, was founded in 2019. The laboratory focuses on social justice issues in medicine, including discrimination and gender bias in academic and clinical medicine, cancer health disparities, and medical education. Our long-term goal is to create a welcoming environment for medical trainees from historically underrepresented groups in medicine while improving the care of vulnerable populations.

We are committed to social justice and understanding the importance of cultural humility when interacting with each other. We value diversity, passion, enthusiasm, and dedication. We are a thriving research group because of the diversity of ideas that are often presented at our monthly meetings.

Members of Duma Lab Are Agents of Change

The Duma Lab is composed of trainees from all levels and across medical specialties, ranging from undergraduate students to clinical and research fellows. Since its foundation, the Duma Lab has received research funding from several national agencies, published over 15 studies and editorials, and presented research findings at national and international conferences, including the American Society of Clinical Oncology Annual Meeting, the World Conference on Lung Cancer, and the  American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting.

One of the unique characteristics of the lab is that our members are located all across the United States and the world. Many members have not met in person but have developed long-lasting friendships and collaborations. Some have become close friends and have found in each other the support they were seeking. I often find myself explaining to new members that geographic distance is not an obstacle for us and that I have not met several of my mentees in person despite having a very productive mentoring relationship.

We use technology to remain in frequent contact via emails, monthly meetings, and a group chat. This group chat is an essential part of the research group as it provides live communication between the members, the opportunity to discuss daily challenges in medicine, and the ability to rapidly cultivate new ideas.

A few weeks ago, the group chat was renamed "Daily Serotonin – Duma Lab" due to the impact that this communication method has on the laboratory members. When sharing personal experiences via the group chat, members have the opportunity to learn from their peers and senior members of the lab. These frequent communications provide real-time mentorship and create an inclusive environment in which vulnerability and honesty are valued.

While we cannot predict the future, we know that the work in social justice is far from over. COVID-19 showed us that our healthcare system continues to fail the most vulnerable and discriminates against minority groups. We will continue to describe and aim to improve the disparities seen in cancer care in the United States and the world. We will go on to learn from our members and grow as a research team and organization.

In future posts we will be discussing social justice issues, cancer health disparities, discrimination in medical education, and many more topics that affect the health profession.

You can find more information about our research laboratory in these articles:

The White Coat Didn't Fit ― Until She Put on a Yellow Dress

The Duma Lab Seeks to Change How Mentorship Works for Underrepresented Women in Medicine

Narjust Duma: "To all minority fellows, residents, and medical students—you belong in medicine"

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About Dr Narjust Duma
Narjust Duma, MD, is originally from Venezuela, born of a Colombian mother and Dominican father. She completed her internal medicine residency in Rutgers New Jersey Medical School and fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Her clinical interests include the care of women with lung cancer, including their unique aspects of cancer survivorship. She is the principal investigator of the Sexual Health Assessment in Women with Lung Cancer (SHAWL) Study, the largest study to date evaluating sexual dysfunction in women with lung cancer. She also has opened the first clinic in the Midwest dedicated to women with lung cancer only.

Dr Duma is a leading researcher in gender and racial discrimination in medical education and medicine. She is the recipient of the 2018 Resident of the Year Award by the National Hispanic Medical Association, the Mayo Brothers Distinguished Fellowship award, and the 2020 Rising Star award by the LEAD national conference for women in hematology and oncology. Connect with her:
Twitter: @NarjustDumaMD
Instagram: narjustdumamd

The Duma Lab, formerly known as the Social Justice League, was founded in August 2019 and focuses on social justice issues in medicine, including discrimination and gender bias in academic and clinical medicine, cancer health disparities, and medical education.

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