Posts from the ‘inclusion’ category

bwh values logoLast summer, faculty and staff were invited to share their impressions of the Brigham’s organizational culture through the Brigham Experience: Culture, Diversity & Inclusion Assessment survey, focus groups, interviews and more. The message was clear: Our foundation and our people are strong, and we have opportunity to do even better, together.

The assessment revealed that Brigham Health has numerous strengths and areas of opportunity that will help grow the current culture to become even more transparent, diverse, inclusive and innovative.

Our strengths include our status as a leading academic medical system; our history and reputation; our shared passion for patient care; our progress in restoring financial health; and our ability to come together in a crisis.

Our areas of opportunity include the need for a more unifying vision and inspiring purpose statement that connects with all members of our workforce; the elimination of competition where there should be collaboration; more transparent and forthright communication; more diversity in leadership positions; a culture of respect and inclusion in every part of the organization; and a shift from a top-down structure to an empowered, shared decision-making approach.

Another takeaway from this effort was that the Brigham Health values as previously defined—collaboration, empathy, inclusion, integrity and professionalism—did not fully resonate with all faculty and staff. Building off feedback from across the Brigham, hospital leaders sought to redefine the institution’s values so that they better reflect who we are as a community.

The result is four newly articulated values:

We care. Period. We embrace a culture of shared humanity and dignity, where our diverse community of patients, families and employees all feel welcome, cared for and valued.

We create breakthroughs. It’s in our DNA. Since our founding, we’ve been discovering ways to make tomorrow better—for the health of people, here and around the world.

We’re stronger together. We all play a role. We take pride in teamwork, partnership and community. We value everyone’s contributions. We find inspiration in each other.

We pursue excellence. Because our patients deserve our best. We share a passion for learning and continuous improvement.

These four values also represent the theme of Brigham Bulletin’s 2019 calendar (published on the reverse side of this issue).

Looking ahead, hospital leaders are creating a “culture squad” to address the opportunities identified in the assessment and will then articulate behaviors that represent our aspirational culture.

Visit and stay tuned for more information about our culture work.

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Hudson and colleages

From left: Lauren Godsoe, Margo Hudson and Maricruz Merino

I have been going annually to New Mexico with the Outreach Program with Indian Health Service since 2009, and each year gets better. I have primarily been involved with the diabetes program at Gallup Indian Medical Center in Gallup, N.M.

A former Brigham internal medicine resident, Maricruz Merino, MD, is now their chief of Medicine, and we have been working together closely over the years developing inpatient and outpatient glucose-management protocols. We are both close friends as well as colleagues, and we have shared the joys of the birth of children and grandchildren with each other in addition to seeing the growth of the diabetes program.

This past March, I had the pleasure of traveling with Brigham Health nurse practitioner Laura Godsoe, NP, for a week of lecturing and consulting on patients. I am so proud of the work we have done and thankful to Outreach Program for continuing to support this opportunity.

Margo Hudson, MD
Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Hypertension

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Jason Frangos and team

From left: Zachary Holcomb, John Mohs, Jason Frangos, Margaret Cavanaugh-Hussey, Toby Crooks and Diana Woody

I made my second trip to Shiprock, N.M., in November 2018 as part of the Brigham and Women’s Outreach Program. Working alongside the dedicated doctors and staff at the Indian Health Service hospital in Shiprock has truly inspired and motivated me in my life and work. Contributing much-needed clinical care to the Navajo community has re-energized me with a sense of meaning and purpose as a physician. Volunteering at Shiprock has been my antidote to burnout and has revitalized my spirit.

Jason Frangos, MD
Director, Program for Infectious Diseases of the Skin
Department of Dermatology

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Sumaira Ahmed

From left: Sumaira Ahmed and Chuck Pozner

I’m fortunate to work with a person like Chuck Pozner, MD, Emergency Medicine physician and executive director of the STRATUS Center, who has been not only a phenomenal mentor but also someone who constantly inspires me to be better and help others.

Most notably, Chuck did something earlier this year that I thought was heroic and spoke volumes about his character and the kind of physician he is. He was walking to the hospital from Neville House when he noticed activity surrounding a woman giving birth in the valet bay of 75 Francis St.

He immediately saw that the newborn was turning blue from the bitter February cold, so he quickly took off his new STRATUS sweater and scooped the baby up in it to keep her warm. Ultimately, the sweater didn’t make it, but the mother and child were escorted inside to safety and warmth. Chuck’s quick response and selflessness was truly a shining moment!

Sumaira Ahmed
Marketing and Business Development,
Neil and Elise Wallace STRATUS Center for Medical Simulation

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Carlson with Shiprock members

Alissa Umana (far left), Sally Carlson (second from left), Loren Day Lewis (second from right) and Kyle Dale Walters (far right)

In November, I had the privilege of traveling with three of my team members to the Northern New Mexico Navajo Medical Center in Shiprock, N.M., as part of the Brigham and Women’s Outreach Program with Indian Health Service. This is the second year that we have been able to travel with the Outreach Program to provide training in customer service and communications for clinical and administrative staff throughout the hospital. It is an incredibly rewarding experience to deliver our training to such an eager and enthusiastic audience—and to know that, in some small way, we are helping them improve the quality of care delivered to the Navajo population on the reservation.

This year, our trip happened to coincide with Native American Heritage Month, and as part of the celebration, Navajo dancers of all ages performed for staff and patients. Wearing intricately detailed costumes and accompanied by traditional music, the dancers offered moving performances of ceremonial dances to a crowd gathered in the hospital atrium. After the performance, we had the honor of being photographed with one of the dancers, who is also a supervisor at the hospital. It is a wonderful memento from the trip and a reminder of our friends in Shiprock.

Sally Carlson
Senior Manager, Training and Communications, BHIS

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On June 14, BWH Real Estate and Facilities staff began preparing portraits of former clinical department chairs, previously displayed in Bornstein Amphitheater, for relocation to their respective departments in new places of honor. The effort, part of ongoing work to strengthen diversity and inclusion across Brigham Health, aims to make the hospital’s physical environment better reflect the BWH community’s rich diversity and many role groups.

“Through the years, the people we employ and the people we care for have become increasingly diverse. As our Brigham community evolves, our environment and culture must also evolve so that everyone who comes through our doors feels a sense of inclusion and belonging,” said Brigham Health President Betsy Nabel, MD, in a message to all staff.

BWHers took to social media to express their appreciation for the Brigham’s commitment to diversity and inclusion:

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From left: Susan Rapple, Steven Thompson, Alexi Wright and Yiannis Koullias

On April 24, LGBT leaders at BWH participated in a discussion, “Out at Brigham: LGBT+ Careers Panel,” where they shared personal reflections, practical advice and warm encouragement to early-career staff who identify as LGBT+ (an inclusive term to represent the spectrum of sexual orientation and gender identities). 

The four panelists spoke candidly about a wide range of topics, including how they handle moments when they need to disclose their sexuality to others, both in personal and professional settings, and the importance of advocating for LGBT+ equality in the workplace.

“One of the great things about the Brigham is its commitment to diversity and inclusion,” said Jonah Tanguay-Colucci, a patient care assistant and member of the Brigham Health LGBT & Allies Employee Resource Group (ERG), before introducing the panelists. “This is best exemplified by members of the LGBT+ community who are on staff here at all levels across Brigham Health.”

Hosted by the LGBT & Allies ERG, the event also celebrated BWH and BWFH being named Leaders in LGBTQ HealthCare Equality by the Human Rights Campaign Foundation for 10 years.

Throughout the discussion, speakers noted that while there is more work to be done, they were proud to work at an institution at the forefront of inclusion. 

“While we have this panel discussion, I wonder if anyone is having a similar panel discussion across Boston,” said panelist Susan Rapple, EdM, senior vice president and chief development officer, who credited her colleagues for their unwavering dedication to cultivating a welcoming environment at the Brigham for all patients, families and staff. 

‘It’s a Part of Who We Are’

As panelists reflected on moments when they needed to disclose their sexuality, Alexi Wright, MD, MPH, a medical gynecologic oncologist at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute, who also cares for patients at BWH, discussed the challenges of navigating such conversations. She looked back on how she and her wife, Ingrid Katz, MD, MHS, of the Division of Women’s Health, handled interviews for residency programs when they applied as a couple in 2003.

“Everywhere we interviewed, except at BWH and the University of California, San Francisco, people asked, ‘What does your husband do for work?’ I had to repeatedly come out as gay on the interview trail,” Wright said. “One of the nice things about matching as a couple at the Brigham was that everyone knew we were together, and it was just a part of who we were and are today.”

When caring for her patients, Wright said sometimes it can be difficult to determine how much personal information she’s comfortable disclosing when asked.

“Patients sometimes ask me what my husband does, and I have to make a conscious decision in the room about whether I want to talk about my wife,” she said. “I feel this double tension a lot of the time because a patient’s visit with me is about them and their health, and I want my patients to be as comfortable as possible. But, at the same time, I don’t want to be inauthentic to myself or my relationship.”

Coming out as gay hasn’t always been an easy task for Internal Medicine resident Yiannis Koullias, MD, explaining that he’s experienced harassment and discrimination related to his sexuality. But he added that it hasn’t stopped him from expressing who he is as a person and physician. Koullias also underscored the importance of having people at all levels, including hospital leadership, be vocal advocates of inclusivity and diversity and denounce discrimination.

In addition to personal experiences, panelists shared ideas for strengthening LGBT+ inclusion at BWH. In one example, Wright proposed a mentorship program for senior staff mentors and LGBT+ trainees. 

Steven Thompson, MBA, senior vice president and chief business development officer, also said he hopes to advocate more for LGBT+ equality in the workplace. As an openly gay member of the senior leadership team, he feels a personal responsibility to inspire his colleagues to learn more about the great work of the LGBT ERG. “Coming out still matters,” he said.

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From left: Abigail Ortiz and Michelle Morse

As part of an event honoring the life and legacy of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., a panel of BWHers and community activists reflected on progress made and gaps that remain in health equity as well as racial and economic justice.

The Jan. 16 event, held in Bornstein Amphitheater, was moderated by Sabrina Williams, MBA, SPHR, Brigham Health chief diversity and inclusion officer. Williams opened the discussion by reading a quote from Dr. King: “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Although several decades have passed since he spoke those words, they continue to be relevant for society at large and within the Brigham, she said.

“Inclusion is one of our institutional values. There is a real opportunity for us to advance Dr. King’s legacy as individuals and collectively,” Williams said. “This organization has not been silent about inequity and injustice, and I look forward to amplifying our work even further.”

Dr. King’s pioneering leadership in Civil Rights included enduring messages and lessons about health equity, speakers noted. Ron M. Walls, MD, Brigham Health executive vice president and chief operating officer, shared part of a speech Dr. King delivered at the second Medical Committee for Human Rights in 1966: “Of all forms of inequity, injustice in health is the most shocking and the most inhuman.”

The message is still a poignant reminder of the duty health care institutions such as the Brigham have in propelling health equity and inclusion, Walls said.

“We should never forget that powerful and sobering perspective from Dr. King,” he said. “As an organization, we sit at the front lines in advocating for and advancing health care as an engine for equality and good.”

Achieving these goals requires everyone to actively participate in racial justice and equity work, said Abigail Ortiz, MSW, MPH, director of Community Health Programs at Southern Jamaica Plain Health Center. Equally important is ensuring there is a shared framework to guide our process and projects, she added.

“Instead of talking about race in health, we should talk about racism in health. It’s not race causing the inequities, but racism,” Ortiz said. “One thing we might need now is a definition of racism that all of us share so that we can talk about it in a way that critiques, at a structural level, how and where the health care system fails to deliver racial equity.”

Reflecting on how she honors Dr. King’s legacy, Michelle Morse, MD, MPH, of the Division of Global Health Equity, added that it’s important to consider these issues in a broader context.

“Dr. King never hesitated to speak about the corrupt regime in South Africa and how apartheid was just as important as Jim Crow and the unbelievable Civil Rights abuses happening in the U.S,” Morse said. “Dr. King showed that these movements are all connected, and we can’t make sufficient progress unless we recognize that.”

Fellow panelists Tanisha Sullivan, president of the Boston National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), and former state Sen. Dianne Wilkerson underscored the link between health equity and broader issues of racial and economic justice.

Sullivan and Wilkerson noted that, as employers, health care institutions can create space for self-empowerment in local communities of color through professional opportunities – key areas of focus for the Brigham’s efforts to elevate diversity and inclusion.

“There’s a continuum – recruitment, retention and development. Being intentional about that is so very important,” Sullivan said.

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Sabrina Williams

Sabrina Williams, MBA, became Brigham Health’s first chief diversity and inclusion officer this month, establishing a focus on this important institutional value at the highest level of the organization.

Williams will identify initiatives to better support the recruitment, retention and advancement of staff whose backgrounds or identities are underrepresented in the workplace. She will also identify mechanisms for measuring progress in these efforts. At a broader level, Williams will collaborate with groups and individuals across Brigham Health to align existing work in these areas.

“A lot of work is already happening at the Brigham. We just need to do it in a more innovative, cohesive way,” she said. “It’s about amplifying this work to ensure we have an environment where everyone feels they have everything they need to succeed. It’s about unleashing the best in us.”

It’s important to establish a common language and universal understanding of what diversity and inclusion mean to Brigham Health, Williams said. While some interpret the phrase “diversity and inclusion” to mean diversity of ideas or as limited to one area, such as racial diversity, its scope is wider – also including gender, ethnicity, age, sexual orientation and religious belief. She added that a focus on diversity and inclusion fosters a culture of innovation and a foundation for organization-wide success.

“Inclusion is one of our core values, and we are a stronger organization when our workforce reflects the communities we serve,” said Brigham Health President Betsy Nabel, MD. “Sabrina possesses a depth of experience, expertise and passion that will help us ensure the Brigham remains a place where all feel welcome, respected and supported.”

Williams joined BWH earlier this year as interim vice president of Human Resources. She will continue to serve in that role until the newly appointed senior vice president of Human Resources, Paula Squires, MBA, SHRM-SCP, SPHR, joins Brigham Health this fall (see related story).

Williams has more than 15 years of experience as an HR senior executive. Prior to joining the Brigham, she was vice president of Human Resources at Neighborhood Health Plan. Prior to her role at NHP, she served as director of Human Resources for the Health Science Campuses at Tufts University. She has also held leadership roles at several nonprofit organizations, including the Urban League of Eastern Massachusetts, South End Settlements and the Roxbury Community College Foundation.

Williams received a bachelor’s in Sociology and Economics from Brandeis University and a master’s in business administration from Simmons College School of Management.

Outside of work, Williams, a native of Jamaica, enjoys spending time with her husband, Rob, and stepdaughter, Courtney. In her spare time, she mentors young female professionals through The Boston Club. She is also currently writing a book of poetry and preparing to train for her third marathon.

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