It’s a cold Monday in January, and Armond Kinsey is logging into his computer in New Jersey. While the pandemic has forced many meetings—even at healthcare systems—to happen virtually, he’s not joining a work meeting. Kinsey is the organization’s vice president, chief diversity officer, and he’s part of Penn State University’s inaugural Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion virtual panel discussion.
For Kinsey, a veteran diversity practitioner, the activity is an important one. It’s a simple way he can promote his health system as a top regional employer and discuss relevant topics with future healthcare leaders in a respected Master of Health Administration program.
After the session, Penn State’s MHS candidates are quick to share their praise online. “Thank you for joining us and for such a meaningful discussion,” one wrote. “We learned so much from you about your role and the DEI initiatives you are taking at Atlantic Health System,” said another.
Among other topics in the virtual meeting, Kinsey discussed the challenges and opportunities related to building a new DE&I office. He joined Atlantic Health System as the system’s first-ever chief diversity officer in 2019. Atlantic Health is a not-for-profit organization that operates four hundred sites of care, including eight hospitals throughout Northern New Jersey. Its largest hospital, Morristown Medical Center, offers top cardiology, orthopedics, critical care, and geriatrics services. Another system facility, Overlook Medical Center, is designated as a comprehensive stroke center.
Atlantic Health System is known for providing excellent care, but Kinsey says one of his first concerns was related to access. “Across our country, there’s history in healthcare of inequity in how people receive quality care,” he explains. Kinsey knows the issues firsthand: Growing up in Philadelphia, he lost his mother to heart failure when he was a junior in college. “I’ve always wondered if she would have had a positive outcome in a different health system, so I’m committed to making sure everyone who seeks care at any of Atlantic Health System’s locations gets quality care regardless of race, education, language, or ability to pay,” he says. Kinsey and his team are working to certify more bilingual employees and implement advanced technologies to communicate in each patient’s preferred language.
Those are just a few overarching goals in Kinsey’s wide-ranging plan. He came to Atlantic Health for the chance to layer a broad program on top of what was already a solid foundation. “We think first about the impact of all we do on our patients and their families, and that has always been true here,” he says. “The executive team understands what emphasizing DE&I more can mean for the community.”
Kinsey previously worked as Kaiser Permanente’s chief diversity officer for the mid-Atlantic region and has held similar roles at Korn Ferry and the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. When he joined Atlantic Health, the organization had a few diversity committees and programs at some of its locations, but lacked a cohesive effort to “pull everything together with momentum and purpose.” Kinsey spent months rounding at AHS facilities to meet team members and create a new system-wide DE&I strategy built on patient care, team members, supplier diversity, and community outreach.
In his first twelve months, Kinsey was able to help his counterparts across the organization understand the business value behind an effective DE&I strategy. He was excited to move into his second year to continue the progress—but then COVID-19 hit. Like all system leaders, Kinsey had to pivot and focus his energy on keeping patients and team members safe. He also worked to onboard new team members and guide Atlantic Health System through the most difficult days of the pandemic.
During the same era, the social and political unrest facing the nation prompted Kinsey to take action. He rolled out a series of listening sessions across the health system designed to create a safe place for interaction and engagement on difficult topics and emotions. “We don’t expect our employees to leave an important part of their lives in the parking lot and then try to come through our doors to care for patients,” he says. Nine business resource groups for team members with shared backgrounds were created to provide further support.
As the pandemic recedes, Kinsey is turning his attention back to moving his new program past its infancy. With key programs in place, he’s looking to review important AHS policies. “Our goal is to ensure policies support a diverse and inclusive culture,” he says, adding that his team will help the system review, upgrade, replace, and create new guiding documents as needed.
All of these efforts come together to make a significant impact. When Kinsey is rounding in AHS hospitals, he can observe the changes happening right before his eyes. “You can see the diversity here,” he says. “Our demographics are changing, and we are making a real difference in these communities.”
Fostering diversity, equity, and inclusion is an urgent focus for many healthcare organizations, and the key to its success is its people. Blue Ocean Brain’s modern bite-sized learning helps you build and support a workforce that embraces inclusion and diversity both on its teams and in its patient care.