9 healthcare leaders respond to protests over racial disparities, excessive police force

Protests over racial disparities and excessive police force have occurred across the U.S. in the wake of the death of George Floyd, a black man who died Memorial Day in the custody of Minneapolis police. Here are nine responses from hospital leaders and healthcare groups/organizations.

1. Rod Hochman, MD, president and CEO of Renton, Wash.-based Providence St. Joseph Healthsent a memo to employees June 1 calling for "greater accountability for those who committed the crime as well as the larger system that allows senseless tragedies like this one to occur over and over again."

He also pointed to the economic and health disparities in the U.S. and thanked employees "for continuing to live our values and being a beacon of hope and healing at a time when our communities so desperately need it."

2. Joseph R. Impicciche, president and CEO of St. Louis-based Ascension, is urging justice and peace.

"Far too often we have witnessed senseless acts of violence and discrimination in many American cities and communities," he said in May 30 news release. "Too frequently, such violence begets more violence, and this cycle can cloud the deep, underlying issues that have led to resentment and anger."

He condemned all racism and discrimination and called for "a renewed commitment to justice and peace based in respect and love."

3. Cleveland Clinic president and CEO Tom Mihaljevic, MD, said in a news release June 1 that his organization wants to be a beacon of hope as people are affected by the deaths of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Breonna Taylor and other African Americans in the aftermath of recent protests.

"Helping others to heal is our mission. Inclusion is our core value. Caring for the community is a cornerstone of our nearly 100-year foundation," he said.

"Cleveland Clinic will be working with the community to address violence and to end disparities of care which have been exacerbated during this pandemic. We will be creating forums for caregivers to have discussions about these events and offer resources for them to process the hurt they are feeling."

4. In a memo to employees, Jeffrey A. Flaks, president and CEO of Hartford (Conn.) HealthCare, called this a time "to understand our mission to heal some of the deep wounds in our nation" and a moment for leadership.

"As healers, we must help those around us," he wrote. "Never has there been a greater need for being in the moment; for suspending judgment, for acknowledging our different realities. Our behaviors, like our mission, must transform words into action. We need to reach out, listen, learn and become engaged. We must understand that our black colleagues, in particular, are hurting and have been hurting." 

5. Elizabeth Nabel, MD, president of Boston-based Brigham Health, called for people to come together to combat racism, inequity and injustice.

"We cannot, and we must not, look away," she wrote in a May 30 memo to staff, adding that she has asked three health system leaders to guide the organization "in how best we can use the compassion and commitment of this great community to more actively confront injustice."

6. In a message to employees at Livonia, Mich.-based Trinity Health, president and CEO Mike Slubowski reaffirmed the health system's commitment toward a "compassionate and healing presence for our communities, including those who feel angry, frustrated, hurt and hopeless at this time."

He also encouraged employees to reflect on Trinity Health's core values, including reverence, committment to the poor, safety and justice. 

7. American Hospital Association President and CEO Rick Pollack in a statement June 1 called on the nation "to take this moment, hold up the mirror and honestly look at ourselves" and "engage in the hard but necessary work to make fundamental changes and address our society's inequity."

He added: "America's hospitals and health systems condemn racism, bigotry, discrimination and violence of any kind, and we are committed to addressing healthcare disparities." 

8. American Nurses Association president Ernest J. Grant, PhD, RN, in a statement June 1 called on nurses to "educate yourself and then use your trusted voice and influence to educate others about the systemic injustices that have caused the riots and protests being covered in the news."

"The pursuit of justice requires us all to listen and engage in dialogue with others," he said. "Leaders must come together at the local, state and national level and commit to sustainable efforts to address racism and discrimination, police brutality, and basic human rights. We must hold ourselves and our leaders accountable to committing to reforms and action."

9. CVS Health president and CEO Larry Merlo said in a memo to staff June 1 that the company's "commitment to inclusion and belonging is unwavering" and that "discrimination and intolerance have no place in our business."

"We will continue to uphold the commitment of mutual respect in everything we do," he said. 

 This story was updated at 4:53 p.m. CDT on June 2.

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