Members of AtlantiCare’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council joined AtlantiCare President and CEO Lori Herndon as she signed the CEO Action for Diversity & Inclusion’s CEO Pledge on May 27.
“AtlantiCare has long been committed to preventing and addressing social inequities and disparities in health care,” says Herndon. “In 2020, we embraced the fact that we needed to do more. Spurred by nationwide social unrest, we recognized a powerful opportunity to re-evaluate our organizational culture and commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I).”
By making the pledge, Herndon and AtlantiCare are committing to:
- Continuing to make work environments trusting places to have complex, and sometimes difficult, conversations about diversity and inclusion.
- Implementing and expanding inclusive leadership training that includes unconscious bias education and sharing educational resources with other businesses and organizations.
- Sharing best practices, lessons learned and opportunities for improvement with other companies to help them evolve and enhance their diversity strategies.
- Creating and sharing strategic inclusion and diversity plans with AtlantiCare’s board of directors.
Herndon said AtlantiCare also committed to collecting and analyzing qualitative data on the progress of its DE&I efforts.
“We will share this information with staff, leaders and the community as we engage them in our continuous efforts to build a more diverse and inclusive workplace, and to contribute to equitable treatment of all members of society,” she said.
Since Herndon publicly reinforced AtlantiCare’s commitment to its DE&I efforts last year, she has led the organization in making significant changes. They include appointing Charisse Fizer to the role of chief diversity, equity, and inclusion officer.
“Our commitment to providing the highest quality of care centers on treating every person with dignity and respect, regardless of individuals’ backgrounds or beliefs,” says Fizer. “We are best able to do so when we ensure every individual has a voice and we listen and take action.”
The health care system and largest non-casino employer in southeastern New Jersey, AtlantiCare provides care and services at its more than 100 locations across five South Jersey counties. In 2020, AtlantiCare’s team cared for patients who spoke one or more of approximately 70 languages.
Under Herndon’s leadership, AtlantiCare has also taken the following and more actions over the last year:
- Adding “Inclusion” to AtlantiCare’s values of Safety, Teamwork, Integrity, Respect and Service.
- Increasing the diversity of AtlantiCare’s board of trustees to more accurately represent its staff and the communities AtlantiCare serves.
- Restructuring the organization’s DE&I Council to include senior leaders, physicians and staff who have a direct impact on policies and procedures.
- Reviewing and updating policies and procedures to align with its DE&I efforts.
- Engaging members of AtlantiCare’s 10 Employee Resource groups (ERGs) in sharing resources, information and support in the community.
- Holding inclusive leadership training for DE&I council members, senior leadership, and board members.
- Expanding DE&I training for new employees.
- Enhancing its intranet diversity portal as a gateway to resources, education and updates for providers and staff.
- Implementing CEO listening sessions, through which Herndon meets one-on-one with patients, staff, physicians and community members to identify concerns and issues.
- Assisting thousands of at-risk community members with getting their COVID-19 vaccinations, including through grass-roots community outreach.
- Expanding its programs and services that address health care disparities, including Maternal and Infant Mortality. Examples include expanding AtlantiCare’s Family Planning services hours in Atlantic City and breaking ground on a $38.3 million Medical Arts Pavilion in Atlantic City to enhance access to care.
- For the ninth year in a row, earning the Human Rights Campaign’s (HRC) designation as Leader in LGBTQ Healthcare Equality in its Healthcare Equality Index.
- Expanding its partnership with the Boys & Girls Club of Atlantic City by engaging youth learning about life and career opportunities.