Healthcare Leaders Spearhead Initiatives Aimed at Creating a Hospital Culture Free of Racism and Bias

Community outreach strengthens Cleveland Clinic’s commitment to patient-centered care, building a representative workforce


Walk into any Cleveland Clinic facility and you’ll see a diverse assortment of patients and caregivers who represent the local and international communities it serves. For its efforts to create an inclusive culture, DiversityInc., a leading diversity publication, has named Cleveland Clinic in its Top Hospitals and Health Systems list for the 13th consecutive year, ranking the organization No. 2 (up from No. 5 last year).


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Two programs have played an integral role in the organization’s ability to earn this recognition: the Diversity, Inclusion and Racial Equity Council (DIREC) and Cleveland Clinic’s diverse hiring practices.

Diversity in action

Formed in November 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and turbulent racial climate, DIREC comprises senior-level leaders from across the enterprise. The advisory group spearheads initiatives deemed central to establishing a healthy culture that is free of racism, bias and health disparities.

“The COVID-19 pandemic and rising racial tensions underlined the fact that we were at a critical juncture in this country and needed to take action,” explains Jagina McIntyre, Program Manager in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion. “There was an outcry among caregivers who felt isolated and needed to be heard, and DIREC became an obvious way to bridge that divide.”

DIREC members, which include clinical and nonclinical managers with the influence to promote diversity, serve three-year terms and are required to undergo external training and mentor new caregivers.

Top priorities

The following are among the program’s chief initiatives:


Patient Health Disparities Measurements – a data-driven system of care for examining and solving health inequalities by centralizing the reporting of key disparities. The goal, says McIntyre, is to decrease health complications in underrepresented minorities with treatable diseases like diabetes. “To address health equity, we have to get the data right,” she says.

In-My-Language Communication – a program focused on producing patient-centered materials and signage in the top three languages spoken by Cleveland Clinic patients. Efforts include expanding translation and bilingual services to ensure that patients with limited English proficiency, including hearing impairments, receive culturally competent care.

Caregiver Demographics Audit – ensures the accuracy of self-reported demographic data from caregivers to better identify equitable opportunities. “We need to make sure that caregivers are seen for who they are,” notes McIntyre.

DIREC’s mission extends beyond Cleveland Clinic’s facilities to the geographic region it serves. McIntyre says the group aims to address conditions that adversely affect health, including “food deserts,” transportation difficulties and lead poisoning. In addition, the group has heightened its community support by doing business with local suppliers. “When we partner with the community, we serve patients better,” she says.

In addition to leading new initiatives, DIREC also identifies best practices and disseminates them throughout the institution. For example, the group expanded several microaggression training protocols developed by the Taussig Cancer Institute that were previously unavailable in other areas of the healthcare system. “Our goal is to bring these educational opportunities into a global space by creating one comprehensive training program,” says McIntyre.


Diverse patients, diverse workforce

Community outreach is an integral part of Cleveland Clinic’s hiring process, explains Melissa K. Burrows, PhD, Director of Talent Acquisition, Workforce Diversity. By investing in local organizations and increasing the institution’s visibility throughout Ohio, program managers seek out opportunities to connect with residents and local government officials. “Our ability to build a workforce that reflects our patient population demands we develop a strong community presence,” she says. “These connections enhance our recruitment efforts and help create a welcoming environment for job-seekers.”

The Workforce Diversity division, which hopes to further increase the number of Cleveland residents who work for the healthcare system, has already held several career expos this year. “We do everything we can to mitigate or eliminate barriers to employment,” says Burrows. “Some city residents view Cleveland Clinic as an ‘ivory tower’ that only hires doctors and nurses, but that’s far from the truth. We also rely on thousands of non-clinical caregivers to keep our organization running. One of our chief goals is to create bridges to the community so citizens can envision themselves working here.”

Along with large employers like IBM and Delta Air Lines, Cleveland Clinic also partners with OneTen, an organization dedicated to hiring, promoting and advancing one million talented Black job-seekers without college degrees. “It benefits both our institution and our community to build a diverse workforce dedicated to putting patients first. We want everyone to feel they are part of a mission that is larger than themselves,” says Burrows.

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