Q&A: Houston innovator on DEI initiatives, importance in health care

Q&A: Houston innovator on DEI initiatives, importance in health care

Prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion within healthcare innovation goes hand in hand, according to Arianne Dowdell, vice president and chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer at Houston Methodist.

“I think we’re in a very interesting time when we think about what health care looks like. It’s changing drastically and so people have a lot more options about where they choose to get their health care and who their providers are,” she says. for InnovationMap. . “So I think putting the patient first is really going to be the key to understanding how to address health equity.”

Houston Methodist, under Dowdell’s leadership, is putting patients at the forefront of the hospital system’s priorities through its DEI initiatives — whether it’s employee programs or training future healthcare industry leaders through the DEI Summer Fellowship Program.

In an interview with InnovationMap, Dowdell shares more about these ongoing initiatives and her role as well as DEI’s importance in innovative healthcare.

InnovationMap: Tell me a little about your role leading DEI at Houston Methodist. What are you in charge of and why is it important to the organization?

Arianne Dowdell: In my role, I am responsible for truly driving the vision for safety, unparalleled quality and service, and innovation through DEI’s mission. And what it really means is thinking about how we implement our diversity, equity and inclusion strategies. When we think about our employees, our patients and our community. So my role is quite broad in scope. I oversee the DEI for all Houston Methodist hospitals in the area and we target year by year and have set goals for what we want to achieve under each of these layers. When we think of our patients and employees in the community.

IM: In what ways do DEI and innovation intersect?

After Christ: You know, the great thing about innovation is that there’s such a huge overlap with DEI. When we think about patient care, we just start there and think about what we’re doing with our new hospital opening.

For example, we talk about making it a hospital in the future. Part of that innovation part means we’re meeting our patients where they are with the needs they have. So a lot of times we talk about equity versus equity and what people need and what we need to remember when we think about equity, especially with our patients and the fact that we serve such a diverse community, we’re making sure that those innovations that we’re achieving as we’re thinking about patients it changes in different ways to make sure that every patient that comes in the door is getting the best care they can. It’s a great opportunity to be in such an innovative hospital to make sure we’re exploring our innovative technologies to meet the different patients we have coming through our doors every day.

It doesn’t matter if you’re down here at the medical center or out in Baytown. Innovation and what we’re thinking and technologies and how we communicate with our patients is all part of the innovation that helps our DEI initiatives become more successful in everything we do.

IM: What are some of the initiatives you have spearheaded so far in your tenure?

After Christ: Our department has been around for two and a half years. And so there are some things that we’re really excited about that are going forward, but we’ve seen a lot of traction and measurable results. One is the employee resource groups that we currently have—I think we’re at nine, maybe 10 at this point for our groups—and we have close to 2,000 employees that are part of groups that work to make sure that they’re empowered in workplace and have support, but we also offer professional development opportunities for them.

Another thing we’ve started is DEI training strengthening programs and actually going and working with departments, both clinical and non-clinical within the hospital on issues related to DEI. This has been a great success for us as well. And we’re really developing those trainings to become more educational opportunities as we really start to have a big focus on health equity going into 2023.

We also have a comprehensive training communication program, so we communicate all of our efforts to all of our hospitals. And so engaging our CEOs at each of those hospitals and making sure that we allow all of our employees to have a way to learn about the work that we’re doing in different mediums has been something that we’ve worked really hard on to achieve it. And we also have different DEI groups and committees in each of our hospitals. This has been a way for us to connect and have leaders in all of our hospitals who are supporting our overall initiatives across the system.

It’s been really fun the last couple of years to have different layers of the work we’re doing, including our DEI 25 million grant to different nonprofits in the community to make sure we’re looking at all these different layers. As I’ve mentioned before, this affects everything we do. And we’re also going to be incredibly focused going into the next year to make sure we diversify our cancer center as well. And so now that we’ve kind of laid the foundation of the first layer, it’s really cool to see how the team is evolving and the work that we’re doing and also using data to show the results of the work that we’re doing. So with two years under our belt, it’s nice to have some of that information now.

IM: How is Houston Methodist supporting future leaders in healthcare?

After Christ: One of the things I really wanted to make sure we started once the COVID slowed down a little bit was to give underrepresented students an opportunity to pursue careers in health care that aren’t clinical. A lot of people in college, they don’t know about all the different aspects of running a hospital, right? And so I thought it was a great opportunity for us to launch this program that we started last summer.

We started with six students who received scholarship funding and they all fall below the federal poverty line. This is how we decided what the criteria were along with grades, etc. but a really great opportunity for students to come here for ten weeks on a paid fellowship in different departments across the hospital to learn what those inner workings are, to then pursue careers, maybe in things like such as DTI, human resources, spiritual care, managed care. So it was really fun to watch the first group of students come through last year.

These are our future leaders and they teach everyone about the aspects of what, as I said, run a hospital. But when we think about the care of our patients, how everyone is an integral part of it. And so going into this coming summer, we’ve actually doubled the number of opportunities that will be available. So we now have 17 spaces that are available for students and we’re branching out throughout our community hospitals and reaching out to more schools around the country. And so, I’m excited to bring in this next group of leaders to really start thinking differently about how we look at care in general and how we manage hospitals from a different perspective. It’s been a great program and our leadership here at the hospital is also very engaged, which I love.

IM: What’s on your radar for 2023?

After Christ: So 2023 will really be a focus on health equity. Creating, we have different dashboards that we’re creating to track and monitor what we’re doing, but also working with our 29,000 plus employees to help them understand what role they play in achieving health equity in a way so we can focus on the role our doctors play. But it’s just as important that people working at the register understand the importance of the questions we ask to make sure we’re meeting our patients’ needs when they call and make appointments.

We’re going to be really focused on that. We will also make even more use of the work done by our employee resource groups. And so I’m really excited about that, as well as them getting more involved in the community. When you talked about prevention and education, many of the members of our ERGs are now out in the community doing a lot of really great work. And so those are just two of the programs that I’m very excited about for 2023 that will be incredibly focused.

IM: Why is equity in healthcare so important and what does the industry need to do to achieve it?

After Christ: I think we’re in a very interesting time when we think about what health care looks like. It’s changing drastically and so people have a lot more options about where they choose to get their health care and who their providers are. And so I think putting the patient first is really going to be the key to understanding how to address health equity. Because when we look at all the different requirements from systems across the country, and then we look at the results from what the patients are saying, we have to spend the time to marry those two together.

After all, he is still our first patient – so how are we educating our future clinicians? Are we working with our medical schools to make sure we’re addressing this because we really have to look to future generations? How we report our efforts and our results will be important to him. Maintaining this patient-centered focus will be key to achieving health equity. And also many times we don’t want to admit what our shortcomings are. You know people always want to say that’s where we excel, but really taking the time to acknowledge what we can do better and doing those deep dives, it doesn’t matter if you’re a large health system or you are one of the youngest branches that are coming out. You need to take the time to really look at what those results are, to make sure you’re measuring them to achieve those new goals. So I think that’s really going to be the key going forward and making sure you keep the politics out of it as much as possible and really just stay patient. Focus is what will be needed because people have choices about where they want to go for their health care. And I think we should all be aware of that.


This conversation has been edited for brevity and clarity.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *