Our Work To Do
The following note was sent to Wheeler's team of 1,000 staff on the afternoon of Friday, June 6, 2020, as a follow-up to an earlier note sent on Monday, June 1:
I wanted to write as a follow-up to my note on Monday.
I heard directly or indirectly from several dozen of our team in response. I found it very interesting that each note took one of three different themes.
The first category was the most heartening. “We’re way ahead of you,” basically, and staff outlined concrete ways their departments and their supervisory meetings were already addressing and discussing how Wheeler could provide care that was more equitable, accessible, and culturally appropriate, as well as how their small parts of Wheeler were examining equity, justice, and diversity within, on their own. I’m happiest when people are way ahead of me.
The second group was basically, “We want to take action, but what can we do?” It’s a good question, and I’m going to outline some of that below.
The third group shared thoughts along the lines of, “Can we get more specifics?” Yes, you can.
This morning, Wheeler’s Diversity and Inclusion Team met. I’ve charged them to help guide me in directions that we need to take, and, just as important, how I can educate myself. Our colleagues of color owe the rest of us no explanation of the history or realities of racism, nor should we put the burden on anyone else to educate ourselves. This is an individual, organizational, community, national, and international issue, and it starts with a mirror.
There were basic trends discussed in today’s meeting. [NOTE: portions of these are condensed for external publication and shared in more detail internally]
- A more visible and transparent Diversity and Inclusion Team, which is made up of staff from all levels of Wheeler, from front-line providers to chief-level employees. I welcome anyone interested to join and, as you might imagine from what I said, I want an active and engaged group. We should do a better job of making its work more visible and transparent.
Along those lines, the team felt that the national CLAS (Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care) standards that they implemented across Wheeler need to be substantial and actionable. You can learn more about CLAS at: https://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/
- We need to talk and listen. The second theme was the need for communication between all of us. To that end, we will be establishing channels of communication that go right to the top for hearing issues, and just as important, hearing ideas. We are also exploring the idea of a series of Town Hall events on Microsoft Teams in the coming weeks. I am also considering how to best send more frequent updates on our work in this area.
- Self-care. This is trauma. I’ve heard several stories of colleagues and friends who cannot watch the news, or check their social media feed. The team discussed ways of providing and encouraging healing and self-care.
- Leadership. The team suggested, and I agree, that we need a visible and empowered function to guide, encourage, and support our work in this area. It is always on us individually, but that doesn’t mean we don’t need help. To that end, I am adding a diversity officer function to Wheeler’s leadership team, and this new individual will report directly to me.
Our existing leaders should not sit back and feel this is being handled by a diversity officer. I have strongly encouraged each of my executive and senior management team to attend one of several professional development events coming up in the next few weeks. I am attending one next Thursday called “Don’t Talk, Do. Creating a Racially Equitable Future as Inclusive Leaders.”
It was a productive meeting, and I thank the members of the team for their work. These are the first, but not the only and not the last, steps. I welcome your feedback.
Stay healthy. Stay well. Stay safe. Stay committed.
I hear you.
Sabrina Trocchi, PhD, MPA
President/Chief Executive Officer
SUBJECT: This Is Our Fight, Too
The following note was sent to Wheeler's team of 1,000 staff on the afternoon of Monday, June 1, 2020:
I wanted to reach out with some thoughts following this weekend.
As I’m sure we all were, I was saddened, angered, and disheartened by the horror, brutality, and lost lives. I would not say I was surprised, however, nor would I describe it as “senseless,” as I often heard. In many ways, it made nothing but sense.
We have such a long, institutional history of physical and economic violence, disparities and injustice to overcome in our nation. No one who has spent even a small amount of critical thought on the issues could be surprised that there are righteous calls for justice. I reflected quite a bit on what I could do as a leader, as a citizen, as a parent.
- We know, undeniably, that racism, on a systemic and individual basis, is a social determinant of health.
- We know, undeniably, that populations of color suffer disproportionately from COVID-19.
- We know, undeniably, that medically underserved and disenfranchised communities experience shorter lives, more chronic health conditions, and worse health outcomes.
- We know, undeniably, that there are horrific inequalities in nearly every element of our society, from education to community justice to violence to transportation to…literally any other issue you can think of. Certainly every issue Wheeler deals with daily.
- We know, undeniably, many of us come from positions of cultural or individual privilege, which so many of our neighbors, friends, colleagues, and patients do not.
The fight for justice you saw this weekend is our fight here at Wheeler, too, in many specific ways:
- We must recommit ourselves to ensuring health care, education, justice, and safety is equitable and within available to all.
- We must recommit ourselves to an unflinching examination of our own beliefs, biases, and action or inaction.
- We must recommit ourselves to a better tomorrow for ALL people. Over the weekend, I saw a piece on Facebook by Black Lives Matter. To paraphrase, it called on us all to recognize how racial inequality exists in our individual and collective lives; listen to and respect the many, rich voices of our community; educate ourselves about the history and current reality of racism; broaden our experiences; and…
Take action. In our work, I hope you will always be proactive in taking action in ways that make everyone we serve…every community, every family, every individual…better.
And do take care of yourself. We are all dealing with this in our own ways. If you need someone to talk to, our Employee Assistance Program, a confidential counseling service, is available to you at no cost. You can call the Wheeler EAP any time at 800.275.3327 or www.wheelerclinic.org/eap
We have tremendous challenges ahead of us, individually, as an organization, and as a nation. We all work at a place like Wheeler to take them on. Please join me in solidarity with the voices we heard this weekend, and if we’ve been listening, we’ve heard for centuries in America. It is long past time for change, and let it start with each of us.
Sabrina Trocchi, PhD, MPA
President/Chief Executive Officer