Michael Williams MD, MSc (@bluehatcomics85) is a neuropathology fellow at University of Alabama-Birmingham and will be a 2023-2024 forensics fellow at Allegheny County Medical Examiner's Office in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He is also the creator, director and host (he does it all!) of the podcast Diversify in Path (@DiversifyInPath). The podcast “explores how investing in diversity can lead to a high return of investment in pathology and lab medicine by learning from the knowledge and experiences of diverse voices within our field.” His idea to start a podcast was sparked by the death of George Floyd and subsequent protests by White Coats for Black Lives. Dr. Williams knew the conversation about diversity needed to continue past just the latest crises. And he was determined to continue the conversation with colleagues across pathology. As listeners of Diversify in Path, we knew we had to shoot him a DM to get the inside scoop on his journey bringing this podcast to fruition. It is a full journey, and one we are excited to share with you.
Instapath: Tell us about the birth of Diversify In Path.
Dr. Williams: Whenever there is a racial injustice, organizations do what they can to get in front of it. They put out statements, commit to diversity in the workplace, etc. When a racial injustice isn’t occurring, the diversity conversation goes silent. Are these same companies still against racial injustice? If so, why aren’t they saying anything? I wanted to continue the conversation.
I am a listener of podcasts myself; this form of media was introduced to me by my dad. I first thought about starting my own podcast in the beginning of 2021. I started doing research on how to start a podcast, what equipment I would need, etc. but I was also studying for Boards and had to prioritize my time. After I got to Birmingham in July 2021, I was figuring out fellowship and was researching so much about podcasts and listening to people who had all these years of podcasting experience. I watched YouTube videos, took Udemy courses and Googled things. I remember hearing from someone, “You can read all you want but if you don’t start it, it never exists.” I had to overcome my fear of failure. I thought, “it’s now or never” so I decided to start the podcast.
Instapath: The episodes are very casual and don't seem scripted. Is this the format you had in mind or do the conversations develop organically?
Dr. Williams: Sometimes during an interview an interesting point is brought up and I ask more about it. This usually turns into an organic conversation. For the listener, it’s as if you are eavesdropping on what me and my guests are talking about. I have loved that aspect of the podcast.
Instapath: Why is it important to include the LGBTQ+ community in your discussions?
Dr. Williams: When we talk about diversity, initially it was about the struggles of being Black and Latino in medicine. But I also realized diversity in sexual orientation and gender identity needs to be covered as well. The LGBTQIA+ community is something I am a part of and love to explore with guests who identify along that spectrum about their experiences in the community. I think identifying as gay helps conceptualize my sexual identity. In episode seven with Alcino Gama MD (@AlcinoGama), he talks about exploring his sexual identity as a journey and completely loved that he did. It showed that it's not just a stopping point but a way to explore who we are, what we may identify as and even what assumptions may still be held.
Instapath: With the release of your 13th episode, and with your extensive fellowship work, how are you managing to do it all?
Dr. Williams: For me, the podcasting, editing, scheduling, communication, etc. are done on the weekends. I have now put myself on a time limit so that I can better manage my time. If I don’t have any interviews scheduled or editing to do, I take the time off to binge watch something or catch up on reading. I didn’t start off with that balance and had to learn it along the way with podcasting during this new journey of mine.
Instapath: What inspires you to keep podcasting and keep these key issues in the spotlight?
Dr. Williams: What inspires me is the fact that I just don’t want these conversations to go away and spring up only when another crisis occurs. They should be used to be aware of what's going on and not just swept under the rug.
One of the main purposes of each episode is to have one-on-one conversations about the different intersections of life so that people can either confront biases they may have or may not be aware they have, and to just get a better understanding of the person in front of them simply by talking. I want people to feel they can have a one-on-one conversation in a safe space to talk about race, gender identity, gender pronouns and the likes.
Instapath: What words of wisdom do you have for your pathology family?
Dr. Williams: For anybody, regardless of where you're at, keep the people in your life who have always pushed you toward better; keep the people in your life who continuously inspire you to do and be better as a person. As physicians, we sometimes don’t appreciate the importance of that until the moment happens when the people who say they are there for you are, in fact, there for you.
We know there must be so many reader questions for Dr. Michael Williams. His journey is interesting and with 13 episodes under his belt, he is moving right along and motivating so many of us to rethink our stance on DEI. Thank you to Dr. Williams for taking the time to answer our questions. Do you have an opinion on DEI in medicine? Well, let’s hear it. Just send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org and get the chance to have your very own feature in an upcoming blog post.
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