The world in which we live is diverse, and yet, it’s rarely reflected in the leadership teams at healthcare organizations. As health systems continue to grow, it’s essential that the different races, ethnicities, and genders that make up the patient population are represented at all levels.
For Donna Roach, CIO at University of Utah Health, promoting diversity and equality has long been a passion. During the upcoming CHIME21 Forum, she will address this critical topic, along with Cletis Earle (SVP and CIO, Penn State Health), Chero Goswami (CIO, University of Wisconsin Health System), Ajay Kapare (Chief Strategy & Marketing Officer, Ellkay), and Vandna Pandita (VP, HEDIS Strategy & Analytics, AmeriHealth Caritas). The panel will discuss how they are evaluating their own organizations, identifying areas for improvement, and creating actionable changes that can help promote and improve diversity.
Recently, Roach spoke with healthsystemCIO about why it’s so important to create diverse teams, the enormous impact mentoring can have, and the power of confidence.
Gamble: A lot of leaders are struggling with how to approach this topic and figure out what needs to be done to improve diversity in their organization. What are your thoughts on that?
Roach: It starts by measuring it. If you’re not measuring it and looking at your data, you’re not going to know. We did that, and when we looked at our vaccination process, we learned that we weren’t being very equitable in how the vaccine was being distributed.
Now, there are a lot of reasons for that. It’s not the fault of University of Utah Health, and it’s not about placing blame. It’s about looking at the data and forming a plan to address it. How do we go about doing that? What are the measures we’re taking to be more equitable in our delivery?
That’s the bottom line. We’re a big data organization. We collect a lot of data. We discern the data and make into information and make it very actionable. I think that’s key. This is a data data-driven organization. We have to do that.
Hiring for diversity
Roach: On the other hand, if you want diversity in your teams, you have to hire for diversity. You have to be open to it. I think too many times, we hire people who are just like us or who or look like us. But when you have a diverse team, you get so much more. Yes, you will have differences of opinion. You have to be good at coordinating that and working through those disagreements and working through how different people see things differently. And make sure you have a plan.
Oftentimes, people don’t realize what they bring to the table, both good and bad. Be willing to work through that, rather than ignoring it.
Addressing “bad behavior”
Roach: I went to a speech given by a basketball coach, and he said, ‘Treat bad behavior as bad behavior. You don’t throw that person out; you address the behavior.’ And so, if you see something that doesn’t lend itself to diversity or takes away from someone’s voice, you need to call that out. You need to have the skillset to deal with this.
I’ve been in many situations where I was the only female at the table, but I don’t let it stop me. I make sure my voice is being heard, whether it’s in a group session or one on one with the person I’m having a difficult time with. I let them know where I’m coming from, and put my opinion and my direction out there.
Making your voice heard
Gamble: One of the challenges we’ve heard is that there is a shortage of women and people of color, particularly in areas like cybersecurity. What can be done to help change that?
Roach: Mentoring is really important. I try to do a lot of mentoring with young women in the industry, especially those who feel like they can’t do it. And we break it down: why don’t you think you can do it? If you don’t want to do it, that’s one thing. But if you feel you have the skills and the education, and you want to do it, let’s figure out a plan so that you feel good about what you want and we can move forward.
Confidence in “who you are”
I think too quickly, we give up. You have to stick with it. If you fail at something, ask yourself what you learned from the experience, and move on. Keep moving forward.
The other thing is you have to feel confidence in what you bring to the table, and realize that what you bring to the table is going to be very different than what somebody else brings. You need to be confident in who you are and that you’re contributing, and be committed to improve — whether it’s improving yourself, or the organization you work for.
Gamble: And it’s a continuous process, right?
Roach: Absolutely. I’ve worked for a number of organizations, and I’ve learned so much from each of them. I have connections that go back to my graduate days, and I’ve kept them going. Because outside of work, I really enjoy being with those people and I have so much respect for what they did and what they brought to the organization.
It’s not just about the job. It’s about who you are as a person and what you’re contributing. To me, that’s exciting. It’s great to know you’ve got a whole network of people who are part of the makeup of who you are.
The session — Diversity & Equality: A Healthcare Workforce Reflective of the World We Live In — will take place Thursday, Oct. 28 at 11:30 am PDT. Roach will also be presented at two other sessions: Suicide Prevention: Utah Health Has an App for That, and Digital Health Results: ROI-Driven Use Cases and Lessons from the Forefront.