Throughout one’s life, every so often, a historical moment occurs that makes you stop and reflect upon not only who we are as individuals, but as a collective society.
By now, we have all seen the graphic images of George Floyd, the Minneapolis man whose neck was pinned to the pavement by a police officer’s knee as he pleaded to breathe and desperately cried out to have his life spared before his final breath was taken.
To many of us, this was a heinous moment where we could not believe what we were actually witnessing. It was particularly unimaginable since George Floyd’s life was taken by a public servant who took an oath to protect every citizen and uphold the law. The officer’s casual demeanor and callous indifference to Mr. Floyd’s passionate pleas for his life while three fellow offers looked on was shocking.
But while many of us watched this event unfold in disbelief, many members of the Black community had a far different reaction. To them, this was a proverbial movie that seemed all too familiar—Ahmaud Aubrey, Breonna Taylor, Freddie Gray, Eric Garner, Laquan McDonald, Michael Brown, and so many more. But as numerous and tragic as these prior Black deaths were, the heartless, dehumanizing way George Floyd was killed, triggered justifiable rage and anger.
The Black community’s question to society, and to every one of us, is whether we are going to simply share our words and our empathy, or whether we are going to stand shoulder to shoulder with them to bring about social change and justice. I wanted to let each of you know where I stand and how, as a company, we plan to “walk the talk”.
As a business leader, my first action step starts with calling this act for what it was—a despicable act of violence perpetrated by police officers—individuals we’ve been told all our lives we should trust and respect. It was also a preventable death given the multiple complaints filed against the officer who killed Mr. Floyd. One immediate way we stop similar incidents from happening in the future, is by pressuring police unions to ensure that officers who disrespect or engage in racist actions towards citizens of color are immediately fired. They cannot be defended, protected or simply transferred to other districts or roles. “Bad cops” not only soil the reputation of the entire department, they undermine the public’s trust.
Next Step: I will be drafting a letter sharing my views to the President of the Cincinnati Chamber of Commerce, the Cincinnati Mayor and the President of the Cincinnati FOP. I will draft similar letters to those holding similar positions in Little Rock and Nashville. We need to collectively support and respect our law enforcement officers, but we cannot support rules and policies that permit bad actors to remain on the force who terrorize the citizens they are supposed to protect. I will cc you on my letters as well as on any responses I receive.
My second action step starts with affirming my commitment to every team member at PatientPoint that our company will lead by example. This means ensuring we have a culture that not only embraces and supports diversity, but proactively works to recruit Black teammates. We will also provide work and internship opportunities for individuals within the Black community, particularly young adults, who need a mentor or work experience. Finally, we must also proactively pursue relationships with local organizations that have demonstrated the ability to make a transformational impact on Black lives.
Next Step: We will be assembling several teams of teammates led by senior PatientPoint executives who feel moved to take action. They will be tasked with making recommendations in three key areas: 1) Proactively recruiting Black team members; 2) identifying potential internship opportunities for Black high school students seeking work experience and/or mentorship; and 3) identifying local organizations that have proven track records in positively impacting the lives of Black families and determining how we can best support them both as a company and as individual team members.
Our third action step will be to leverage our extensive knowledge in patient education and patient engagement to improve the health of Black communities. We have seen how disproportionately the Covid-19 virus has impacted Black communities. Much of the impact can be attributed to poor access to quality healthcare and poor health literacy. I believe we have an ability to make a meaningful difference on both fronts not only through our own programs, but by leveraging our business and provider partnerships.
Next Steps: Historically, we have not been able to secure sponsors to underwrite patient engagement programs located in community health centers. I would like to challenge our Sales teams to seize the moment and attempt to re-engage sponsor interest. I would like to use Cincinnati as a pilot market. I am personally passionate about this community health initiative and will agree to lead this team. Our success in making a difference in Black community health would truly be one of our single greatest accomplishments as a company.
In closing, I want to publicly extend my heartfelt condolences to the family of George Floyd and to all those in the Black community who are grieving. I also want to let teammates know I personally share the deep frustration and anger many of you are feeling right now. I would like to respectfully ask that we collectively channel that frustration and anger productively so we can bring about positive change.
The issues of racial and income inequality that are the root cause of many of the events we have witnessed over the past several weeks are both deep-rooted and systemic. While there is clear consensus on the need to resolve racial and income inequality, regrettably, there is no clear consensus on what strategy and public policies should be implemented to resolve these social issues. Improvement clearly will not happen overnight. There is much we cannot control other than through our voices and our votes. However, there is much we can influence and change. That’s where I want to encourage each of us to focus as individuals and as teammates.
Here’s to not being silent, nor paralyzed by anger or fear. Let’s commit to standing shoulder to shoulder with our Black teammates, taking action and making a meaningful difference…together!