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Local Hospital Commits to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Image of flagpole with American flag on top, and Black Lives Matter flag beneath it with blue sky background.
The Black Lives Matter flag flies above the main entrance to the Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin. The medical center says it has made a commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion. Photo by Tom McKone.
Central Vermont Medical Center says it is committed to integrating diversity, equity, and inclusion into all aspects of health care. And i expects its efforts will have a positive impact beyond its walls.

“As the largest employer in Central Vermont, if we can shift and advance this journey of diversity, equity, and inclusion, we will help shift Central Vermonters, in general,” said Anna Noonan, CVMC president and chief operating officer, in a telephone interview. She added that CVMC has over 1,600 employees and “touches 66,000 lives” every year, so its commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion can have a “huge impact on the community.”

“We’re hoping to integrate diversity, equity, and inclusion in all aspects of health care, so it’s not something that is off to the side,” Noonan said. “It becomes part of the work. It’s integrated into everything we do.”

Noonan said CVMC formed a diversity, equity, and inclusion steering committee in August 2020. The committee immediately created a commitment statement to guide the medical center’s work. She said the statement has been endorsed by the medical center’s board of trustees and the medical staff. The committee tailored its message to the local community. As a result, it broadens its reach further than usual for this kind of statement.

“CVMC recognizes that diversity, equity, and inclusion are essential conditions for high-quality care and for an exceptional person-centered experience for care team members, patients, residents, our families, and community,” the statement reads. “We are committed to an environment that fosters dignity, respect, and empathy, and embraces a person’s race, color, religion, sex, national/ethnic origin, age, health status, disability, sexual orientation, veteran status, gender identity, citizenship, or other dimensions of identity.”

Noonan said the diversity assessment they completed last year helped to determine what needs exist at CVMC as a launching point for moving forward. She emphasized that CVMC “has a long way to go.” She said the medical center is looking at best practices other institutions have found to be successful. As well, she noted that the University of Vermont Health Network, of which CVMC is a part, recently hired a chief diversity officer who will guide all members of the network in achieving their goals.

Last year CVMC offered online “unconscious bias training” to all employees, although she acknowledged that not all participated. She said in order to move forward, the training helps in “raising the level of awareness of the level of unconscious bias.” She described this as an effort on which the medical center continues to focus. 

Dealing with patients who behave inappropriately drives some aspects of the training. Noonan said the center has a reporting system in place, so staff members can report incidents and issues. The center also provides training for its leadership team to provide immediate support, when possible.

While noting shortages in health care staffing right now, Noonan said CVMC has committed to having a more diverse workforce. She said the hospital has recently recruited professionals from other parts of the country who add to the medical center’s diversity. She did not have statistics about employee diversity, adding that CVMC has only recently started tracking that.

Next month, Noonan joins a panel of three professionals in an upcoming League of Women Voters program called “How is Vermont Responding to the Challenges of Racism and Health?” 

The League offers this program as part of a series on that theme, hosted on Zoom by the Kellogg-Hubbard Library. The program will take place on Feb. 9, at 7:00 p.m.. Those wishing to attend and have the opportunity to ask questions can sign up at kellogghubbard.org.

Other panelists include Kheya Ganguly, Director of Trauma Prevention and Resilience Development in the Vermont Department of Mental Health and a member of numerous state committees, including the Racial Justice Task Force and the Health Equity Task Force; and Monika Ganguly-Kiefner, a chronic disease prevention specialist with the Vermont Department of Health who focuses on health equity for traditionally underserved populations, including BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, people with disabilities, and low income communities.

Editor’s note: Tom McKone will be moderating the Feb. 9 program. He is not a member of the League and was not involved in organizing the programs described in this story. Last year he moderated a League panel discussion, “Changing Policing to Improve Public Safety.”