June 19, 2020

Transcript: Dr. Jeff Balser on recognizing the need for change and stepping up at a pivotal moment in history

Dr. Jeff Balser talks about how VUMC has responded to the COVID  pandemic, how our institution can help our region work toward a healthier and more just future, and how each of us at VUMC can make our voices heard as we build that future together.


Hello everyone. Today is Juneteenth — an important day in American history. It was this day on June 19, 1865, when the last group of enslaved Africans held in Texas were freed, years after Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation. It took far too long for this date to be recognized. There is a widespread awakening in our country that is causing us all to look closer — at what we overlook and what we recognize and emphasize. We are awakening to a recognition — that eliminating racism falls on the shoulders of each and every one of us.

Jeff Balser, MD, PhD

Our culture at VUMC is very much determined by what we all choose to recognize — and then emphasize. On June 9th we provided a link in MyVUMC to our annual Culture Survey. We will continue to post the link until the survey closes. We initially planned to close the survey this coming Monday, but to be certain we have feedback from everyone, I’m extending the survey until next Friday, June 26th.

It goes without saying that 2020 is an unprecedented year. With the senseless killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, like so many other black women and men before him, there is a growing awareness — and focus — on these tragic injustices.

At the same time, COVID-19 has changed the world. When the virus swept through Middle Tennessee, you were there, doing whatever it took — caring for the sick, creating our own lab-developed test weeks before the CDC tests were widely available, and implementing a telehealth portal in two weeks that allowed us to stay close to thousands of patients.

Through it all, you have been strong and resilient. Yet, all of us at VUMC are still the front line — we are all essential to the health of this region — and we know the virus is still spreading in our community. And we believe in caring for every person at VUMC, regardless of their skin color, their resources, their gender or their story. In fact, one of the four strategic directions guiding the decisions of VUMC is to “Make Diversity and Inclusion Intentional.” Yet, we know there are structural barriers in our community — and within VUMC — some hidden and some not so hidden, to making that vision a reality.

So, if there was ever a time that we needed your engagement and your feedback, it’s now. Staying engaged requires that we all remain connected — a growing challenge as VUMC grows, now to beyond 26,000 people. To help, in addition to MyVUMC, we launched a new app that I hope everyone will try — VUMC2go — that provides real-time updates. And we began this video series — I hope these have been helpful — and I’m planning to continue making them, at least once a month, for the foreseeable future.

But for communication to be effective, it needs to go in both directions. We need to do more than just provide information. We need your feedback and your insights. This Culture Survey is an important way to learn from you and will help us ensure VUMC does the right things to build your strength, your resilience and your engagement. So please do go to MyVUMC, take the Culture Survey, and tell us what you think.

Thank you for everything you make possible. We’ll talk again.