John R. Brumsted, MD, UVM Health Network president and chief executive officer, pledges that the health system will be committed to ongoing, careful and meaningful action in the effort to create a culture that is equitable, diverse and inclusive for our employees, patients and the communities we serve.
Our country is in the midst of a long overdue reckoning with systemic racism. For many, including me, this is both a personal and an institutional reckoning. As a white male, I’m reflecting upon how privileged a life I have led and the fact that I have not faced barriers because of the color of my skin. As the leader of an organization that employs thousands and impacts the health of more than a million people in our two-state region, my commitment is that the UVM Health Network will be engaged in racial justice work and committed to equity, diversity and inclusion.
Our dedication to this task carries even greater urgency because we are a health care institution. We acknowledge the persistent and appalling racial disparities in health care outcomes, and we know that stamping out systemic racism is not only the right thing to do; it’s also at the core of our mission to provide high quality, affordable, accessible care to our communities. That means we must take on these challenges within our own workforce; in the care we deliver every day to our patients; and also within the communities we serve.
The fact is, change must happen in every organization, both now and into the future. It cannot be something we simply talk about or plan for some uncertain date, and it cannot be a “one and done” initiative. We must commit ourselves to ongoing, careful and meaningful action, and acknowledge that it is critical and overdue.
The journey for UVM Health Network has begun. Steps include listening sessions with employees who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color; education and training for senior leaders; a Diversity Workforce Assessment survey administered by an outside firm; and a third-party tool that enables staff to confidentially report potential violations of the law, our Code of Conduct or other policies and procedures.
To get a better understanding of disparities in health care, we’re also starting to look at health outcome data for patients who identify as Black, Indigenous and People of Color.
I want to emphasize that we are on a journey; there’s much more work to be done. At each of our network’s affiliate organizations, there are or will be steering committees focused on equity, diversity and inclusion. In the near and long term, there will be additional leadership and organizational changes to support our efforts. Making and sustaining necessary change will be everyone’s responsibility, but it starts at the top of our network. We will be intentional and deliberate, and the lessons we learn will inform the way forward.
Anyone who knows me knows how deeply I care for the UVM Health Network. For more than 30 years, this has been my home, and I am proud of the work we do. But I also believe we have not done enough to prioritize equity, diversity and inclusion. We are facing that reality head-on now, and we pledge to do better. Our people are our most treasured resource, and when we pull together and commit to something, great things happen. That’s how I know we will make good on our promise.
John R. Brumsted, MD
President and CEO, The UVM Health Network