NewYork-Presbyterian CXO Rick Evans: The voice of healthcare is needed more than ever

The last few weeks have brought stunning developments and potentially ominous signs for our country. Recent Supreme Court rulings have stripped away protections related to women’s reproductive rights and gun violence. Threats to rights for the LGBTQ+ community and other vulnerable populations also appear to be on the horizon. We are facing an unprecedented rollback of rights for members of our communities.

In recent days, I have been part of conversations about these events and what they mean. We have discussed not only the implications of these rulings, but our place as a healthcare community related to them. I am seeing a consensus among healthcare leaders across the country that we must bring our voice and our values to the conversation as these issues are confronted in the United States. Some may say that this “isn’t our lane.” I respectfully disagree. There are many reasons why we should speak out.

First, healthcare has a unique mission — to care for all, regardless of gender, race, ethnicity, immigration status, sexual orientation, ability to pay or anything else related to our individual circumstances or station in life. We must be here for all. Our focus is on the person and their individual needs. This is enshrined in both the law and in our organizations’ mission statements. Given our mission, if we don’t speak out, who will? 

We are also uniquely positioned to see the impact of policy and legislative decisions in our communities. Our emergency departments grapple with the horrific results of gun violence. We see the results of structural racism on health outcomes in our healthcare facilities. We will absolutely grapple with the effect that the recent decision to overturn Roe v. Wade will have on women’s and children’s health. Hospitals and healthcare organizations, like almost no other sector, see the real-world results of these policy decisions. Our lived experience and perspective are very relevant and should be part of the conversations about these issues.

At NewYork-Presbyterian, we also have a deep and broad commitment to diversity, inclusion and belonging. We believe that the diversity in our community and across our workforce is one of our strengths. But, with that strength comes an awareness that many among us face barriers to becoming our best and healthiest selves. These barriers are often related to racism, sexism, homophobia and other forms of discrimination and marginalization. We are on a journey to continually become more inclusive, to create an organization and community where all belong. We need to speak out when laws are enacted to restrict open conversations about sexual orientation, especially in settings where healthcare is delivered. We must speak when the most vulnerable among us, especially children, are endangered by gun violence, and we are not able to sensibly regulate guns. All of these things matter to our employees and the communities we serve. Being inclusive should also mean speaking out and adding our voices to the debate around these critical issues.

I also believe that any of us who work in patient experience must also be willing to speak out when that experience is endangered or compromised. Putting our patients and families first should mean speaking with them, and, occasionally for them. We shouldn’t shy away from stepping forward in our democracy. For that reason, I am not hesitant to say that I am worried about where things are going. The story of America has been a story of ever-widening inclusion for all. We appear to be in a period where that is being rolled back. History tells us that the path forward has never been linear — it is replete with fits and starts. Continued progress requires people speaking out. Healthcare leaders belong in that mix.

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