How do “diversity, equity, and inclusion” policies and practices find their way into unexpected places outside of major city centers and deep blue states?
A major hospital system in Georgia’s northeastern corner, one of the reddest parts of the state, provides an answer.
Northeast Georgia Health System (NGHS) serves about 1 million residents in 19 counties. NGHS is a five-campus, not-for-profit 850-bed community health system that counts itself among the 20 largest employers in the Atlanta region. Its more than 9,000 employees include a medical staff of about 1,500 representing 60 specialties.
Although the NGHS nondiscrimination statement claims it “complies with applicable Federal civil rights laws and does not discriminate” and “does not exclude people or treat them differently because of race, religion, color, national origin, age, disability or sex,” a closer look finds much to question.
The reality is that NGHS pushes radical diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) practices – the kind of practices that reinforce discrimination and disparate treatment, both in healthcare and in the workplace.
One such offering is the DEI scholarship offered by the Emergency Medicine Residency DEI committee for visiting medical students. Applicants must be from a “historically underrepresented group;” however, the eligibility criteria exclude whites, as well as Asians who are not “Filipino, Hmong, or Vietnamese.” Applicants must also explain, “What does diversity, equity and inclusion mean to you?”
Here are some additional examples of how NGHS embeds DEI into every corner of its operations:
- NGHS’s Continuing Medical Education (CME) program has hosted lectures and DEI training since at least 2020, where physicians and nurses earned continuing education credits. Speakers included the “founder of antiracism,” Ibram X. Kendi, in April 2021. Kendi is famous for teaching that “The only remedy to past discrimination is present discrimination; the only remedy to present discrimination is future discrimination.” In his Zoom webinar, titled “Teach Antiracist Practices,” Kendi told his NGHS audience, “Most people hold racist beliefs and ideas.”
- NGHS’s Graduate Medical Education DEI program’s mission is “to acknowledge institutional and systematic biases with the goal of supporting resident physicians and fellows on socioeconomic, gender and ethnicity-related healthcare disparities … to promote healthcare equity.” The program has a “Medical Staff Diversity & Healthcare Disparity Taskforce,” which addresses “issues surrounding diversity” within the medical staff. The Taskforce also places an emphasis on “community healthcare disparities,” but does not define them.
- Virtual reality DEI simulations from the Center for Simulation and Innovation (CSI) “immerse and train resident physicians on current healthcare disparities.” A 2021 technology grant awarded for DEI virtual reality simulations included another goal: “to incorporate specific diversity, equity, and inclusion training into resident curriculum.” The CSI team’s presentations at an international conference in January included “How to Design/Implement Your Own DEI Virtual Reality Platform.”
- A 2022 DEI grant from the NGHS Foundation funded a project to investigate how FitBits affected health behaviors of “socially disadvantaged COVID-19 survivors.”
- Other NGHS lectures covered the effects of “unconscious bias” on healthcare decisions and results, along with “Mobilizing for Healthcare Equity.”
Such prioritizing of DEI should come as a huge surprise to patients of NGHS, who want great care irrespective of skin color or background. As for staff, they have alerted us that they take offense at the presumption that biases, affect their treatment – and therefore the health outcomes – of those who walk in the doors of Northeast Georgia Health System.
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