Understanding & Growth Come from Within

By Susan McDonald

Every day, more than 27,000 people across the state and beyond report to work for Hartford HealthCare in clinical areas, offices, laboratories, boiler rooms and from remote locations.

Each brings a variety of life experiences, cultural backgrounds, personal preferences, native languages and opinions. Pamela Lofton- McGeorge is part of the team empowering their unique voices forth to improve work environments, better reflect the rich diversity of colleagues and, ultimately, improve the care patients receive.

As senior director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, Lofton-McGeorge helped create system-wide colleague resource groups (CRGs) meeting regularly to address concerns, expand understanding and build upon cultural humility.

“Often, people feel like they’re looking into an organization. In this case, we’re looking out,” Lofton-McGeorge said, calling CRGs microcosms of communities within the organization that might feel invisible. “These are marginalized groups that play a part in the make-up of our organization. As we continue to build out a culture of equity and inclusion, we need to hear their voices and make changes.”

After the police killing of George Floyd triggered national unrest last year, the need to address colleague equity became more acute, she explained. Establishing CRGs is part of a 10-point plan system leadership put in place to listen.

“People have the option to be uncomfortable during change or remain status quo. Race and other demographic differences can make us uncomfortable because we don’t know much about them. But, when we’re uncomfortable, we know change is working and people are trying to understand,” she said.

This spring, HHC colleagues were invited to apply to join the CRGs, explaining their desire to participate.

Colleague Resource Group launches included:

  • Black and African-American CRG in February
  • Asian American and Pacific Islander CRG in March
  • Hispanic and Latinx CRG in April
  • LGBTQ+ CRG in May

“We can never walk in each other’s shoes, but we can listen to the experience of others and what matters most to them,” Lofton-McGeorge said. “Meetings are a time to reflect, listen and learn. It’s okay to be uneasy. We don’t have all the answers but we can learn and ask questions.”

In doing so, allies are created. When a member of the LGBTQ+ CRG shared a personal healthcare experience, others felt the colleague’s anguish.

“Our responsibility is to bring others along with our experience, which builds alliances and understanding,” she explained. “We want to increase awareness about the experience of others and the bias we all have.”

“We become allies for those individuals, which says, ‘If it matters to you, it matters to me,’” Lofton-McGeorge noted.

CRGs — each has approximately 40 members representing medical staff and every level of colleagues — have executive sponsors from the CEO cabinet who listen to members’ concerns and help navigate the system to achieve group objectives. Each CRG establishes a charter, and sets measurable goals and objectives.

Colleagues beyond CRGs are connected to actions through subcommittee membership and promoting and participating in the efforts.

“Our responsibility is to bring others along with our experience, which builds alliances and understanding,” she explained. “We want to increase awareness about the experience of others and the bias we all have.”

Each CRG leadership team will present their group’s mission, vision and values to guide activities in 2022 in an attempt to ensure the system fosters a culture of equity and inclusion. Look for for updates in newsletters in the coming months.

Personal Stories Drive Colleagues to Volunteer

The applications from colleagues to participate in a Colleague Resource Group (CRG) were windows into the essence of who they are and what challenges, hopes and visions they harbor for the future. Consider feedback from some chosen to join CRGs.

Marleny Mangual, MBA

Marleny Mangual, MBA, practice manager with Ayer Neuroscience Institute, Hispanic/LatinX CRG: “My goal is to use this experience to interact and learn from others, and create connections …. When we unite and work together, we are able to teach, coach and mentor others, (and can) develop and implement processes to provide a great experience for everyone. Being 100 percent Puerto Rican and growing up as a first-generation Latina in the U.S. was a challenge. I constantly heard the negative stereotypes associated with my culture, (but) it made me stronger and capable of addressing inequality and inclusion in my roles. Additionally, I used this as a motivating force in my success. The CRG is a way to identify and focus my efforts to make positive contributions to my workplace’s culture, operations and overall success.”

Chamia Asberry

Chamia Asberry, team lead, Access Center, Black and African-American CRG: “I wanted to join to be the voice behind the voice. I want to be able to mentor and provide others with the skills they need to grow within Hartford HealthCare. I am fortunate to have worked for Hartford HealthCare for 13 years and I want to be able to help the next generation.”

Jennifer Doran, MBA, MHA

Jennifer Doran, MBA, MHA, senior director of practice strategy and operations, with Hartford HealthCare Medical Group, co-chair of the Hispanic/Latinx CRG: “I joined because I want my children to have a better tomorrow … not to fear their history, social differences, economic standing, sex, skin color, cultural differences, accent or even choice of food won’t allow them a chance to show their talents and be their genuine selves. “One (thing) of most value to me is the opportunity to be a trailblazer in the work we’re doing to improve inclusion and diversity … to break down barriers and drive change. Our CRG (is) about changing the tone. It’s about education and the willingness to be curious and unbiased. (We’re) focusing on building connections across HHC so we’re looking from new lenses and gaining different perspectives to make true, sustainable, positive change toward an even better tomorrow.”

Shasi Malipeddi

Shasi Malipeddi, director, IT security applications, Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) CRG: “I came to the United States about 20 years back with no knowledge of what I was getting into. Culturally, it was as different as it could get from what I grew up with in India. Over the years, several people helped me navigate the cultural differences and expectations. Being a part of this CRG helps me help others who are traveling similar paths as mine, as well grow myself in learning from the diverse colleague population in our company. “Sometimes, we just need someone to hear us without judgment. This CRG is one such resource where colleagues from all AAPI countries can feel safe and talk about any issues or concerns. I expect to learn about all the cultures that make up the AAPI region and work as a group to shine a light on the contributions of this diverse group not only to HHC but our local community.”

Valerie Martin, LCSW

Valerie Martin, LCSW, a social worker at the Institute of Living and co-chair of the LGBTQ+ CRG: “As a professionally out member of the LGBTQ+ community, social worker and vocal advocate for all marginalized populations, I was proud to see Hartford HealthCare prioritize the needs of my community. I felt compelled to be involved in the process of ensuring HHC would be sensitive and visibly inclusive through our actions, process and environments. Every person deserves to feel safe, respected and supported in being their authentic selves.”