Marc Harrison: Today I'm with Natasha Ovuoba, a compliance consultant for SelectHealth and a member of our multicultural caregiver resource group. Welcome, Natasha.

Natasha Ovuoba: Thank you.

Marc Harrison: Please tell us a little bit about yourself. And then I'd like to hear your question or your comment.

Natasha Ovuoba: Yeah. I've been with Intermountain almost four years now, first working in HR and now in a compliance space. I am co-chair of our multicultural caregiver resource group. I'm really excited about working with Intermountain. It's a good company.

Marc Harrison: Great. What would you like to talk about today, Natasha?

Natasha Ovuoba: I would like to talk about diversity and inclusion here at Intermountain, not only for our caregivers, but also in finding ways that we can help our members and patients feel included and represented in our spaces here at Intermountain.

Marc Harrison: Great. This is something that you may know that I'm passionate about. I care about it immensely. And I primarily care about it because I think that people deserve to be able to be who they are and feel comfortable and respected in our setting, regardless of whether they're a caregiver, or a patient, or in many instances, we’re both at different times. Right?

Natasha Ovuoba: Yeah.

Marc Harrison: I think people get the best care when they work with somebody who has cultural competence.

Natasha Ovuoba: I agree.

Marc Harrison: And I think they are more likely to actually share their concerns, either social, or health, or both, more fully when they feel safe and appreciated and in a culturally competent environment. I think this is kind of a must do for us if we're going to be the very best system, be a model system.

Natasha Ovuoba: I agree.

Marc Harrison: Those are my motivations. Talk to me a little bit about where you think we're doing well and what you think some of our opportunities are.

Natasha Ovuoba: Yeah. I think kind of to your point with cultural competence, I think our patients, our members, feel safer, feel that they can share more with their providers when they see themselves represented in the spaces that they go to in clinics, at hospitals, and to not only see people who look like them, but interact with people who again have that same cultural background. I think one space that I would like to hear your thoughts about is how we recruit a diverse workforce and how we get people to come to Intermountain and work for us so that we can show that representation around the system.

Marc Harrison: I think this is a great question. And I'm learning. But what I'm learning is that you need to have a lot of arrows in your quiver, and a lot of different approaches. So we do things like offer shadowing opportunities for people from diverse backgrounds. In specific areas, we are offering scholarships to try and help people enter the workforce who come from different backgrounds. We work with community groups who have different constituencies, but all of whom need healthcare. We know everybody needs to be taken care of, and so the connection there is: How do they take their members or constituents and then funnel them into the workforce so they can in turn care for their communities?

And then internally, and you're representing one of those caregiver focused groups, is we've rolled out about four or five of them now. I think we've got three that are focused around women, so it's women in analytics, women in leadership, and women in medicine. We've got the LGBTQ group. We've got the multicultural group. And we also have a group of military caregivers. And clearly open to more as the time comes. What I think is beautiful about these is, you can either join as a person with a primary affiliation to that group, or as an ally of people.

Natasha Ovuoba: Yes, which I think a lot of people don't know that.

Marc Harrison: As one of the leaders, talk to us a little bit about who you hope will join your multicultural group, and what you think will come out of it.

Natasha Ovuoba: I think one thing that I can't say enough, diversity applies to everyone. And on top of that, inclusion applies to every single person, like you said, not just at Intermountain, but in our community, in the world. Someone who looks like me is different from someone who looks like you, who's different from someone who looks like Pat Richards.

Marc Harrison: I'm not nearly as attractive as you are.

Natasha Ovuoba: But I mean, we all come from different backgrounds, whether that is culturally, from the communities that we grew up in, from the people we love, from the way that we identify, so I really think with these resource groups, like you said, it's welcome to everyone because everyone's going to bring a different perspective to the table to create a richer picture of where we need to go.

Marc Harrison: I'd agree with you. You know, too many people, I think, treat diversity as a zero sum game. Somebody wins, somebody loses. I don't look at it like that at all because the more people who feel included, the better we're going to do as a healthcare system, and the better we're going to do with the communities we're meant to serve.

Natasha Ovuoba: Definitely.

Marc Harrison: I very much don't see this as a win-lose. I think I'm thinking about it a much, much more like yours. Intermountain, well, first of all I think we're populated by really terrific people. I suspect that the folks who work with us have very open hearts. And I think they're thoughtful and kind. And I think they're great. That said, we have some work to do on our diversity front. This has not been a long standing initiative for us. All evidence suggests that companies that have diverse workforces and leadership teams and governance actually perform better. And it's important to have different voices and perspectives around the table. And again, I have personally strong held beliefs, but I also have a responsibility to have us be the strongest organization we can. And I see this as an important part of that.

As a couple of examples, if you look at managers in healthcare organizations, my understanding is that the median percentage for women is 71%. We're sitting in the mid 50s, and we haven't changed at all for a long time, so we are behind the national median in that regard. And if you look at executives for healthcare systems, if you just take women as the group, it's usually right around 49%, 50% women. We're sitting in the high 30s. And so we have opportunity for improvement.

Natasha Ovuoba: Yeah.

Marc Harrison: My guess is that our women caregivers are just as smart as women caregivers are across the country.

Natasha Ovuoba: I think so, yes.

Marc Harrison: And that given time and appropriate focus, that we will see movement towards those whatever the national best practices are. And again, we need to do this because we need to take care of our communities really well.

Natasha Ovuoba: Yeah. Definitely.

Marc Harrison: What other messages do you have for ...

Natasha Ovuoba: I think, again, when we kind of talk about diversity and inclusion, and sometimes when we celebrate days like National Coming Out Day, or when we celebrate Black History Month, we still get those caregivers who just don't see themselves included in the celebration in the events that we hold. So someone who is Caucasian and doesn't feel that they could relate to black or African American caregivers during Black History Month and they think, "I wish there was a month to celebrate my heritage, where I come from." What's a way for them to still feel like, you know what, even though they're celebrating Black History Month, and maybe they're not celebrating Scandinavian heritage month, how can I still feel included?

Marc Harrison: I guess the way I think about this, for instance, we started to celebrate the Martin Luther King holiday last year.

Natasha Ovuoba: Yeah.

Marc Harrison: And I'll tell you, I probably got 90%, 95% positive notes. I got some pretty angry notes as well. There are plenty of opportunities to exercise one's identity. We have opportunities to be part of Pioneer Day parades and Fourth of July and other traditional holidays. I think we ... Plenty of opportunities to celebrate.

I always figure it's really easy to be suspicious of or not like people that you don't actually know because it's very rare to meet another human being and really give them an opportunity to be who they are, and not find them to be a good person to be around. And so my recommendation to those folks would be, first, open your ears and open your hearts. And try and expose yourself to people who are at first blush different from you. But again, my experience is that when you actually dive a little bit deeper, we all are human beings. And we're far more the same than we are different. And I think we often gain more by working with somebody or listening to somebody who feels like they are a bit different initially, and then you find out they're really very much the same.

Probably my greatest pleasure when I got the chance to work overseas was watching our 70 plus nationalities, different skin colors, different religions, different national dress, different native languages, although we all spoke English at work, united around taking good care of people, which is exactly what we do here.

Natasha Ovuoba: Yes.

Marc Harrison: And so even if those folks feel like there are differences, I think the similarity around our mission, vision, and values should really pull people together.

Natasha Ovuoba: I hope so, yeah. I really love that. And I will say, because I know that it's diversity week this week, I encourage people to just go participate in the activities. Learn about some of the caregiver resource groups that we have available through, and really just get involved, like you said. Find another person. Introduce yourself, and connect on more than just your skin color and your language.

Marc Harrison: Can I ask you a question?

Natasha Ovuoba: Please do.

Marc Harrison: My sense is that, I'm 55, is that younger people, people in their 20s and 30s are much more evolved on this front than some of the older folks. Is that your experience as well? Do you have a lot of hope for the generation that comes forward in terms of their openness to diversity?

Natasha Ovuoba: Yeah. I think we have definitely come a long way, especially because of the way that the world is open to us now through the media, especially through social media. But I still think that we have many more steps to take before we're all there.

Marc Harrison: We do.

Natasha Ovuoba: Because I'm in my 20s, and I think there are even people in my age and my age group who can learn. And I'll say the same thing for myself. I am not the most enlightened person out there. There are definitely things that I could learn to go outside of myself. And a big part of that is going to be people looking in on themselves and taking their own steps to change.

Marc Harrison: Yeah. The journey of self-development is never over.

Natasha Ovuoba: Never.

Marc Harrison: And sometimes it hurts actually, because you learn things about yourself. It's like, boy, I do have a long way to go.

Natasha Ovuoba: Yes.

Marc Harrison: But in the end, I think the process is a valuable one. Thank you so much for being an Intermountain caregiver.

Natasha Ovuoba: Thank you.

Marc Harrison: I'm really proud to work with you.

Natasha Ovuoba: And it was a pleasure speaking with you.

Marc Harrison: Pleasure to speak with you too.