Advancing Diversity and Inclusion

About Us



AAPM&R's Diversity and Inclusion Statement

As AAPM&R leads the advancement of physiatry’s impact throughout health care, we will model inclusion and embrace diverse backgrounds and perspectives of those with whom we work and serve.

The Academy is especially committed to creating space for the difficult conversations, hearing the voices least heard, and promoting policy and initiatives that support diversity and inclusion.

Highlights of Initiatives and Efforts


  • The Diversity and Inclusion Committee's selected videos by CMSS Equity Matters™ are highlighted in a successive monthly approach corresponding with the month’s observances and created a starter pack. 
  • The Diversity and Inclusion Committee assisted the Inclusion and Engagement Committee with the Exploring PM&R Open House for premed and medical students who are underrepresented in medicine.
  • A member of Diversity and Inclusion Committee is a part of the Innovators and Influencers Honorees Program Review Workgroup.
  • The Diversity and Inclusion Committee created the inaugural Member Inclusion Survey and is currently comparing results to the Welcoming Environment ® Survey conducted in 2020.


  • The Diversity and Inclusion Committee began reviewing and organizing videos created by CMSS Equity Matters™.



Definition of Terms—Our Perspective

Per the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) and research on effective diversity and inclusion practices in associations, AAPM&R intentionally distinguishes between “diversity,” “equity,” and “inclusion” rather than using the terms interchangeably. Our terminology is here:


Diversity refers to the composition of a group of people from any number of demographic backgrounds, identities (innate and selected), and the collective strength of their experiences, beliefs, values, skills, and perspectives.   


Inclusion is the act of establishing philosophies, policies, practices, and procedures to ensure individual voices are heard and there is equal access to opportunities, information, and resources.     

Equitable Environment

An equitable environment challenges intentional and unintentional forms of bias, harassment and discrimination and promotes alternative actions. Because an environment can be welcoming and inequitable, attention will be paid to recognizing and eliminating barriers to full participation at individual and systemic levels.

Principles of Inclusion and Engagement

Valuing Diverse Group Composition 

  • Recognizing that a diverse group that is more representative of our overall member composition can result in enhanced group outcomes.
  • Volunteers can be selected as a member of a particular community to enhance diversity of thought and experiences, but they should not view their role as a member for that community. Instead, they represent the entirety of PM&R.

Mutual Respect

  • Demonstrating respect for differing opinions and viewpoints.
  • Cultivating a receptive space for differing opinions and viewpoints.

Talent and Skill-Based Selection for Leadership Opportunities

  • Ensuring that broad criteria of diversity of experience, talent and knowledge are incorporated.
  • Removing barriers to involvement to further support an equitable environment to assure that all future leaders have the opportunity to contribute where needed.

Comprehensive Collaboration

  • Building community between various member constituents is essential as a physiatric member association.
  • Bringing different perspectives together will enhance innovative thinking and achievement.

Diversity and Inclusion Strategic Goals & Initiatives




Strategic Pillars Year 1
Year 2
Year 3

Goal: Top Level Commitment & Accountability

AAPM&R Board of Governor’s commitment to D&I starts with transparency about what we are working on, why we are working on it. The AAPM&R Board of Governors will engage its members to work together to demonstrate leadership in D&I.  
Introduce new D&I policies and procedures to close Board assessment gaps reported by ASAE
Launch a standing D&I Committee of volunteers to identify and oversee opportunities for greater member engagement in D&I outcomes.

Using feedback, define AAPM&R’s recruitment and engagement goals and desired core competencies to build into its volunteer and leadership models. Re-assess the state of D&I within AAPM&R governance and operations. 

Goal: Developing Physiatric Leaders

AAPM&R encourages a culture of empowerment that helps members and staff shift from D&I problem identifiers to owners and enablers of change.

Engage all sectors and perspectives in the PM&R community to lead and advance the PM&R BOLD vision for the future success of the specialty.

Identify gaps in leadership skill acquisition, and design and rollout a multi-year D&I training and development plan to close board member, staff, volunteer leader and member skills gaps. Continue the rollout of the multi-year D&I training and development plan. Revisit the D&I needs and effective association practices and articulate a path forward.

Goal: Equitable Environment

AAPM&R will draw upon existing diversity in the specialty to narrow/close demographic and skills gaps in our volunteer leaders and staff applicant pools.

AAPM&R’s D&I commitment helps to promote the visibility and voices of the least heard and create space for difficult conversations that cultivate both a welcoming and equitable environment for all.

Gather feedback about needs, barriers, and opportunities for AAPM&R to better serve underrepresented groups in its membership and staff. Introduce new equity policies and procedures to close gaps reported in prior year. Rollout a high visibility opportunity to celebrate D&I champions, change makers, and highlight opportunities for future improvement and involvement.

From the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force

Dear Colleagues:

We are pleased to present AAPM&R’s 2019–2021 Diversity & Inclusion (D&I) Strategic Plan.

This plan is the result of a collaborative effort between Academy leaders, Academy staff, outside consultants, and established D&I practitioners. It builds on our new vision statement, which commits to the evolution of the specialty and incorporates the input of thousands of physiatrists through the Visioning PM&R BOLD initiative. Reaching our Academy goals will require the engagement of all sectors and perspectives of the PM&R community – a united effort that reflects the necessity of, and our commitment to, our new D&I pledge. 

The process of developing a plan began with Board-level reflection and planning to take our D&I commitment to the next level. A Steering Committee of the Board identified and collaborated with an outside consulting team that brought D&I expertise to help us navigate next steps. These steps included an organizational audit of our D&I philosophies, policies, practices, and procedures followed by training and active dialogue with AAPM&R staff, members, and the 2017-2019 Leadership Fellows. 

Organizational recommendations can be found here.

We welcome your feedback. Though our D&I commitment starts with volunteer and staff leadership teams, AAPM&R is your organization; we count on you to partner with us and to be change agents engaged in this important work. Physiatry is a remarkably diverse specialty, and together with our Academy’s BOLD vision for all physiatrists, we are uniquely positioned to implement our Diversity & Inclusion strategic plan. 

Thank you for your support; we look forward to working with you.

Deborah A. Venesy, MD, FAAPMR
AAPM&R Secretary and Chair of the Diversity and Inclusion Task Force

Robert J. Rinaldi, MD, FAAPMR
AAPM&R Member-at-Large

Charlotte H. Smith, MD, FAAPMR
AAPM&R Member-at-Large

Stuart M. Weinstein, MD, FAAPMR
AAPM&R Vice President

FAQ Image

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. What prompted the AAPM&R Diversity & Inclusion Strategic Plan?

    The Board of Governors launched separate D&I-related efforts in recent years – from the Academy Leadership Program to the broader and deeper discussions of the Nominating Committee and Executive Committee.  We saw the opportunity to build on and strengthen its efforts and form a new, unified D&I commitment. 

    Additionally, AAPM&R recently adopted a new vision statement, and that process allowed the Board to look at strengths and gaps as an organization. The Board saw its D&I commitment as an opportunity to build on the intrinsic diversity of our specialty and to enhance the culture of how we do business as a Board, ensuring that all ideas and opinions are encouraged and respected.  Diversity and inclusion will continue to be a priority; this plan articulates our focus over the next 3 years.

  2. How was the D&I initiative developed?

    The Board of Governors consulted with Alexis S. Terry, MBA, CDP, CAE, Senior Director, Diversity and Inclusion, with the American Society of Association Executives and her consulting team that included Steve Smith, CEO of American Academy of Hospice and Palliative Medicine. A steering committee was put together that informed a Board of Governors retreat at which the D&I strategic plan was developed. The Board sought input from Academy staff leadership and the 2017-2019 Academy Leadership Fellows to enrich the plan development process with diversity of thought.

  3. How is AAPM&R defining Diversity and Inclusion?

    AAPM&R’s D&I Plan specifically identifies “diversity”; “inclusion”, and “equitable environment” – adopting from the widely-used definitions of the American Society of Association Executives.

    Also consider:  If members are asked how they define “diversity” and “inclusion,” they will likely provide a variety of definitions, experiences, expectations, assumptions, and research findings to support their positions. The Board of Governors respects and recognizes that diversity & inclusion is multi-faceted. We believe that it is necessary to allow all voices to be heard and respected, and to cultivate a welcoming and equitable environment. 

  4. I consider myself a member of an under-represented group in the Academy. How will this D&I plan help my voice be heard?

    The Board of Governors’ commitment to prioritize Diversity & Inclusion resulted in a plan with goals and initiatives that call for and count on hearing from and promoting the voices of the least heard.  To support those goals and initiatives, the Board created a Diversity & Inclusion Committee charged with developing strategies to facilitate the D&I commitments, including the priority of hearing from the least heard.

  5. I do not consider myself to be a member of an under-represented group in the Academy. How will this D&I plan affect me?

    The Board of Governors hopes that you will accept the invitation that the Board itself accepted:  to be change agents, to be champions of the principals of diversity and inclusion, to engage actively in difficult conversations that cultivate a welcoming and equitable environment for all.  Additionally, the Board intends to engage all sectors and perspectives in the PM&R community to lead and advance the PM&R BOLD vision for the future success of the specialty.

  6. Physiatry is a diverse specialty by nature, so why does the Academy need a D&I Plan?

    The Board of Governors recognizes that unlike in some other medical specialties, physiatrists enter this profession with the intention to care for people with severe impairments and disabling conditions. In addition to diversity in the patient population, physiatrists are accustomed to navigating diversity within small niches of the profession. We have heard our members tell us that such small niche groups can be marginalized and undervalued. As the Academy is simultaneously evolving its constituency model and developing new member communities, the Board believes that it is necessary to embrace a diversity of perspectives, and offer members an organizational frame of reference and a chance to engage with the Academy in new and strategic ways.

  7. How is the Academy going to address the issue of diverse specialty niche areas (e.g. identity, clinical, academic, private practice) not getting the same level of representation and resources as others?

    One area of focus over the next three years is fostering an equitable environment for all. During the first year, members will be asked a variety of equity-related survey questions so that we can better understand how to serve niche areas and diverse groups in our membership. We want to know what equity means to members within those niche areas. We will ask questions in year one and act on findings in year two. Along the way, we will be transparent about our progress and communicate opportunities to get engaged in this important work.

  8. Will there be an opportunity for members to provide input throughout the next three years of the plan?

    Yes, as early as the first year of the plan, there will be surveying and outreach to members. We will use that input to inform decisions and provide tools members and volunteers need to practice inclusion and scanning for diversity and equity opportunities on their own. The newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Committee will lead this effort. More to come.

  9. How will the Academy define success in the area of Diversity & Inclusion?

    The Board believes that through the Academy’s D&I goals of 

    • Top-level commitment and accountability
    • Development of physiatric leaders
    • Fostering of an equitable environment

    Members will experience, lead, and take great pride in a diverse and inclusive Academy. Additionally, the newly-created Diversity & Inclusion Committee will create strategies and meaningful metrics by which the D&I Plan can be measured.

    The Board of Governors recognizes the importance of demographic diversity and visibility of identity groups. It is important to note that the demographic/identity data the Academy collects is currently limited; dependent on members self-reporting. The most robust, self-identifiable data tends to be gender – a question that society has historically been comfortable asking and answering.  Yet we know that gender discussions are evolving and, moreover, gender is only a single variable in our much broader commitment to diversity and inclusion.

  10. Who do I contact if I want to get involved?

    Member feedback is important to us and essential to reaching D&I goals.  To ensure your feedback reaches the appropriate leader or leadership body, there will be outreach efforts and initiatives to hear your voice. Volunteers on the newly formed Diversity and Inclusion Committee will be another point of contact throughout the year. We will make sure that members have access through multiple portals. Additionally, you are invited and encouraged to contact Academy leadership on this topic at You will receive a prompt response.