Message from the President

The Right Thing to Do

by Loren Hamel, MD - President, Spectrum Health Lakeland | Jul 20, 2020

There has been a great deal of conversation about our recent show of support for our African American team members and neighbors. What I have heard has ranged from tearful and grateful support to deep concern. Our intention is not to take a position on any organization or political party, but to support our African American community. While we understand all lives do matter, black lives are more at risk.

Research shows that racial injustice is harming health and shortening lives of our African American neighbors by 5.1 years in women and 9.6 years in men. Research also shows that they are almost twice as likely to die of diseases like stroke, cervical cancer, and prostate cancer, than other groups.

We know we can’t address all of these problems, but addressing some of them—and caring about them all—should matter to everybody. We’re in the business of health care, so when we see the lives of people in our community cut short by disease and trauma, we need to help.

You might have heard that we’ve committed to do that by improving health equity. Although we’ve been talking about this work in recent weeks, you might still be wondering what it actually means. Health equity work simply means providing resources and creating opportunities for those who are most challenged by poor health, including communities of color and low-income rural communities.

Lakeland has committed to do this with leadership, resources, engagement, and transparency. Our $50 million health equity fund will use interest earned on the fund over the next 10 years to provide the budget for local health equity work. Lynn Todman, PhD, has been appointed as vice president, health equity to ensure focused leadership of the fund. Dr. Todman also assumed a Spectrum Health system role leading the harmonization of this work across West Michigan.

We’re also engaged in efforts to show support through signage and social media, listening tours, surveys, video and town hall messages, GROWTH (Guided Real-World Orientation and Work Training at the Hospital) program (which creates a career pipeline between area students and Lakeland in response to the shortage of African American and Latinx associates), Community Grand Rounds speakers, workshops, and other events, and Brave Talks (small gatherings of community members working to develop and deepen collective understanding of structural racism and its impact on the health of our community).

We’re also committed to full transparency on what we’re doing, how well it’s working, and how resources are being invested. This will all be shared in an annual diversity report.

Showing support for our team members and those we serve is the right thing to do. I understand that this is an important and emotionally laden topic. And not everyone views it the same way. But this is the time to work together, support each other, and extend grace, love, and respect. Even though we may have different life experiences and perspectives, now is the time to come together, listen carefully, and commit ourselves to resolve these problems.

Dr Hamel signature

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© Spectrum Health Lakeland 2020