The power of diversity in healthcare: 6 Black thought leaders weigh in

As Black History Month approaches, Becker's Hospital Review is sharing insight from thought leaders on the power that diverse representation carries in healthcare.

Nate Miller. Vice President of Strategic Accounts at Ciox Health (Alpharetta, Ga.).

In healthcare, we're continually striving for better. We have a meaningful responsibility to promote wellness, healing, compassion and advancement into our communities. Diversity is essential for our mission as we can leverage unique giftings, experiences, and perhaps introduce new conversations to solve existing or future needs. Additionally, I'm hopeful that narrowing opportunity gaps in the workplace will improve the trajectory and overall health of the places we live. We'll be invited to listen, learn and grow, while empowering the generations to follow.

Christina Tuck. Account Executive at KNB Communications (Stamford, Conn.).

As a marketer in the healthcare technology industry, and as an African American woman, I believe diversity within the healthcare industry is non-negotiable. I delivered my first child in 2020, and as a first-time mom, I had several reservations and a downright fear of the healthcare industry because of all the delivery horror stories I'd read about medical professionals not listening to their Black and brown patients, which resulted in maternal mortality. 

I always knew that I wanted to have a diverse medical team with me during my birth experience so I could feel confident that I'd be seen and heard. Fortunately, I was able to experience a diverse team who were all able to offer their own unique medical advice and support. I look forward to seeing more diversity within the healthcare industry over time.

Anton Bizzell, MD. CEO of The Bizzell Group (New Carrollton, Md.).

Leaders in hospitals and health systems must develop or enhance opportunities for increasing the pipeline of Black Americans entering the field of healthcare. Growing up in the South, I had reason to believe that following my dream of becoming a physician was not easily obtainable because of the color of my skin or the scarcity of medical professionals that looked like me in my community. In my early educational years, it was more common to assign this type of profession to the futures of my white schoolmates who had the role models, mentors and familial support systems to make their dreams a reality. 

Even after entering my medical graduate program, I still experienced a highly offensive racial slur from a medical resident, which greatly impacted my perception of the program and hospital system, and which I recall periodically. Although the situation was highly unpleasant, I used this opportunity as a springboard to facilitate change by serving as a mentor for those matriculating through their fields of study. 

Looking back over the last few decades, we can account that medicine is making significant progress in advancing diversity and inclusion in our institutions; however, there remains the need for a reality check of the climate and culture within our hospitals and health systems to truly close the gap in making the dream of Black Americans a reality.

Grace Wright, MD, PhD. United Rheumatology Member and President of the Association of Women in Rheumatology (New York City).

The disparities within healthcare were laid bare during the COVID-19 pandemic and highlighted the importance of diversity at all levels within healthcare. I am heartened by the record number of students from diverse backgrounds who chose to begin a career in medicine by enrolling in medical schools.

The rheumatology community saw the approval of multiple new targeted therapies to treat rheumatic diseases that disproportionately affect underserved populations. This inspires us as we strive to improve outcomes and decrease the burden of disease for so many people living with rheumatic disease.

Monica Simmonds. Director of Advisory Services, Social Determinants of Health at LexisNexis Risk Solutions (Alpharetta, Ga.).

When healthcare organizations have diverse and innovative leaders who reflect and look like the populations they serve, it creates a space of inclusivity and enables care teams to truly understand the complex needs and preferences of their communities. As organizations tackle health inequities, clinically validated social determinants of health data can help identify barriers. Having a diverse workforce can help bring more context to those barriers and help make sure different perspectives aren't overlooked.

Tiffanie Smith. Marketing Coordinator at KNB Communications (Stamford, Conn.).

Delivering culturally competent services to diverse communities is a crucial need within the healthcare system. Therefore, healthcare companies should develop and provide solutions that meet patients' linguistic, cultural and social needs. Doing so would reduce care disparities in patient populations, support the elimination of ethnic and racial health issues, and acknowledge the importance of culture.

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