November 15, 2021
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Regent's Update
November 2021 Regent's Message
Diversity and Inclusion committee
Ninth Annual Secretary’s Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Team Award
Diversity and Inclusion
Kansas City VA Medical Center's new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer
First Person Story
VA and ACHE Enhanced TBI Survivor's Career and Quality of Life
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National News for Q3 2021
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Diversity and Inclusion
Dr. Sybil Wyatt
Kansas City VA Medical Center's new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer

The American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) has recognized the importance of a diverse workforce in the provision of health care. ACHE’s Core Values include Integrity, Lifelong Learning, Leadership, Diversity, and Inclusion, which guide health care leaders across the healthcare continuum. Strategically, ACHE has set the organizational direction of the leadership community to advance diversity and inclusion as a Connector. VA Regent Advisory Committee (VA RAC) has also recognized the importance of advancing health care through their strategic goals, which include work with Diversity and Inclusion. VA RAC priorities for this upcoming year include promotion of the Thomas C. Dolan Executive Diversity Scholarship Program for VA ACHE members, ensuring Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) communication spreads throughout VA, innovative outreach for the diversity of new VA ACHE membership, and awareness of VA ACHE members involved in DEI committees, local chapters, and communities. One of the VA Secretary’s priorities is to ensure all Veterans feel welcome and safe from discrimination in our health care systems. The Kansas City VA Medical Center (KCVA) in Kansas City, Missouri, has taken this initial and purposeful step to impact DEI with the addition of a new Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer.

In recent years, KCVA has focused on expanding its efforts in the areas of diversity, equity, and inclusion, and in early 2020, the facility began the next step in its approach by initiating the process to hire a Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO). At the time, no other VA Medical Center employed a full-time CDIO, thus necessitating the creation of a novel position. Dr. Brooke Carson, Psy.D., initially took on related responsibilities while the KCVA awaited final approval to hire, holding listening sessions with employees and working to further identify service initiatives.

Dr. Sybil Wyatt, J.D., Ed.D., M.S., MBA, joined the KCVA as CDIO in late June 2021, bringing a wealth of knowledge, experience, and education to the newly minted position. Dr. Wyatt previously served to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights, the University of Kansas, and the University of Missouri-Kansas City. She has extensive experience in conflict resolution, change management, and organizational leadership.

Dr. Wyatt recently participated in an employee forum to answer questions related to DE&I services at KCVA with the hope that other facilities would benefit from learning more about services and goals. The following are Dr. Wyatt’s responses to some of the most important DE&I questions from that forum:

What do you consider to be the main functions of DE&I at the KCVA?

Dr. Wyatt’s response: I believe the role of DE&I is multifaceted, with the focus being on both Veterans and employees. As we work to more fully develop DE&I service, our efforts will expand to incorporate a number of functions, including building connections with underserved Veteran populations to increase enrollment, targeting recruitment efforts toward underrepresented and historically excluded applicants for hire, providing educational programming on topics we know to have a direct effect our Veterans’ and employees’ feelings of inclusion and belonging, and working with our partners across the facility to continually improve our organizational culture.

In the short time DE&I has been operating at the KCVA, what would you consider to be its main accomplishments?

Dr. Wyatt’s response: Most importantly, we have held a multitude of one-on-one and small group listening sessions with both Veterans and employees, and these sessions have led to action planning for improvement as well as the development of our FY22 DE&I Strategic Plan, which is currently being drafted with input from our Special Emphasis Program Managers (SEPMs) and other facility partners. We recently began sending out a weekly email to supervisors, IDEA in Brief: Supervisor’s Short, with topics focusing on all aspects of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access (IDEA). We have rolled out a robust website for employees to include educational materials, information on our Special Emphasis Programs and observances, available training opportunities, and more, with plans to develop a public-facing site on our KCVA webpage, allowing us to provide information to our Veterans and our community regarding our efforts to advance IDEA within our organization. Additionally, our SEPMs participate in our biweekly employee town halls to brief our workforce on related programming and events, and soon we will be launching our first Readers’ Circle book club focused on decreasing unconscious bias in the workplace. Also in development are live trainings on mitigating the effects of bias in hiring and methods of managing personal biases as inclusive leaders.

Moving forward, what goals do you have for DE&I at the KCVA?

Dr. Wyatt’s response: We hope to accomplish several goals as we progress in our work, and I will mention just a few of those I find most important in advancing our strategic plan. In 2022, we will be conducting a facility-wide self-assessment using national standards for culturally appropriate services to act as a baseline for implementing strategies for improvement. We also plan to create and facilitate three IDEA Engagement Councils, individualized to target our employees, our Veterans, and our community partners, and meant to provide a forum for information-sharing and meaningful discussion around issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion at the KCVA. Additionally, we will be establishing and revitalizing relationships with external partners, including educational institutions, professional organizations, and affinity groups, to inform and advance the KCVA’s IDEA programs and initiatives.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion remains a top priority for the Kansas City VA Medical Center. With the addition of Dr. Wyatt, we are taking purposeful steps to impact the culture and perceptions at the organization. Hearing feedback and building an inclusive environment with input from Veterans and staff is an important initial step as we build an inclusive culture within the organization. Through communication streams fostered by ACHE and VA RAC the health care enterprise can take important and needed steps in impacting diversity, equity, and inclusion to enhance health care outcomes and strengthen our workforce.

 

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