Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association

ANCHORING EQUITY: Thoughts from Spaulding Rehabilitation’s Lynne Brady Wagner

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MHA’s Anchoring Equity blog series profiles the work of our members as they work to advance health equity, diversity, and inclusion in their organizations and in their communities.  

Lynne Brady Wagner, MA, CCC-SLP, MRMC, HEC-C

Chief Learning and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility Officer,
Spaulding Rehabilitation

“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.”  – Helen Keller

I am proud to represent Spaulding Rehabilitation as its Chief Learning and Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Accessibility (DEIA) Officer and to be a part of a larger team in the Mass General Brigham (MGB) health system that prioritizes health equity. 

Spaulding recognizes that DEIA (acknowledging the importance of ‘accessibility’ of attitude and the built environment) efforts cannot be successful if we rely on the work of a single committee or DEIA leader. Spaulding’s approach to promote the equity, dignity, and respect of our patients, our staff, and the broader community through the engagement of the entirety of our workforce is a collective effort.

Almost four years ago, Spaulding reformed its diversity and equity programs to comprise the existing structure of three committees (Education and Cultural Humility, Health Equity and Community Outreach, and Recruitment and Retention) under the framework of the Equity, Dignity, and Respect Council which serves as a steering committee for our goals and the work we do.  As part of the MGB health system, our focus aligned closely with many United Against Racism Program tenets and is centered on impact.

The motto of our Equity, Dignity and Respect Program, to LISTEN – REFLECT – and ACT, remains important.  Creating a community for equity requires diligent and purposeful work.  It involves paying attention, listening to voices that have not always been heard or well understood, speaking up when you have concerns, asking challenging and inconvenient questions, and getting involved.

It is a sustained objective to make this work more operational by embedding DEIA in our daily processes.  Improving the knowledge and skill of our leaders to foster an inclusive culture and promote healthcare equity starts with education.  Through many forum learning programs, our leaders and teams have interacted with important subjects such as structural racism and its influence on health related social needs, ableism, microaggressions, cultural intelligence, and cultural humility.

At Spaulding, we are fortunate to expand the work that was initiated by Oz Mondejar, Spaulding Rehabilitation’s former Vice President of Mission and Equity.  Oz currently serves on the executive board of the Governor’s Commission on the Status of Persons with Disabilities and has been a standard bearer for inclusion throughout his career.  He was the founder of the Spaulding Rehabilitation JobLab. Recently highlighted in CommonWealth Beacon, the Oz Mondejar JobLab is a convening space for community partners and workforce training for persons with disabilities.  This job simulation area is a valuable resource and is also used as a dynamic interview venue in which the capabilities of candidates can be highlighted.

Senior leaders at Spaulding are deeply engaged in promoting our common mission of advocating and advancing the equity of persons with disabilities – recognizing that this group is one of the highest users of healthcare who more often experience barriers to care and are more likely to be less satisfied with their experience.  People with disabilities also experience joblessness at a higher rate than those without disabilities.  Spaulding Rehabilitation had been recognized by Disability Equity Index for seven years in a row for its proactive work in disability inclusion, earning the highest possible score for the past five years.

It is no accident that Massachusetts has achieved the distinction as the first state in the nation in which all hospitals are on a path to meet The Joint Commission’s standards for health equity.  The Massachusetts Health & Hospital Association and MassHealth have affiliated strategically with the quality and safety accreditation leader to develop programs, such as the 1115 Waiver, that have created a glide path for the state’s healthcare sector to reduce health disparities. We are grateful to have the support of colleagues and partners and the alignment of the MHA.  Spaulding’s DEIA strives to create an inclusive community, made better by welcoming the diverse perspectives and experiences of each of us, because ”together we can do so much.”