Ochsner CEO Warner Thomas: 'There is No Place for Discrimination at Ochsner or in Our Country'
Like many of you, I’ve been troubled over the past week with some incredibly sad and disturbing realities. It’s hard to accept that our country – the one that has demonstrated so much unity in serving our diverse communities during COVID-19 – can remain so divided.
While this is a time for mourning and for necessary reflection on the inequalities that continue to plague our nation – it is also a time for change.
I can say with certainty that there is no place for discrimination, violence or injustice at Ochsner or in our country. Our employees and patients from different backgrounds have been shouldering the burden of systemic and individual racism and bias for their entire lives. We cannot let it continue on our watch, and it is our job to make sure these friends and neighbors hear that we stand with them. It is my personal commitment that every Ochsner employee, nurse, physician, clinician and leader feels like an equal member of the Ochsner family – no matter their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social or economic background.
There is simply no other way to be, and we will not look away.
We will continue to work across Louisiana and Mississippi to change our states for good and make a positive difference in the health and wellness of all people. No matter our background, it is our responsibility as human beings and as Louisiana’s largest employer and healthcare provider to lead and maintain an open, ongoing dialogue across the communities we serve to address these deep-rooted social justice issues.
This Conversation is Just the Beginning
Please know that this conversation is just beginning – but it has started. We realize that now more than ever we must further strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion across every Ochsner hospital, clinic and health center. This week we will meet with Ochsner Chief Diversity Officer Deborah Grimes and with leaders from our Ochsner Resource Groups to discuss how we can do more as we work toward a community of greater unity, compassion and equality. We are here to be part of the solution.
Through our past research and data and the work we’ve done recently in our COVID-19 community testing of more than 2,500 Orleans and Jefferson Parish residents, we know that healthcare disparities exist – we’ve seen their impact for years. We are committed to taking that on, and you’ll hear more details in the coming days and weeks from Dr. Eboni Price-Haywood, Dr. Leo Seoane and Dr. Amy Feehan about the results of our prevalence study and another important study around healthcare disparities and inequities.
As we take this journey together, we have some of the tools we need already in place. While January might feel like a lifetime ago, that’s when we publicly announced our name change to Ochsner Health. For years, high levels of poverty, chronic disease, obesity, smoking and mental and physical distress have driven Louisiana and Mississippi to the bottom in nearly every national health ranking. Ochsner’s investments in screenings, prevention and access to new methods of care delivery are aimed at everyone, across every community, who needs us. We are committed to doing our part to provide families with equal access to high quality health and wellness services no matter their geographic, economic or racial background.
We continue to invest in health and wellness, education, workforce development, mental health and economic stability benefits to support you, and we’ll be introducing several new programs and partnerships throughout the year, especially around growing and developing your careers here at Ochsner and making us the kind of place where others want to be.
Next week you’ll hear from Deborah about Ochsner’s clear plan for advanced diversity and inclusion work, including the launch of a systemwide Diversity Council and a Health Disparities Task Force. Finally, later this month I’ll announce some important new work that will further expand access to care for some of the most vulnerable across Louisiana.
As I reflect on what makes our Ochsner team so strong and so effective, and as I consider qualities that matter to me personally, I continue to land on our commitment to people. Improving health means providing opportunities for the next generation while building a strong community model based on diversity, social and economic equity, respect and a sense of purpose and responsibility.
Creating opportunities for change is part of how we can help Louisiana and Mississippi become better. And at Ochsner we won’t stop until we make this a safer, healthier, better place for all of us and for our families.
As we struggle together to make sense of all racial injustices, I’d like us to remember that “together” has never been a more important word. If we are to create real and lasting change for ourselves, for our nation and for the generations who follow, we must come together. And I believe that if we approach one another with respect, tolerance, empathy and a genuine desire to understand, we can begin to heal. I’d like to challenge all of us to think and act in ways that unify instead of divide.
While we don’t have all the answers and we can’t change things over night, we can still change.