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Asante strengthens its commitment to equity, diversity and inclusion

A new systemwide steering committee aims to weave these principles into the fabric of our culture — and the broader community.

Diversity“At Asante, we want you to know that we believe in equality for all, and in the innate value of all human life.”

That sentence came in a June 5 message to Asante employees in the wake of George Floyd’s tragic death at the hands of police and the protests that followed. The message was more than a recognition that racial disparities are tearing the fabric of our communities. For Asante, it was a call to action.

In the weeks that followed, Asante leaders created a systemwide Asante Equity, Diversity and Inclusion Steering Committee. Its goal is to integrate these principles throughout the organization.

“We want to lead the way in creating a diverse community,” said Robert Begg, vice president of Human Resources who worked with CEO Scott Kelly to spearhead this committee. “Every other employer and hospital system has some version of this going on.”

The committee is made up of Asante executives and leaders with various subgroups representing key initiatives and constituencies:

  • Employee engagement (resource groups includes champions for populations often marginalized due to their race, ethnicity, ability, gender and sexual orientation or identity)
  • Patient engagement
  • Community outreach
  • Policy management
  • Employee and leadership development
  • Communications

The intent of the work not only is to embrace diversity at Asante, but to recognize our commonalities.

“To me, diversity meant growing up in a family that spoke Spanish and English,” said Yvonne Padilla, ITS education coordinator. “It meant I could sing songs from a Rodgers & Hammerstein musical as easily as I could sing a hymn in Spanish during mass in Mexico. It gave me the ability to see beauty in all cultures and in all people, because I had grandparents who were born in Mexico, North Africa and in the United States. Diversity is not inherently divisive, it is the ability to draw parallels because of our shared humanity.”

The group’s work already has begun. This year’s Employee Voice Survey asked employees if they’ve ever been discriminated against at work. And it included a question in the demographic section to help identify those in the LBGTQIA community so that leaders can learn how their experience might differ from others.

“The intent was to understand our culture and learn what actions we need to promote equity, diversity and inclusion,”  said Courtney Wilson, MD, ARRMC vice president of Medical Affairs, and co-chair of the steering committee. “We will share the feedback from those answers along with the rest of the Voice survey responses in October.”

Asante is also reexamining how it recruits employees. Is it advertising in diverse communities? Are there hidden hiring biases that need to be uncovered? Are there blind spots when it comes to promoting from within?

The committee hopes to engage patients and the community as well. “We want to understand what they expect that we’re not delivering,” Begg said.

As a next step, the committee will begin to have focused conversations with employees from all backgrounds. It will hold employee focus groups to learn what activities and resources would be the most effective in promoting awareness and understanding.

Anyone interested in taking part in one of these focus groups or just wants to share their thoughts should email [email protected].

“We hope,” Dr. Wilson added, “that you share our enthusiasm and optimism as we embark on this transformative journey.”

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