This summer, Penn Presbyterian Medical Center hosted a series of virtual town halls focused on addressing systemic racism and cultivating a culture of diversity, inclusion, and equality within our walls and in our community. It was such a privilege to hear the perspectives of our panelists and speakers, and I am deeply grateful for their candid, insightful remarks. I encourage you to watch the recordings on the PPMC Intranet if you missed these conversations.

In the first session, our thoughtful panelists discussed their personal experiences and opportunities to make sustainable change. Through an interactive poll, audience members also indicated how they are feeling, with themes of anxiety, frustration, and sadness running through, but also motivation. It is my hope that we can harness this motivation and continue engaging in these focused dialogues long after the headlines change. After all, this first round of discussion was the tip of the iceberg, as evidenced by our second session, which explored health disparities. Each speaker did an excellent job illustrating how factors like housing, food, and financial insecurities, lack of access to transportation, and poor insurance coverage severely impact health and access to care for our most vulnerable patients. Especially as COVID-19 continues to highlight and exacerbate disparities that disproportionately impact Black and minority communities, we must continue to promote and protect the physical and mental health of our neighbors through community engagement, patient education, advocacy, and research.

Though our final town hall took place a few weeks ago, I want to assure you that it was not the last conversation we will be engaging in. We have received so many excellent suggestions about how we can be more present in our community, develop a formalized mentorship program to set our staff up for success, and improve communication and accountability through defined goals and metrics. And this is only the beginning. As Claiborne Childs, MD, MS, powerfully noted during our first panel, the work of diversity, inclusion, and equality is a marathon; it will not finish in a month or a year, and we must be prepared to keep making strides, even when conversations get tough. At the same time, as Dr. Childs also said, this work is also a team sport; everyone from every level and every team must play their part in order for us to be successful.

I am proud to be embarking on this long overdue, but vital journey with incredible colleagues at my side. I encourage you to continue reaching out to me and to other leaders to share your thoughts and concerns. By learning from each other, challenging each other, and respecting each other, we can — and will — make our hospital, our organization, our community, and our nation better.

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