Mighty Blog

New chief equity and inclusion officer aims to improve health equity, workforce representation and investing in diverse businesses

For James Burroughs, diversity, equity and inclusion isn’t just his job, it’s personal.

James joined Children’s Minnesota in January as the first chief equity and inclusion officer, and he comes with a passion for both Children’s and the work ahead.

James’ daughter Teresa, who is treated at Children’s, is 6 years old and suffers from sickle cell disease, which makes it difficult for blood to reach cells throughout her body and causes episodes of pain. James has witnessed the resilience of children through Teresa’s positive attitude, strength and optimism.

“Every day she gets up smiling, laughing, charging forward. She inspires me every day to be better than I could be,” James said. “She inspires me every day never to quit and stop. She inspires me every day to know that everything that I do can help her and others like her as well.”

When Teresa’s hematologist, Dr. Stephen Nelson, mentioned the chief equity and inclusion officer role to James, it felt like the perfect match.

Inspired by his daughter, James’ work at Children’s will focus on three elements:

  1. Ensuring a diverse and inclusive and equitable workforce at Children’s.
  2. Providing inclusive and equitable patient and family care to serve families’ unique needs and reduce and eventually eliminate health disparities.
  3. Investing in diverse businesses and organizations within communities that reflect the diversity of Children’s patients and families in order to improve the economic vitality of those communities and build stronger community partnerships.

Nearly half of Children’s Minnesota patients and families are People of Color and Native American, which makes it vital to better understand the diverse needs of those patients. Furthermore, most of Minnesota’s population growth in the next few decades is predicted to be among People of Color and Native American groups. This makes it essential for employers, including Children’s, to focus on recruiting a diverse workforce and also creating an inclusive environment to retain diverse talents.

“It’s important in the times we live in to make sure that we not only have dialogue and communicate with each other but that we do it with a sense of intentionality, purpose, love, care and support,” James said.

To learn more about Children’s work on diversity, equity and inclusion, watch this interview with James!

Alexandra Rothstein