Three Black health care diversity officers. One united goal
Happy Thursday, readers.
I had the opportunity to speak with three extraordinary individuals over this past week. And all of them are Black executives tasked with the not-so-simple task of getting major health care organizations to better tackle medical inequity.
As Juneteenth, now a federal holiday, approaches, and the COVID pandemic continues to afflict communities of color at disproportionate rates relative to other demographics, these leaders’ roles are particularly important. While playing up diversity, equity, and inclusion is a common trend among corporations in the wake of social injustices such as the murder of George Floyd, these three individuals (respectively, the incoming diversity chief for Pfizer, the newly minted head of all things DEI at insurance and over health care giant UnitedHealth, and a longtime veteran of the sprawling Kaiser Permanente health system) have a special role to play in improving the health and safety of Black communities.
“It’s really about, how do you bring it to the next level? How do you get to the next evolution of diversity, equity, and inclusion, how do you ensure that you have representation throughout the organization on all levels and also ensure that your strategic objectives are all met?” says Ramcess Jean-Louis, who led diversity and equity strategies at Verizon Media and is now moving over to Pfizer. One of his biggest motivating factors in taking on the role is building trust within the health care system to address health disparities.
That was a common theme in the conversations I had with all three of these executives. Joy Fitzgerald, who just began her role at UnitedHealth but has also served in similar positions at Eli Lilly, wants to leverage the breadth of her experience and the data-gathering power of a health care titan with UnitedHealth’s reach in order to home in on weak links in the medical supply chain.
“I’ve seen the drug side, I’ve been a patient advocate, a trainer and led workstreams around trying to provide medical services,” she says. “But now I get an opportunity to work for an organization that is uniquely positioned to help advance our mission of making health care work for everyone.”
And Ronald Copeland of Kaiser Permanente? Well, he’s been around the block as a physician and 33-year veteran of the organization. And he’s still not done evolving its strategy to make tangible changes in underserved communities.
“I rewrote our strategy with an emphasis on, yes, we need to continue and honor the legacy and the improvement and diversity and representation,” he tells Fortune. “But we also need to go through a learning journey to really understand how we aspire to be inclusive. What does that really look like? How do you measure that?”
Make sure to look to Fortune.com for the full interviews with these leaders tomorrow, and how they plan to make diversity and equity much more than a buzzword or PR stunt.
Read on for the day’s news, and see you again next Thursday.
23andMe goes public. Consumer genetic testing firm 23andMe began publicly trading on the NASDAQ and Thursday. And investors were quick to run into the frenzy, with a 20% spike in the company's stock. The DNA analytics firm (which, readers likely know, isn't entirely without controversy) made its way into the public trading sphere in the most 2021 way possible: a merger with an SPAC that was founded by Richard Branson. That deal values the company at about $3.5 billion. (Fortune)
CureVac stock plunges on disappointing COVID vaccine data. Shares of Germany's CureVac plummeted nearly 40% after its experimental COVID vaccine failed to meet its primary goals in late-stage clinical trials. It's a bit of a shocker given that CureVac's tech is also an mRNA-based vaccine, like Pfizer's and Moderna's. But unlike those companies' products, which had efficacy rates upwards of 95%, CureVac's was just 47%. That puts this particular vaccine candidate towards the lowest rungs of any type of coronavirus immunization developed thus far. (New York Times)
THE BIG PICTURE
Obamacare survives. Again. A coalition of conservative- and liberal-leaning Supreme Court justices may have finally ended the decade long campaign to scuttle the Affordable Care Act (ACA), or Obamacare. (Well, maybe.) In a 7-2 opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer and his colleagues dismissed a challenge that would scuttle the entirety of the ACA that was launched by GOP-led states and endorsed by the Trump administration. That would have led to a loss of health coverage for some 20 million people and undone provisions such as anti-discrimination provisions for Americans with pre-existing medical conditions. In the midst of a pandemic, that the effects could have rippled out even further. (Fortune)
Pay gap contributes to 70% less wealth for Black families, according to new research, by Jessica Matthews
What Google's first full-fledged retail store looks like inside, by Robert Hackett
5 blunders you're making on workplace diversity, by S. Mitra Kalita
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