Advancing Racial Justice and Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (HEDI) in Times of Turmoil

July 2, 2022

// By Brian Griffin //

Brian GriffinTwo tragic events sparked Johns Hopkins Medicine to strengthen its commitment to racial justice and HEDI through microsites and community outreach.

In May 2020, the killing of George Floyd rocked the nation and sparked civil unrest and cries for racial justice that continue to reverberate today. At Johns Hopkins Medicine (JHM), the incident, combined with the COVID-19 pandemic, became a “watershed moment” for the health system, according to marketing leaders Suzanne Sawyer and David Simpkins.

“It was a shocking ordeal that has impacted so many of us — people of all races and ethnicities — in profound and deeply personal ways,” says Sawyer, senior vice president for marketing and communications. “It became a time in this country and here at Johns Hopkins Medicine for everyone to pause and reflect, and determine how we were going to respond.” 

A Time to Listen

Suzanne Sawyer, senior vice president for marketing and communications, Johns Hopkins Medicine

Suzanne Sawyer, senior vice president for marketing and communications, Johns Hopkins Medicine

As leaders, Sawyer and Simpkins decided it was important to bring the marketing and communication department together to ask them how they were doing. They encouraged those who were comfortable to share their feelings about the tragedy. “We felt it was important to be there for each other and to take time to listen to the varied heartfelt emotions they expressed,” says Sawyer.

“Starting with this intentional focus on our department enabled us to spend time assessing our internal culture. We surveyed all 150 staff members and were pleased that more than 100 responded and made nearly 150 comments. This was critical to understanding their concerns and obtaining their ideas related to HEDI.”

Read on to learn:

  • How Sawyer and Simpkins responded to the marketing department survey results
  • What the health system did to obtain feedback from other internal stakeholders and implement action steps
  • How these internal efforts served as a catalyst for reaching out to underserved multicultural communities to provide critical COVID-19 information and resources

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