The Power of Embracing, Respecting Our Differences

September 8, 2021
Oswaldo Grenardo, MD

A shift in perspective. A pause before acting. The courage to step in. To be sure, these are small moments in our everyday lives. But they have the power to change how we interact with and relate to those around us. And together, they can make a world of difference in our work, relationships, activities, attitudes and beyond.

The people of Centura Health’s newly created Diversity and Inclusion team are working to help shift how we think about and treat one another – both inside our hospital walls and throughout the communities we serve. The focus is not to create rules or dictate policy but to grow a culture of openness.

“We want to inspire everyone to become better people each day,” explains Oswaldo Grenardo, MD, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer for Centura Health. “When we are working on ourselves and becoming more aware of our biases, interactions improve and we become better caregivers. Honoring and respecting others different from ourselves is an extension of our mission to be the healing ministry of Christ.”

Planting a seed
Although still in its infancy, the Diversity and Inclusion team has begun to inspire change in big ways and small. Centura Health created the Health Equity and Advancement Fund—a $1 million grant to be dispersed among organizations working to advance equity and inclusion in our communities. Investing in these groups plants a seed for change throughout our region.

Ninety organizations applied for the funding, representing a wide range of initiatives—from addressing health disparities and food insecurity to racism, homelessness, poverty, refugee needs and more.

“The people in these organizations are so passionate about their work. Talking with them opened our eyes to the many needs in the community,” says Maria Kneusel, DPN, RN, Diversity and Inclusion Specialist for Centura Health. “Strategically funding these efforts is another way we can make a tangible difference in so many lives.”

Looking inward
Centura Health’s Diversity and Inclusion team is also looking to affect positive change within our own ecosystem. And they are starting from the top.

“In order to truly change culture, our leadership needs to model the values we want the organization to embrace. This takes the personal effort of each individual,” says Dr. Grenardo. “Changing ourselves internally leads to real, collective change externally.”

The team plans to take an active role in training initiatives regarding patient and associate experience. This training will focus on identifying unconscious biases and learning actionable steps to be more welcoming to others, such as engaging with someone from a different background or finding the courage to speak up when witnessing actions that divide others.

“It’s not about perfection. It’s about being more aware,” says Dr. Kneusel. “I believe we all wake up in the morning and want to be good people. But we make mistakes. It takes real intention to practice diversity. That’s where training comes in.”

Being the change
In addition to leadership training, Centura Health is working on a host of initiatives focused on growing a more open and inclusive environment—from further expanding caregiver diversity to finding ways to celebrate people from different walks of life.

“We have found that becoming more inclusive not only helps interactions between associates, but positively impacts our care and connection with patients,” says Dr. Grenardo. “We want all people to feel comfortable, confident and trusting in our care.”

Dr. Kneusel adds, “Everyone can play a role. As humans, we honor one another’s dignity through simple, small acts. That is how we show up for others.”