Dr. Marc Gorelick, president and CEO, progressive pediatrics blog

I pledged to advance equity at Children’s Minnesota. Here’s what we’ve done so far.

If you want to be held accountable for something, make a promise in public. 

That’s the idea behind the CEO Action Pledge on Diversity and Inclusion. Today more than 2,400 leaders — of some of our country’s biggest companies — have publicly pledged to create a more diverse, inclusive and equitable workforce.  

That’s good news. But what is actually getting done? The CEO Action Pledge has four parts. Here are some examples of action Children’s Minnesota has taken since I signed the pledge in 2018.  

Pledge 1: We will continue to make our workplaces trusting places to have complex, and sometimes difficult, conversations about diversity and inclusion.

When I signed the pledge in 2018, Children’s Minnesota didn’t have any Employee Resource Groups (ERGs). We started with three in 2020, and I’m happy to say we now have eight.  

ERGs are employee-led groups organized around a shared identity or interest. They serve many purposes and have many benefits, including increasing awareness and appreciation for multicultural differences. Our ERGs also host cultural celebrations and educational sessions which increase the cultural competence of our staff. Our ERG members speak to the benefits themselves in this video. 

Our ERGs also lead some tough conversations. One example: when Asian hate crimes increased during the COVID-19 pandemic, our Asian Employee Resource Group hosted a virtual panel discussion which led to more discussion in our community. At the height of the pandemic, our ERGs jointly hosted a virtual discussion about COVID vaccines. They covered the history of medical mistrust in communities of color and the importance of diversity in clinical trials, showing our organization how to tackle tough topics and that it’s safe to do so. 

Pledge 2: We will implement and expand unconscious bias education.

We learned we needed to address unconscious bias in our staff in the summer of 2020, when some safety learning reports and family satisfaction surveys showed a gap in health equity. Two Children’s Minnesota employees, Brittany Dahlen and Dr. Samreen Vora, developed a training for our frontline employees that includes practicing bias mitigation strategies through role play.  

We all want to believe that we treat people the same no matter their identity. But we are also human, and have biases we may not be aware of. Since 2020, more than 300 of our staff have completed the bias mitigation training, with 95% saying they found it beneficial. We are already seeing results in better caregiver/patient family interactions. Becoming aware of and reflecting on our own biases is helping us better serve all of our patients and families. 

Pledge 3: We will share best—and unsuccessful—practices.

Health care providers can learn a lot from each other. One example of sharing with our peers is an article co-authored by Dr. Gabrielle Hester, Children’s Minnesota Medical Director of Quality Improvement. The article, published in Pediatrics, a widely-read publication in the field, explains how and why we created a health equity dashboard similar to the safety dashboards all health care systems use. The dashboard measures our progress toward eliminating disparities in several categories.  

One lesson here is what gets measured, gets done. Showing other health care providers how to be transparent will hopefully help them address health disparities within their own systems.

Pledge 4: We will create and share strategic inclusion and diversity plans with our board of directors.

Diversity, equity and inclusion is woven throughout our current strategic plan. The Children’s Minnesota Board of Directors has been involved in our plan’s creation and implementation every step of the way.  

Our strategic plan includes tactics for achieving our inclusion and diversity goals. For example, to advance a diverse, equitable and inclusive organization, we are using these tactics: 

  1. Focusing engagement, retention, hiring and pipeline efforts   
  2. Advancing inclusive leadership  
  3. Establishing trusted relationships with diverse communities, businesses and community partnerships 

We have made significant progress. When I signed the pledge in 2018, there was no diversity on the Childrens Minnesota executive leadership team. Today, one third of our leaders are people of color. Our staff diversity has increased from 19% to 25%. We aim to reach 34% by 2024. 

We also recently launched the Collective for Community Health, which serves as an anchor for our partnerships with community organizations and policymakers. Recognizing that 80% of health is determined by the conditions where people are born, live, learn, work and play, and only 20% by their access to health care, these partnerships are focused on advancing health equity within and beyond our walls at Children’s Minnesota. 

In October 2022, Children’s Minnesota partnered with Wellspring Second Chance Center, Urban Ventures and other local nonprofits to host a gun buyback and community resource event. All nonprofits involved in the event agree that gun violence is a public health crisis. We are building trust by working together on solutions. More than 100 guns were collected at the event. 

And again, because what gets measured gets done, we share with leadership a comprehensive scorecard so they can help keep us accountable.

More action 

Much of this work wasn’t happening when I signed the CEO Action Pledge in 2018. We have made solid progress. And we still have a long way to go. We are continuing our efforts to be an inclusive and equitable place to work and to receive medical care, to reduce and ultimately eliminate health disparities for kids, and to be an authentic community partner. There’s always room for improvement in each of the four parts of the CEO Action Pledge and we will continue to update our progress. The more progress we make, the better we can serve our patients and their families.  

Marc Gorelick, president and CEO

Marc Gorelick, MD
President, chief executive officer

Marc Gorelick, MD, is the president and chief executive officer (CEO) at Children's Minnesota. He is deeply committed to advocacy issues that impact children's health, sustainability and advancing diversity, equity and inclusion.

Follow me on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Julianna Olsen