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    'We embrace diversity,' but must do more to compete


    Tracy Downs, MDDr. Downs

    As a specialty, urology has taken steps to ensure its work force is diverse in both ethnicity and gender, says Tracy M. Downs, MD, who was recently appointed assistant dean of  diversity and multicultural affairs at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health. But more work needs to be done to expand the role of minorities and women in leadership positions and to stay competitive with other specialties, Dr. Downs explains in this interview. Dr. Downs is associate professor of urology and director of the bladder cancer and intravesical therapy programs at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health in Madison, Wisconsin. He was interviewed by Urology Times Editorial Consultant Stephen Y. Nakada, MD, professor and chairman of urology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


    You’ve done some impressive work on diversity and the history of African-American urology. Tell me how you became interested in this topic and how you’ve developed a passion for it. 

    I have always been very interested in history in general, and when I was interviewing as a urology resident applicant, it was really impressive for me to meet the thought leaders in the field. From there, through my introduction to the R. Frank Jones Urological Society, I have met other African-American urologists like myself. As I have aged, I believe it’s now my role to continue to make sure that the younger members of our community are aware of the history of African-Americans in urology and surgery in general.


    Tell me about some of the key African-American urologists in the history of American urology and what they contributed.

    It goes back to the name of our organization, the R. Frank Jones Urological Society. When we held our 2013 meeting in San Diego, I submitted an abstract to the history forum to talk about R. Frank Jones, who became the first board-certified African-American urologist in this country in 1936. He was known for several things, including doing a one-stage perineal prostatectomy. He made many other contributions, the most important of which was training 80% to 90% of African-American urologists in this country at that time point.

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    Some of the current members of the society include W. Bedford Waters, the former president of the American Board of Urology; Cheryl Lee, who is at the University of Michigan; Curtis Pettaway, of MD Anderson Cancer Center; the society’s past president, Walter Rayford, who’s in private practice in Tennessee; current president, Kevin L. Billups, who is at Johns Hopkins; and many others.


    What areas of interest do those urologists have?

    Drs. Pettaway and Lee are both very well-respected oncologists. Dr. Rayford is in a very busy private practice in Tennessee, and does a lot of community outreach with educating large communities of African-American men about prostate cancer. Dr. Billups is the director of an integrative men’s health program.

    Next: Current status of diversity in urology and how it compares to other specialties


    Stephen Y. Nakada, MD
    Stephen Y. Nakada, MD, a Urology Times editorial consultant, is professor and chairman of urology at the University of Wisconsin, Madison.


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