About 150 of the nation’s health-care leaders will gather in Charlotte on Tuesday for a diversity summit co-hosted by Carolinas HealthCare System.
The session at the Ritz-Carlton hotel, co-sponsored by the Chicago-based DiversityMBA, brings together hospital officials, doctors, medical school leaders and industry executives to craft strategies for building a workforce that understands and reflects a diverse population.
While most industries talk about diversity, in health care “it can make the difference between life and death,” said James Taylor, vice president and chief diversity officer at Carolinas HealthCare.
Race and ethnicity can affect a person’s access to care and risk for such serious ailments as diabetes and heart disease. Healthcare employees need skills ranging from knowledge of the languages patients speak to awareness of cultural norms regarding such things as pain tolerance, eye contact and physical touch, Taylor said.
Stephen Jones, CEO of the Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital in New Jersey, is keynote speaker. His hospital’s Center for Diversity and Inclusion works on cultural competency, workforce diversity and elimination of health disparities.
People of color now make up 37 percent of the U.S. population, a number that’s expected to rise to 57 percent by 2060. Summit organizers cite recent data showing that just 14 percent of hospital board members, 12 percent of hospital executives and 6 percent of practicing physicians are nonwhite.
Taylor said 22 percent of the Carolinas HealthCare board and 30 percent of physicians working for the system are people of color. So are 24 percent of the system’s managers, a broader category that includes executives.
African-Americans make up about 4 percent of the nation’s physicians and 11 percent of those working for Carolinas HealthCare, Taylor said.
The system requires all of its search firms to submit job-candidate pools that include women and people of color and hires some firms that specialize in diversity, Taylor said.
It has worked with La Noticia, a local Spanish-language newspaper, to reach the Latino community with messages about getting jobs and health care, Taylor said, and was named the newspaper’s 2014 corporate diversity champion.
Diversity, the Ritz and the CIAA
The Ritz-Carlton was chosen as the site of the National Healthcare Diversity Leadership Summit before controversy erupted over a “CIAA service charge” tacked on at the hotel lounge during last month’s basketball tournament for the African-American athletic conference.
Pam McElvane, CEO of DiversityMBA in Chicago, said the hotel has worked well with her group and been “very high class.” She said last week she knew little about the incident that has fueled accusations of racism, an investigation by the state attorney general and apologies from the hotel.
McElvane said she plans to find out more when she arrives: “I will ask them directly.”