As a senior health care executive, I plan continuing education carefully each year to ensure I am maintaining competence and pursuing excellence in leadership development. Unsettled by barriers perceived for women in leadership locally and nationally, I did not expect the career development programs offered through my agency would meet my needs. My search led me to the “Career Advancement and Leadership Skills for Women in Healthcare” offered through Harvard Medical School directed by Julie Silver, MD. If you are a woman in health care leadership or a man who supports women in health care leadership, I urge you to consider attending this course. It completely changed how I envision my career and the strategy I use to advance it.
The first session set the tone for the entire workshop. Julie Silver was so engaging and insightful that I began to follow her instructions immediately. Though I was an accomplished health care leader, I had lost my vision for my career, and this workshop helped me get back on track. For several years, I have worked to improve diversity in health care. The workshop empowered me through not only confirming my concerns with evidence-based research but also giving me the tools to address my concerns in a professional, productive and socially acceptable way. For me, the attendees of this workshop became a powerful group of allies who were eager to provide support and propel each other to the next level of success and leadership.
On the first day, I reaffirmed my passion was to support diversity and women in health care leadership. My focus would be to build my brand as a subject matter expert on social media to reflect that. I would strategize on how to secure higher level positions, speaking engagements, and writing opportunities to raise awareness of the impact of lack of diversity in health care leadership.
Since I am a federal health care executive appointed to a position of public trust, it was important that my brand be patriotic and positively reflect the mission of the agency. My strategies would be to find new ways to advocate for diversity in health care leadership on social media. Serve as a mentor. Be more selective of speaking engagements related to diversity. Expanding my leadership roles within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (agency-wide).
Once I created my Twitter profile, I immediately began to support the #SheLeadsHealthcare and #QuoteHer campaigns. It was wonderful to engage with the conference participants virtually. I began to understand the power of social media to disseminate research, educate professionals, and support social justice.
In addition to the conference campaigns, I decided I would devote more time to writing about diversity to raise awareness. I attended Women Conferences by the Healthcare Diversity Council, inviting colleagues in each city to attend as my guest. I became more selective regarding which speaking engagements I accepted. It was important for me to speak at national conferences with an audience which included hiring officials who could directly impact the hiring of diverse health care workers.
I decided I had to step outside of my comfort zone and advocate for myself: Nominating myself to become chairwoman of the board of directors for the Healthcare Diversity Council. Reaching out to the past chair of the American College of Healthcare Executives (ACHE) to offer support for diversity initiatives within the organization.
Creating inaugural diversity and inclusion committees for the Louisiana Chapter of ACHE and the Veterans Affairs ACHE Regent’s Advisory Council. Once established, I requested to be appointed to an agency-wide council led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Diversity and Inclusion for the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Creating an opportunity for me to advocate for diversity at the highest levels of governance within the agency.
Since it was troubling to me that people consistently promote the myth of lack of diversity in the leadership pipeline, I decided to serve ACHE mentoring the pipeline. In 2016, I mentored six diverse candidates: Caucasian, Latina, and African American females, two African American males, three of whom were veterans. While it was a serious time commitment, watching them receive promotional opportunities was my reward. Most importantly, I found another way to give back to the men and women who have sacrificed all for our country (veterans).
In 2017, I spoke at the VA Healthcare Summit which is known for having the top VA appointed officials as speakers. I spoke on a panel at the Academy Health Annual Research Meeting. I attended a workshop at the National Institute of Health (NIH) providing recommendations on mentoring diverse researchers in translation research which will be submitted for publication in a peer-reviewed journal. I spoke on a panel at the American College of Healthcare Executives Chapter Leader Conference after winning the Regent’s award for my accomplishments in diversity. And finally, I was asked to speak at the Harvard Medical workshop that made it all possible.
My leadership roles expanded from serving on the Board of Directors for the Case Western Reserve University, Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing Alumni Association to the Executive Board of Directors, Director of Communications and Chair of the Social Media Committee. I was appointed as the Chairwoman of the Board of Directors of the Healthcare Diversity Council. I went from chairing the Diversity and Inclusion Committee to being appointed to the Board of Directors serving District 4 for the state of Louisiana ACHE.
As I prepared to attend the 2017 workshop, I wondered if it would be as powerful as the year before and it was. I have a new list of goals and strategies for 2018, and I have been asked to present at the 2018 workshop. While I don’t know what I will accomplish in 2018, I am already off to a great start. Excited to give an update on my accomplishments after attending the workshop a second year. I can only hope it is as successful as 2017. What a year!
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