Diversity in Healthcare Drives Us Forward

Benefits of a diverse patient care team


By Wael Barsoum, MD


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At Cleveland Clinic Florida, having a multi-ethnic, multicultural and multi-generational clinical and administrative team has boosted our efforts to provide our increasingly varied patient population with world-class care.

South Florida, in particular, seems to be at the epicenter of trends that simultaneously impact operations and benefit our patients. I can recall an anecdote that vividly illustrates this. While at a small European café in Fort Lauderdale recently, a diverse group of people were speaking a variety of languages. Among those I could distinguish were French, Russian, Spanish, Tamil, Arabic and, of course, English. All of us patronize the same café bistro for its culinary delicacies. I noted then that our community reflects the fluid movement of people from continent to continent — and foodies knowingly seek out and find the best spots everywhere.

A similar parallel also exists in healthcare. Patients increasingly seek a diversity of opinions when making decisions, and the benefit of having a diverse team — which includes hospital executives, administrators, physicians and nurses — are plentiful. Through our culture of improvement huddles, we’ve seen how diversity can create a stronger team, driving both innovation and dynamic decision-making. CEOs across numerous industries have witnessed this same phenomenon: diversity improves outcomes because a diverse team stimulates novel thinking.

Empathy is another area where diversity opens doors, thus enhancing patient engagement and satisfaction. On the hospital floors, our caregivers work hard to provide culturally appropriate care because seeing another person’s perspective through their cultural lens is easier if one has walked in their shoes or, over the same hills.


One of the most important groups to champion and drive diversity has been C-Suite leadership, though achieving diversity at the highest levels continues to be a challenge for many organizations. We know that diversity generally improves outcomes. Furthermore, creating diverse teams is even more essential in medicine because scientific progress often comes from teams, not individuals.

Cleveland Clinic’s Chief Nursing Officer, Kelly Hancock, DNP, RN, NE-BCrecently wrote about the importance of diversity in nursing and mentioned The Institute of Medicine’s landmark report, The Future of Nursing. The report states that a more diverse nursing workforce must be part of the solution to achieving equity in healthcare. This push for diversity is also promoted by the Joint Commission, which encourages hospitals to adopt policies and practices which help them understand, show empathy and care for diverse populations.

Clearly, the work of improving diversity within the healthcare system must be done at all levels. Leaders must not only talk about the importance of diversity, we must personally take on the task of ensuring that it is achieved. We can begin by embracing the fact that the focus on diversity has expanded well beyond race and gender to include those with disabilities and LGBTQ caregivers. Creating an inclusive environment will ensure a workforce that is fully representative of the populations we serve, and we must equip future leaders with the experience, skills and tools to manage caregivers who will be working and thinking globally.

I believe that the best collaboration comes from diverse teams. At a physician-led institution like Cleveland Clinic, this collaboration occurs at the highest operational level, ultimately improving the quality of care our patients receive. Providing the highest level of care requires pushing boundaries and researching new ideas. Diversity is therefore indispensable to our success and the health of our communities. As such, our commitment to diversity led to our recognition as No. 5 on The DiversityInc’s Top 12 Hospitals and Health Systems list.


I’m proud that caregivers throughout Cleveland Clinic represent every culture, nationality, race and ethnicity. Diversity and inclusion improve recruitment and referrals, creating a positive cycle and producing a collaborative, respectful culture. We must continue to revitalize the healthcare industry by seizing all opportunities for diversity and innovation.

Learn to become a physician leader with Cleveland Clinic Global Executive Education programs, including The Cleveland Clinic Way: IntensivesSamson Global Leadership Academy and the Executive Visitors’ Program.

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