Karith Foster to Address Diversity Challenges in SVS Keynote for VAM24

Apr 19, 2024

Karith Foster, chief executive of Inversity Solutions, is set to headline the inaugural Society for Vascular Surgery's (SVS) Keynote Speaker Series at the 2024 Vascular Annual Meeting (VAM24).  

Karith Foster in a bright pink shirt.

Foster's keynote, titled "Finishing the Journey to Inclusivity Through Belonging, Intention, and Respect," falls in line with the meeting’s overall theme of embracing “unity,” and promises to delve into the elements for creating an inclusive culture in today's world that reignites the conversation surrounding DEI on a more personal level. 

"Let's shift the focus from what separates and divides us and focus on what we have in common—being truly inclusive but, most importantly, introspective. That doesn't mean that we're glossing over issues. It doesn't mean that racism, sexism and all those things don't exist. They absolutely do, but the only way we're going to deal with those issues appropriately and effectively is if we're speaking to one another in a healthy way," said Foster. 

Foster, an alumna of Stephens College and Oxford University, brings her expertise to various institutions that reflect on her experiences for a need of proactive and sustainable DEI efforts. Transitioning into corporate America, Foster recognized an opportunity to merge her passion with her purpose, leading to the establishment of Inversity Solutions, a consultancy challenging traditional diversity paradigms that has been going on for over 13 years with her leadership. 

"I'm a big fan of firsts," Foster remarks, acknowledging the significance of her role. "I was inspired to know that the SVS was committed to their journey of diversity, and I'm honored to lend my voice to that cause." Foster's journey, rooted in a desire to unite people, reflects her diverse background. With a degree in broadcast journalism, she initially pursued a career in mass media and later found solace in stand-up comedy's ability to foster communication amid life's trials. 

"I've always had this desire from the time I was a child to bring people together, and I thought mass media was the way to do it. When I found comedy, it sealed the deal that so much can come out of laughter and that communication of life, which is sometimes hard and painful, but there is catharsis in that," said Foster. 

Foster explained how the primary DEI challenges stem from a reactionary rather than anticipatory approach. She remarked how the upheavals of 2020, from the pandemic to the George Floyd incident, caught many organizations off guard, and revealed a lack of readiness to tackle diversity issues. To Foster, the turbulent times brought everyone’s attention to the issues going on for years, but addressing these issues took more than thrusting people into these diverse roles without the preparedness or funds to support long-term efforts. 

With her unique blend of humor and insight, Foster advocates for genuine inclusivity, urging organizations to shift their focus from division to commonality. "I love being able to use messaging that unites people, that brings people together and lets people see that the things that we think separate and divide us are surface things in reality. This conversation doesn't have to be an attack, but it also still needs to exist." 

Foster reassures that embracing diversity is not daunting but empowering, adding, "This isn't scary. This is empowering, and it's exciting, and it's about also coming into yourself, right? Because that's where it must start. That's kind of the idea behind even the word INVERSITY." 

As Foster prepares to address the vascular surgery community, she emphasizes the importance of personal connections in the medical field. "As a surgeon, respect and trust are key. If those don’t exist, it's going to affect how comfortable people are when they show up, it's going to affect how you perform," said Foster. "It's about personal interactions, relationships and connection, and it doesn't get more personal than surgery. There has to be acknowledgement of the patient as an individual, just as there needs to be confidence in the physician." 

The inaugural speaker series, generously sponsored by Boston Scientific, will take place at 5 p.m., central time, Wednesday, June 19 at VAM24. 

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