LETTER FROM THE DIRECTOR
I first met Joe in 2005 when I interviewed with him for a position with the newly launched DSC. I was six months pregnant and assumed that this was going to be my last interview. It was getting hard to fit into my interview suit. The job market for a visibly pregnant woman of color was not great, but Joe hired me, knowing I would go out shortly on maternity leave. This started a wonderful partnership for 17 years working together to address racial and ethnic disparities in health care at Mass General Hospital and nationally. I’m so proud of Joe’s achievements to date and excited to see him in this new role.
My situation of a change in leadership is not unique-many of you have probably experienced it yourself or are going through it currently. We have seen it time and time again in organizations who participate in our Disparities Leadership Program. It really brings home the question how do you move through a significant leadership transition in this work?
I have had some time to ponder this and as I look back on the year here are my take aways:
Lead with empathy – One thing we have in common with patients is that we all want to be seen, heard, and feel that someone listens and cares. Creating a safe space to have these conversations, and being mindful of power dynamics in the room is part of leading with empathy. Especially for those staff members from marginalized communities, being able to speak from a lens of lived experience and helping people understand your lived experience is key. It is important during a significant leadership transition to be present and to give people the space to process this change.
Spread the seeds of passion – Emotion in the room is a good thing. It resonates with people and builds on our human connection. Being able to communicate to people the passion you feel for racial justice and this work will help build a shared community that is key to people feeling they are part of a wave of change. You may have to be louder about your passion during a leadership transition to help your allies understand they are still part of a change, and up and downs in this are natural.
Communicate clearly – With a topic as complex as bias, structural and interpersonal racism, and disparities, it is important to clearly communicate any decisions that are made and why. Transparency is key to building trust, and a lot of this work is understanding the reasons for absence of trust. Taking the time to be thoughtful of how messages and decisions might be received, in particular by individuals who are from marginalized communities, is key in any transition.
Identify who matters to you outside of work – Especially with the holiday season, it’s important that you spend time with friends, family and pets that help refill your tank and are good for your soul. Take some time off work and spend it with them. In our world, it’s all too easy to think work is more important.
I wish you a wonderful holiday season and a happy new year. See you in 2023!
Aswita Tan-McGrory, MBA, MSPH
Planning for the Future
As we end 2022, I look ahead and see many changes in 2023. One big one is that DSC founder, friend and colleague, Dr. Joseph Betancourt, will leave Mass General Hospital to step into the role as president of the Commonwealth Fund in New York City. The Commonwealth Fund is a national health care foundation that aims to promote a high-performing, equitable health care system that achieves better access, improved quality, and greater efficiency, particularly for society’s most vulnerable, including people of color, people with low income and those who are uninsured.