Urology for Social Responsibility meeting at UCSD looks at key social issues

"Last year was a year of many changes socially within the United States. Some of those changes stirred up a lot of interest, enthusiasm, and energy for trying to direct our community toward positive change," said Manoj Monga, MD, FACS.

"One of the common themes from the meeting was how to make this a better world for our children," said Manoj Monga, MD, FACS.

In this interview, Manoj Monga, MD, FACS, gives an overview of the Urology for Social Responsibility meeting that took place on January 14-15, 2023 at the University of California, San Diego (UCSD). Monga is a professor in the department of urology and the Joseph D. Schmidt, MD, presidential chair in urology at UCSD Health.

Dr. Monga, could you give an overview of the Urology for Social Responsibility meeting?

Yes, thank you for having an interest in our program. Urology for Social Responsibility was born out of a social media community last year. As you know, last year was a year of many changes socially within the United States. Some of those changes stirred up a lot of interest, enthusiasm, and energy for trying to direct our community toward positive change. That was the impetus for our inaugural meeting Urology for Social Responsibility to talk about some of the challenges and opportunities that face our society.

Could you describe some of the key takeaways for urologists from this meeting?

Our topics fell into 3 large buckets: global responsibility, national equity, and topics more specific to urology. The first takeaway I would say is that there is not only a lot of passion for each of these different areas in our society, but also there's a lot of expertise and experience within our urologic community from which we can all draw upon.

The other take-home message was that the broader community outside of urology, other specialties, other departments, and individuals with expertise within a university setting, can add to the conversation and help us become better advocates for our communities and better advocates for our patients. In particular, the schools of public health, departments for sociology, those would be some of the areas where we drew on heavily here at UCSD and others that other institutions could draw on to help guide them how best to effectively address some of these issues within their communities.

One of the common themes from the meeting was how to make this a better world for our children. We realized that really, the children are the answer. They're the people who are going to be able to make the changes that are required to make their world a better place. We're often a bit paternalistic. Indeed, that word comes from how we engage with our children. Our children actually have more energy, more power, and more thoughtfulness than perhaps we sometimes give them credit.

So, partnering on children's books that could address things such as recycling, violence and safety, and water preservation. Starting at their home, wrapping around mom and providing proactive parenting classes that help them understand the importance of sleep and nutrition, partnering with school districts and schools, realizing that we need to embrace the place of children in our society, giving them the rights to citizenship, empowering them to make change within their household, asking them how they can brighten their future, and what we can do to help, involving youth leadership in a variety of these discussions on city councils, places where their voice can be heard—we can then implement the changes that they suggest—asking the question, “what does the child want?” rather than thinking that we know the answer. That was one of the recurring themes in the meeting.

Many of our colleagues who joined us from outside of medicine to enlighten us on some of these social issues would mention their view of physicians in society. They share that they feel physicians underestimate their power. Despite what perhaps we think, they still feel that physicians command a large amount of respect and trust within their communities, and as such are very important and effective advocates for change.

During our discussions with regards to equity, inclusion, and justice, it was clear that active listening is critical to the conversations. Approaching it with humility and acknowledging “I know where I am in my privilege,” listening and learning about what your experience was like, are important for us to understand the issues and understand the impact of the issues on the individual.

As we begin a new year, what advancements are you hoping to see in regard to these issues in 2023?

There are so many topics to consider. We're fairly fresh coming off the meeting, just a few days ago. There's still a lot of discussion and information for us to digest, and a lot of soul searching and reflection in terms of what should we tackle? What's the best way to tackle? What can we do as a community? What can we do more locally, through collaboration with others in our community?

I think the areas where as a group we will be stronger will be addressing diversity, equity, and inclusion in urology, addressing gender equity in urology, and addressing wellness and burnout in urology. Those are things that, while they span all of healthcare, have specific areas in urology where we can work together to come up with ideas and solutions.

With regards to national equity and global responsibility, more likely, it'll require partnering with larger groups, with more diverse groups to come up with ideas of what we can implement locally. Sustainability in the operating room would be another area where perhaps working more with our health systems, our hospitals, and our colleagues within our own institutions will be more effective than trying to come up with solutions as a national group.

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