Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in Our Network
In a message shared with the UVM Health Network workforce, President and CEO John R. Brumsted, MD, pledges that our network will be fully focused on and committed to equity, diversity and inclusion and outlines the health system’s preliminary steps toward this goal.
The murder of George Floyd has set off a much-needed reckoning across the nation, forcing us to confront the problems of systemic racism and pervasive violence that for too long have plagued our institutions. Two weeks ago, I asked that we reaffirm our health network’s commitment to equity. That’s important, but I know it’s not anywhere near enough.
The fact is, change must happen in every organization, both now and into the future. It cannot be something we simply talk about or plan for some uncertain date, and it cannot be a “one and done” initiative. We must commit ourselves to ongoing, careful and meaningful action, and acknowledge that it is critical and overdue. That applies to our own health system, where I’ve heard your concerns and frustrations about our network’s progress on issues of equity, diversity and inclusion. One pointed and very fair question I received was, “What are we going to do differently?” I acknowledge that we are not where we need to be, and we need to make it right.
I also want to acknowledge that, for me, this is a personal journey. As a white male, the events of the past several weeks have made me reflect further on how privileged a life I have led and the barriers that have not been in my way because of the color of my skin. It’s that kind of reflection that has driven me to make sure that we do everything possible to remove those barriers wherever they exist.
With that in mind, I want to tell you about some preliminary steps we’re taking now, as well as our longer-term goals.
In the near term:
- Network-wide listening tour: This will be a time for me to join you in an important dialogue on race and the impact that systemic racial oppression has on employees of color and our health system. My intent is to create a safe space for the experiences of our black colleagues to be fully seen and heard, and for white colleagues to listen, learn and grow.
- Senior leadership training: Change will happen only if it starts at the top of our organization. In addition to listening to the experiences of our black employees, I want to provide space for network leaders to engage in dialogue about systemic racism and white privilege. The Network Leadership Council – a group of senior clinical and administrative leaders from across our health system, with representation from every affiliate – is coming together on June 22 to start that conversation. We will follow this with in-depth training on implicit bias that we intend to eventually extend to all employees.
- Workforce assessment: Within the next few weeks, we’ll be launching our Diversity Workforce Assessment. This is an organizational culture audit that focuses entirely on diversity issues. We’ll analyze the data by key demographics (age, race, gender, national origin, religion, sexual orientation, position, location, etc.) to better understand how all employees – particularly diverse employees – experience our culture.
- Anonymous reporting hotline: The health network’s Code of Conduct details our commitment to the highest standards of ethics, honesty and integrity. Despite this commitment, we know there are actions and behaviors among us that betray those standards. It is unacceptable for microaggressions, harassment and acts of racism to go unreported and unchecked. We are rolling out an anonymous reporting hotline, Ethics Point, which will be hosted by a third-party provider. More information will be available at each affiliate in the coming months.
These are only the first steps; going forward, we will be taking additional actions. Each of our affiliates is in a different stage of this important work, but my pledge is that our health system will be fully focused on and totally committed to equity, diversity and inclusion. In the near and long term, there will be leadership and organizational changes to support this work.
I’m also asking each of you to join this effort. We need your perspective and your help, and I appreciate the candor and forthrightness of everyone I’ve already heard from. Your engagement is crucial to our getting this right and moving toward racial equity and justice in our network.
John R. Brumsted, MD
President and CEO, The UVM Health Network