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Conference explores benefits of health workforce diversity

Mar. 13, 2014, 9:31 AM

Nashville Mayor Karl Dean, left, and Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. talk at last week’s Healthcare Diversity Forum. (photo by John Russell)

As an industry, health care is uniquely positioned to promote the need for, and benefits of, a more diverse and encompassing workforce.

After all, health care is the one industry that touches every person and every segment of society, said Memphis Mayor A.C. Wharton Jr. at last week’s 2014 Healthcare Diversity Forum.

“When you look at health care, what profession is better suited to address diversity? Health care is a universal need. It touches people of all races, genders and income levels, so it’s imperative that those in the business of providing health care bring a universal view.”

Presented by the Council on Workforce Innovation and hosted by Vanderbilt University at the Student Life Center, the forum drew dozens of executives from the fields of health care, business and related industries across the state to examine and discuss trends impacting health care workforce diversity and potential resources to address those trends. The forum’s topic was “ROI (return on investment) on Healthcare Workforce Diversity.”

Subjects ranged from workforce analytics and collaborative initiatives to demographic trends and resources available in the region. In addition to Wharton, participants in the forum included Nashville Mayor Karl Dean; Traci Nordberg, Vanderbilt’s Chief Human Resource Officer; Terrell Smith, MSN, R.N., director of Patient and Family-Centered Care; and Andre Churchwell, M.D., senior associate dean for Diversity Affairs at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine.

According to Dean, the health care industry is a leader in advancing the focus on diversity, which is vital not only from a moral perspective, but from an economic one as well.

“Businesses that embrace diversity do better than those that don’t,” Dean said. “It’s truly a great, symbiotic relationship — diversity strengthens us all. The face of our city is changing rapidly, and tolerance of peoples’ differences is an important component of whether we’re successful.

“We must remain diligent that we’re a city respecting and promoting diversity and create workplaces that reflect Nashville’s evolving population,” Dean said.

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