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In this first part of a three-part video series, Briana Contreras, associate editor of MHE, spoke with Dr. Maria Hernandez, founder and CEO of Impact4Health. Maria shared not only how healthcare inequities remain to be an issue and what needs to be addressed, but also the progress that has been made over time through awareness, conversations and laws, especially due to the heightened awareness of inequities caused from the COVID-19 pandemic and the tragic deaths of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and many more - which have now occurred over a year ago.
Below is a brief Q&A of the interview with Hernandez that has been edited for clarity.
Q: How did the tragic killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and unfortunately, many others bring more awareness of the inequities in healthcare that affect many groups? Have there been any changes since?
A: We had two really major events happen in our country at the same time that brought attention to the inequities: one in healthcare and one in the criminal justice system. I think that because people saw this painful moment (in the media), everyone seemed to feel real passionate about what to do. So inside healthcare environments, I think you're seeing far more structured organizational response to bias, discrimination, certainly systemic racism, and so on. I think the Black Lives Matter movement made it all the more important to address.
We know in addition to there being health inequities, healthcare still suffers from a significant amount of bias in its own population of employees. If you look at most healthcare systems, there's diversity, but it's not necessarily blended in with the leadership or the executive team. It tends to be quite focused and concentrated at the front lines. I've never met individuals, people of color, who don't want to advance their career, and don't understand the importance of being seen as potentially becoming an executive.
So what's happening? Well, there's bias inside healthcare as well about our own community, our own staff. I think both of those events really made for the perfect storm to actually say we need to do something, not just about how we serve people of color, those disenfranchised, underserved communities, but we also need to look at ourselves and understand "what are we doing internally that makes it so hard for people of color, even in some environments, women, to navigate to those sweet opportunities, and the systemic bias, unconscious bias?"
Those are trainings that we're doing a lot of work in right now because I think this situation has really created that energy and that focus to actually get something done.