RISE cofounders Dr. Anjali Bhagra and Barbara Jordan discuss the crucial role of equity in healthcare, and how Mayo Clinic is building an ecosystem of equity to create a more inclusive environment for staff and patients. In reflecting on season 1 of the RISE for Equity podcast, Dr. Bhagra shared, “I think in this space, it is incredibly important for us to learn from and disseminate stories. I’m very, very proud of the fact that we got to learn from amazing colleagues, collaborators, and innovators through this platform.”
“We’re in this together. We’re in very troubled times across the globe and now more than ever is the right time for us to come united with our differences and use this platform, if it works for you, to understand the nuances of different identities and also to understand the power of community in problem-solving.” – Dr. Anjali Bhagra
“All of us have to put on that equity lens and ensure that we are not harming others who may not be at the table. That we are not, without intention, creating systemic issues that are impacting the care of our patients, that are impacting the longevity, the retention of employees. We see it one step at a time, one policy at a time, one practice at a time, with the goal in the end to provide equitable care.” – Barbara Jordan
Read the transcript:
Nicole Nfonoyim-Hara: This is a special edition of Mayo Clinic Talks, released in partnership with Mayo Clinic Press. Welcome to the Rise for Equity podcast. In this series, we’ll be talking to leading physicians, scientists, and innovators about what it’s going to take to transform healthcare for a more just, more equitable future.
We are so pleased to be joined today by the founders of the Rise for Equity podcast, Dr. Anjali Bhagra, Professor of Medicine at Mayo Clinic and Medical Director of the Enterprise Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity, and Barbara Jordan, Administrator for the Enterprise Office for Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity.
Together, they launched the Rise for Equity podcast a little over a year ago in the fall. Fall of 2022 and today we take a closer look at the mission of the podcast, its impact over the last year, and how conversations on equity, inclusion, and diversity are growing and deepening. Thank you for joining us today.
Dr. Anjali Bhagra: Thank you, Nicole, for being our exemplary host for the next season. We are very excited and thank you for having us as well.
Barbara Jordan: Indeed. Thank you. It’s great to see you and to have you involved in this project, which is kind of our baby. So, we’re just delighted to have you at the helm.
Nicole Nfonoyim-Hara: So, I’d love to start the session by asking you to share a little bit about what you’ve learned from this inaugural year of the podcast and what are you the most proud of?
Dr. Anjali Bhagra: Yeah, that’s such a great question, Nicole, because I feel any journey is not complete if we don’t look back and see where we’ve come from.
So, thank you for kicking off with that question. I would say personally, and I do speak on behalf of the team, there are so many people, team members, both within Mayo, outside of Mayo, in the community that are really helping us create this platform for dissemination.
So, personally what I’m really proud of is the fact that we are able to really reinforce the learnings from stories.
There is a lot of emphasis, as there should be, on data whenever we are trying to change the landscape and trying to shift the needle because we want to know where we come from. I think in this space, it is incredibly important for us to learn from and disseminate stories. So, I’m very, very proud of the fact that we got to learn from amazing colleagues, collaborators, and innovators through this platform.
Another thing I feel like, you know, with adult learning theory this platform really allows for us to convert knowledge into insight and ultimately action. I’ve personally benefited from listening to it. No bias there. But I do think this platform has enabled activation with a deeper understanding of issues.
I’d also add that it’s easier said than done, but really exploring an equity lens to everything that we do within healthcare, within our society, across businesses, across for-profit, and non-profit sector, it is incredibly important to run what I would call like an equity audit and have an equity lens. I think a lot of our speakers and guests helped us sort of consolidate that.
And finally, I would say that you know, being able to create a community through these platforms is just it’s an outcome that one doesn’t think of, but then when you experience it, it just becomes all the more special. So, lots of great learnings and proud moments for the entire team with the last season’s episode.
Nicole Nfonoyim-Hara: That’s great. I see the pride in your face. And so much of what you’re sharing is about the importance of story and connection and community that really allows us to sort of have that platform to take action as you were saying.
Dr. Bhagra, you mentioned that ensuring that the topics are universally explored through an equity lens while taking on a rich variety of topics is really important for this podcast. Can you both share what it means to look at something through an equity lens?
Barbara Jordan: Sure, I’ll kick that off and this is a topic that we share not only in discussion but we wholeheartedly believe and try to model for the rest of our organization. Not only at OEID in our office but really trying to ensure that, I always call them the four P’s, Policies, Practices, Plans and Procedures.
All have that audit that Dr. Bhagra speaks about, that equity audit to ensure that we are eliminating or mitigating issues of bias, stigmas, and racism. So that is so important for our organization. Business unit after business unit to really, from the ground up, look at those things. It’s not just the job of HR. It’s not just the job of our executive suite.
All of us have to put on that equity lens and ensure that we are not harming others who may not be at the table. That we are not, without intention creating systemic issues that are impacting the care of our patients, that are impacting the longevity, the retention of employees.
So, it is a daunting task, but we see it one step at a time, one policy at a time, one practice at a time, with the goal in the end to provide equitable care. Our staff is a big part of that, but in the end it’s all about to provide the best patient care to every patient every day. That’s what that equity lens is all about.
Dr. Anjali Bhagra: Yeah, and I’ll just add to that very eloquent, comprehensive description of our lens. You know, I’ll begin with a quote. Diversity is a fact, equity is a choice, inclusion is an act, and belonging is an outcome.
So in all of this you know, certain things could be active or passive, but we know that equity is the intentional choice that we need to make at an individual level, at a team level, at the level of an organization, and as members of the society. So, we don’t ever become complacent in, you know, really representing those who are not at the table, representing those who don’t have a seat, representing those who may not have a voice.
And as Barbara said you know, the four Ps, that’s very specific, let’s say to an organization, this task is not just of an office of HR or of our C suite leaders because this needs to be knit into the fabric. That’s when it becomes a choice for all of us.
Nicole Nfonoyim-Hara: I love that quote that you shared because it also, it really connects all of these words that sometimes I think for people they’re just buzzwords and it really sort of threads that throughline all the way to belonging which we’ll talk about a little bit later.
And also empowers us I think to be able to say these are about choices that we make and actions that we take as individuals like you said and then as collectives and as you said Barbara this idea that we can take a step at a time. Right?
It’s a daunting task. But if we take a step at a time as individuals as a collective, we will continue to advance this work. I feel as if the podcast topics feel very salient, relevant, and I also feel like they’re very forward facing, and I know a lot of thought has gone into that. Why is now the right time for this type of podcast?
Dr. Anjali Bhagra: Yeah, Nicole, if we look at our external environment right now, I think we’ll all agree there is a lot of VUCA happening in our environment, and when I say VUCA, I mean Volatility, Ambiguity, Complexity, and Uncertainty.
And in a constantly unrestful environment, I think it becomes really important for us to have a solid background to these initiatives. I would also say the DEI landscape continues to evolve very, very rapidly. There is more societal awakening around these topics.
There are newer tools available to us than there historically were. And this is all happening collectively. So, while, yes, we have geopolitical unrest right now, we have longstanding systemic issues that we haven’t really made much progress around. We have all kinds of inequities based on gender, ethnic origins across age spectrum, and many other different issues.
So, I think a podcast like this at the current time allows us to continually assess how this is evolving, how this continues to impact us at a societal level, at a community level, at an individual level, at an organizational level. I think it also helps us create a community of problem solvers, of people who are committed to this work.
It allows us to reinforce the importance and disseminate newer tools. We have more technological advancement in the last two years than ever. We have emerging tools such as augmented intelligence, large language models, and generative AI, and now is the time for us within this field to continue to sort of be at the cutting edge, exploring these tools and talking about them with appropriate experts.
Sometimes I feel it becomes intimidating because technologies can appear at, you know, more than an arm’s length away from us. But if we routinize these conversations, if we democratize access to these tools and we bring clarity around the value proposition of how this fits into this very important and very difficult work that we do within DEI you know, I think we will always remain relevant and we will be able to disseminate these opportunities with our colleagues who may not have access to the tools, but through this platform, you know, they’ll hopefully learn about how they can lean into it as well.
Nicole Nfonoyim-Hara: Thank you for sharing that and, I love this invitation that we become a community of problem solvers. You both in a lot of ways are sort of problem solvers in chief in the work that you do and you’re at the epicenter and really at the pulse of a lot of the organizational and institutional change around DEI.
Can you talk to us a little bit about what kind of organizational changes you are seeing emerge to advance equity in healthcare?
Barbara Jordan: Yeah, there’s a lot going on as Dr. Bhagra, has indicated the changes that have taken place are, are really quite striking in the field of DEI and what we today really refer to as equity because we’ve moved beyond just counting heads, diversity. Back in the day, that was the goal, representation.
But we recognize representation without the dismantling of racism, without really focusing on belonging for every employee. Those things matter and so today you’ll see a shift and I’m very, very proud of us who do the work and those who are champions and allies and accomplices because we’re also taking an academic approach to equity.
And we’re looking at the kinds of data that Dr. Bhagra mentioned. The outputs of those things are really helping us to try to be much more precision, much more focused in the actions, the initiatives, the projects, the work rather than just counting heads. I, you know, that was important back then to, to really look at where the gaps were so that we could try to mitigate them.
But today, you know, the systemic issues are so much more at the fore. And our executives are recognizing that and giving us leeway. And when I say all, us, all of us who do this work, giving us leeway, to look at other things besides just recruit, recruit, recruit, retain, retain, retain. So, I think that’s organizational change as I’ve watched it over the many years that I’ve had the good fortune to work in this area.
But really moving from diversity to diversity 3.0 or equity.
Dr. Anjali Bhagra: And if I may add to that, Nicole you know, we talk about organizational change, and I love, Barbara, the way you described the evolution of the work. I would say personally, I’ve seen, like, our maturity around these issues and how we want this to be part of our fabric has evolved so much.
Yes, we still have a lot of work to do, and I will you know, I’m very mindful of the long road ahead. Yet I would say that, especially today, change happens very fast. It’s constant. And the other thing is we mentioned technology. Another big change is that if we don’t invite people into these dialogues, as we do now compared to an era of mandatory DEI trainings you know, we will be baking bias into tools that would algorithmically, perpetuate this.
So, and this work is not happening only by within the DEI ecosystem. I think that’s a big shift. This work is happening so, for example the Mayo Clinic AI and platform team is at the forefront of establishing guidelines and coalitions for ethical use of AI through a coalition for health AI. We are studying, documenting, publishing, and constantly evaluating What is the most ethical and fairest way of doing this?
I think that’s a huge change. This work is not being done you know, just by a group of people within an isolated ecosystem. And this was one of the biggest things that Barbara and I… you know, we’ll talk about how do we break the siloed nature of the work. I would say we aren’t where we’d like to be, but we are definitely moving forward.
We are breaking silos. More and more people are excited about doing this work and being part of the solution.
Nicole Nfonoyim-Hara: Excellent. You both described this ecosystem and I love the way that you both talked about the maturity and sort of the refinement of the work over the years. And I do think that there is sort of this deepening approach where perhaps, like you said, Barbara, a decade ago we were focused on representation and even just figuring out what is bias in the first place.
And now we’re at a place where we’re being asked to look at the systemic issues. We’re being asked to think about cultural change. In terms of that cultural change conversation, and you’ve, both mentioned it from the top of this conversation that we’ve had, we hear a lot about this sense of belonging.
Can you both talk about why this concept has become so important in discussions of equity and specifically when it comes to health equity?
Barbara Jordan: Let me, let me kick off with just some I’ll say facts because we do see, and we are trying very hard working with experts, working with colleagues who have a, I love Dr. Bhagra word, a 360 view of this.
Sometimes we can be very myopic in our views of belonging as an employee and even as someone working in this space, but the reason it’s so important to us at Mayo Clinic is representation matters. But if we continue to bring people in the front door, and they stay with us short times because they never feel that I can be my authentic self here, I can be a contributing member of the Mayo Clinic staff, I have value, I feel engaged, those things are so key to their retention.
And so, if they don’t have that sense of belonging, attrition will occur, and it will occur at rapid rates. Also, it does us no good in the marketplace then. Oh yeah, I was at Mayo, I only stayed X number of months because I never really felt like I belonged. And that does us no good, you know, as we continue to try to recruit.
So, it’s cyclical, and it’s interdependent. So, we are really focused on belonging. It helps us to move the needle in many of those areas where we do have you know, we have goals. But at the same time, it’s, it creates this culture where we all feel valued and contributing to the overall success of Mayo Clinic.
Dr. Anjali Bhagra: Yeah. Thank you, Barbara. I think that’s well said. I’ll use another quote here. So, diversity is inviting someone to a party and inclusion and belonging is inviting them to the dance floor. And, and picking the music that they, you know, that they’d like to dance to. So as Barbara mentioned, you know, our, we keep our focus on representation because it really matters, and our North Star is belonging.
One of the reasons why we saw great resignation in humongous amounts during COVID and then following that ‘quiet quitting’ is that people did not feel valued at work any kind of work and people left jobs in numbers that we’ve never seen before. So, it was a watershed moment in, I would say, you know, for humanity, just to assess the meaning and purpose of our lives and belonging and being valued and being acknowledged is that core element that human beings crave for.
And so it is incredibly important for us as an organization and unlike representation, belonging is very hard to understand capture measure and really also influence.
So, when we think of belonging, we work across many different teams because, you know, yes, DEI is one aspect of this, but there are so many other things. So, for me to feel belonged as an individual is, means something different than me feeling belonged within my organization, and then me feeling belonged within my community, and then me feeling belonged within my country.
All of these need to happen for me to have a holistic sense of belonging and the factors are very complex. But we also know that this is what determines human joy, human fulfillment, human performance, and human flourishing.
So, this is a very important metric for us for our leadership at Mayo at all levels and something that, you know, we are very, very fiercely committed to and we have a long way to understand this fully.
And there are many other teams that we work with to be able to understand and influence it in the right direction.
Barbara Jordan: To move people from just surviving to truly thriving. The words that Dr. Bhagra used, flourishing, thriving. That’s the ultimate goal of belonging. And we’re excited to be partnering with other groups within the organization.
This is certainly an important part of our job in the Office for Equity, but so is it for our colleagues who work in well-being, our colleagues who work with learners, our colleagues who work with joy, our colleagues across the organization are all thinking about this. So, I, I feel good, and you know, I will say confident that we’re going to figure this thing out.
It may take longer than I would like to see, or Dr. Bhagra would like to see, but I think we are really a coalition of colleagues who today really want to get that one solved. Belonging.
Nicole Nfonoyim-Hara: And it sounds like it’s starting to get a lot of synergy, a lot of connection throughout what you all described as that ecosystem.
Do either of you have any, have any closing thoughts before we end today?
Barbara Jordan: Just excited about the future of the podcast, you know, as, as a lay person and I have watched the sessions as well. Our participants, our presenters do an excellent job of really finding of really finding that sweet spot so that they can talk to me, a non-clinician, at the same time that they’re also speaking to their colleagues who are clinical colleagues.
To look at healthcare through that equity lens is really is it’s a lot of knowledge being transferred in this podcast and we’re stepping it up. We’re taking it to the next level this year. Of course, the addition of Miss Nicole Nfonoyim-Hara is a big plus for us. But also, the topics that are on you know, we try to remain very timely. Very timely and relevant with our topics.
So, just excited about 2023-2024.
Dr. Anjali Bhagra: Yeah, and I’ll add in addition to my excitement which I share fully with Barbara and you, Nicole you know, you know the number one thing that my colleagues have shared with me who work in this space is that it brings them real joy. It brings them true joy. And yet I feel…in our day-to-day lives, we end up postponing our joy quite a bit.
So, I want to leave everyone with this thought that, you know, we’re in this together. We’re in very troubled times across the globe and now more than ever is the right time for us to come united with our differences and, you know, use this platform, if it works for you, to understand the nuances of different identities and also to understand the power of community in problem-solving.
Once again, I have derived a lot of joy a lot of personal fulfillment in working with the teams both within Mayo and outside. And I’d like to thank all our guests who will take out the time and extend our gratitude to you, Nicole, for hosting this season. And I hope everyone enjoys and has a great time.
Nicole Nfonoyim-Hara: Thank you both so much. I’m so grateful to be hosting this space and to be working alongside you all to continue the conversation in this really important work.
Thank you so much for joining us. So much of what you shared is really again about advancing equity as being rooted in story, connection, community and to really enable us and empower us to take sustained action together from a place of courage and continuous learning.
And that’s really what this podcast is about. So, I thank you for providing that platform and we appreciate you and your powerful insights.
Dr. Anjali Bhagra: Thank you.
Barbara Jordan: Thank you.
Nicole Nfonoyim-Hara: And that’s all for today’s episode of the Rise for Equity podcast by Mayo Clinic. We hope you’ll join us for our next episode. We’ll see you then.