MVH History — Diversity

As the city of Dayton’s demographics continued to change in the early 1990s, so did Miami Valley Hospital’s.

MVH had historically been regarded as an “East Side” hospital because of its predominately white, working-class customer base from the city’s east end. But when hospital leaders noticed more and more African-Americans coming to the hospital for both health care and employment opportunities, they knew they had some work to do.

“We were seeing major increases in minority patients, and we just felt we could provide better care if we had a clinical and managerial staff that reflected our patient base,” Tom Breitenbach, the hospital’s former CEO and President, said in 2013.

A committee was formed to study the issue and launch initiatives to help the hospital become more diverse and inclusive in every way. It included Breitenbach and board members Fred E. Weber, John E. Moore and James R. Payne among others. But the committee and its goals were slow moving, according to Breitenbach, who blames himself for the pace. “I didn’t think we needed a diversity manager because I thought our goals were pretty self-evident and we could do this on our own,” he says. “But after a few years it was clear we needed some help.”

As board member Moore recalled in 2012, “We were really making it up as we went along.”

Enter Stacey M. Lawson, a Dayton native with undergraduate and graduate degrees from Wright State University who had a strong track record in human resources in her young career.

“She's an incredibly bright, energetic person,” Breitenbach remembered. “She’s really the one who made it work and was the catalyst for the program.”

Early challenges

In a 2013 interview, Lawson said, “It’s fundamentally important to have a workforce that mirrors who we serve so we can provide culturally competent care and respect others values, views and approaches to health care.”

“It enhances cross-cultural communication, minimizes misunderstandings and that leads to better care,” she said.

Lawson said an appreciation for diversity also increases loyalty to the organization because employees feel appreciated, respected and valued. That, in turn, helps the organization

attract and retain high-performing individuals, people who will “challenge our thinking, stretch us beyond our original dimensions, help us consider different ways of doing things.”

“They will bring forward innovative and creative ideas because they know this is an environment where it’s okay to do that,” said Lawson, who joined MVH in 1998.

The first challenge Lawson found, though, was simply defining diversity. “Oftentimes what diversity meant to individuals was ‘race,’” she said. “Getting beyond that narrow definition to a full, encompassing definition was critical.”

The resulting definition, which would be tweaked over time, referred to “a mosaic of people who bring a variety of backgrounds, styles, perspectives, values and beliefs to an organization and groups in which they interact.”

Lawson, MVH’s Human Resources director in 2013, said another early challenge was getting the “buy-in” from employees, convincing them the hospital’s diversity effort wasn’t just rhetoric or a simple training program — it was a concentrated, focused effort to “live” the message through its daily actions, an attempt to move beyond the status quo and change perceptions and behaviors. Lawson enlisted several MVH leaders, including Breitenbach, and staff at the department levels to be diversity “champions,” messengers who would help ingrain diversity and its importance throughout the organization.

“We really wanted to make sure our efforts went beyond the five or six people in the room leading the program,” she said.

Early initiatives

Lawson and her team designed a diversity education program that would be included with new employee orientation. The hospital’s entire staff would have to participate in the program, too. Other initiatives included a harassment-free, inclusive workplace policy, minority nursing scholarships, a diversity intranet site and a strong diversity policy presence on the hospital’s web site.

They built a cultural communications guide for all clinicians, and had the patient notice for an interpreter translated into a half dozen languages; they included diversity as a topic for discussion at the board meetings, included diversity and one’s support and encouragement of it as a measure on all managers’ performance evaluations, and identified diversity champions throughout the organization within each department who were expected to attend a quarterly diversity council meeting with the expectation of disseminating this information in staff meetings.

The hospital’s efforts were especially timely because they coincided with the closing in 2000 of Franciscan Medical Center on Edwin C. Moses Boulevard. Formerly St. Elizabeth’s Hospital, the medical center served a mostly indigent and minority population from the city’s west side. Those groups, by and large, would now head to MVH. “We felt that impact immediately,” former MVH President Bill Thornton remembered.

John E. Moore, catalyst for change

MVH had a strong ally in its diversity efforts in board member Moore, whom Breitenbach once called “a catalyst for advancing our appreciation of diversity and minority representation in all categories of employment.”

Moore brought years of experience in human resources and diversity issues as the former chief of civilian personnel at Wright Patterson Air Force Base. He also had decades of experience in voluntary leadership to corporate, nonprofit, local government and grassroots organizations. An MVH board member since 1985, Moore worked with Lawson and hospital leaders to not only increase minority employment at MVH but to strategize ways for minorities to rise in rank in management and in clinical areas.

Moore also observed a lack of minorities in maintenance, construction and supplier activity at MVH. He noticed it throughout the community, too. So he enlisted the University of DaytonSinclair Community CollegeDayton schools and other large community organizations to join MVH in encouraging local construction companies, contractors and suppliers to increase minority representation in their ranks. Those efforts were the nucleus of what would later become the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce’s Minority Business Partnership.

Moore also helped MVH’s parent company, Premier Health, launch a systematic supplier diversity initiative. The program later earned the first Leadership Award for Supplier Diversity from VHA, a national network of 1,400 not-for-profit hospitals.

“This is a never-ending process,” said Moore, who at age 90 in 2013 was still advising Premier’s board on cultural and diversity issues. “But we’ve had some good leadership and I think we’re doing very well.”

Diversity 2.0

MVH continued to gain ground in the early 2000s with its diversity. In 2001, for example, it started Mahogany’s Child, a program dedicated to reaching out and empowering African American women to make informed health care decisions and create healthier lifestyles for themselves and their families. More than 16,000 women have participated in the program since its inception.

In 2006, thanks in part to MVH’s efforts, Premier Health received the Greater Dayton Workplace Diversity Award from the Dayton Area Chamber of Commerce, The Dayton Foundation Diversity Task Force, and the National Conference for Community and Justice of Greater Dayton.

But much of MVH and Premier’s efforts in those days were focused on building awareness, and some leaders felt not enough was being done to change attitudes or behaviors of employees in everyday operations. Success was often measured by the number of minority employees on the payroll rather than by a culture that manifested inclusion in employee behaviors toward each other and toward patients, vendors and visitors.

So Premier and MVH regrouped. Premier’s Office of Diversity designed a forward-facing strategic plan to create the type of future that would be inclusive of everyone — from the boardroom to the operating room and all spaces in between. It aligned its strategy with Premier’s overall goals and values: RESPECT each person’s dignity; Act with INTEGRITY to do the right thing in all aspects of our responsibilities; Serve with COMPASSION that embraces each individual’s concerns and hopes; Commit to EXCELLENCE as measured to the highest level of performance.

The diversity office devised training programs on inclusion as well as a number of metrics to measure success, including scores from employee evaluations (one’s efforts at being inclusive and appreciating the system’s diversity efforts would now impact his or her pay) and from patient satisfaction surveys. It made “inclusion” a key component of the hospital’s Patient Experience initiative, a redoubling of the hospital’s ongoing effort to provide patients and their families with the best experience possible from every level of the organization.

“I want our employees to understand diversity means all of us — all of us are diverse,” Lisa G. Smith, Premier’s Director of Corporate Human Resources and Diversity, said in 2013. “Diversity is the mindset; inclusion is the action. So if I want an inclusive work environment, I need to extend myself to someone who may be different than me. I need to ask questions if I don’t understand something about a specific culture. It means I need to step out of my comfort zone and really understand others and their perspectives.”

The diversity office also raised the program’s profile by establishing an official Diversity Subcommittee of the Premier Board of Directors to ensure commitment and follow-through.

Diverse leadership

In the early 1990s Miami Valley Hospital had no women or minorities in the senior leadership roles of president, chief executive officer or chief operating officer. But Mary Boosalis, then a senior vice president at MVH, was steadily making her way, serving in a variety of leadership positions on her way to assuming the hospital’s top job (president and CEO) in January 2006.

“It really struck home to me when I was appointed CEO at Miami Valley Hospital,” Boosalis recalls. “I never felt curtailed by being female, but when I became CEO I was astounded at the number of women who came forward and were so pleased that a woman would be taking on this leadership position. I really didn’t see that coming because it was the 21st century, but that experience told me that there are still a lot of gaps and that we had some work to do.”

By 2012, women dominated the senior leadership positions throughout Premier Health. Mary Boosalis had moved on to become executive vice president and chief operating officer

of Premier. At MVH, Anita Moore was board chair, Bobbie Gerhart was president and CEO and Barbara Johnson was the COO. At Good Samaritan Hospital (closed on 2018), Eloise Broner was president and CEO, and at Atrium Medical Center in Middletown, Carol Turner held those titles. Three of those — Moore, Johnson and Broner — were African Americans.

In 2013, MVH and Good Samaritan (closed on 2018) were recognized as “top performing hospitals” in minority leadership by The Institute for Diversity, an American Hospital Association affiliate that commissioned a national survey of hospitals to examine the actions they are taking to address health disparities and improve diversity.

Even so, when it comes to diversity not one leader seems satisfied, no matter how much progress has been made. Diversity is an ongoing journey, they say, not a destination.

“Clearly, to have an awareness, to have an understanding and respect for all people regardless of their age, gender, ethnicity, race or sexual orientation is extremely important to us,” said Moore, the MVH board chair in 2013. “We’re doing a lot of work on that and it’s our commitment to this community to do so.”

Learn more about MVH’s and Premier Health’s diversity history, initiatives and commitment.

Back to MVH History Timeline