The Health Management Academy
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Episode 06

How to Holistically Invest in Health Equity

Episode Description

In this episode, Erickajoy Daniels, SVP and Chief DE&I Officer, Advocate Aurora Health, joins Renee at The Table. They explore how Advocate Aurora has made an organization-wide commitment to equity-like leveraging its spending power through supplier diversity to benefit the community and engaging all team members, from providers to the executive suite.

About Our Guest

Erickajoy Daniels, SVP and Chief DE&I Officer, Advocate Aurora Health

Erickajoy Daniels is the Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at Advocate Aurora Health, where she leads the system-wide rollout of diversity and inclusion efforts. She has nearly two decades of development and consulting experience. Previously, Ms. Daniels was Milwaukee’s Brady Corporation’s Global Director of Organizational Development. She also held employee development positions at the Federal Bureau of Prisons in Washington, D.C.


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Renee DeSilva 0:06

Thank you for coming back to The Academy Table. I’m Renee DeSilva, CEO of The Academy and your host. In each episode of The Table, I’ll bring you real conversations with healthcare’s best leaders and thinkers. We intend to broaden who is at the table while covering the issues that are critical to driving our industry forward. I’m delighted to share this conversation today with my friend and colleague Erickajoy Daniels who is the Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion officer at Advocate Aurora Health. As I’ve learned recently, Erickajoy’s career path started in military research before spending more than a decade at the Federal Bureau of Prisons in their talent and leadership development function. She joined Advocate Aurora in 2015 and continues to have a strong impact on the system’s DE&I strategy. I always look forward to spending time with Erickajoy who I think brings a unique and clear perspective to health equity which is the center of our chat today. There are a few things I call your attention to in my conversation with Erickajoy. First, as she puts it, the power of curiosity. We discuss authenticity and curiosity as enablers that help people jump into and manage hard conversations around race, equity, and inclusion. Next, listen for her thoughts on how to activate different health system stakeholders, whether that’s providers, department heads, or the board in elevating health equity as a true strategic imperative. Finally, I love her thoughts on the importance of supplier diversity and workforce investment and as she puts it, investing has to be more than just writing a check. It’s about accountability and building trust with the community because that’s where patients and team members come from. Taken together, what Erickajoy shares here represents what it looks like to truly and holistically invest in health equity. So with that, let’s head to The Table.

Erickajoy, thank you so much for joining me at The Table. Happy to have you here today.

Erickajoy Daniels 2:16
Thank you so much, Renee. Glad to be with you all.

Renee DeSilva 2:18
I get to see you a couple of times a year. I’ve not seen you in quite some time, but I’m excited to have this conversation with you around health equity. I think that you have one of the best and most clear perspectives in the industry around the importance of that. But before we jump into that topic, I know that you are on a mission to transform healthcare. Healthcare is not necessarily where you started your career, so tell me a little bit about how you found your way into the industry.

Erickajoy Daniels 2:44
Yeah, Renee, it’s interesting. I have a little bit of an eclectic background in my career. I started actually in military research and early on with the US Army not enlisted, but I did soldier stress endurance research. Interestingly enough, I went from there to gerontology research. Then I went to prison; I worked there, did that live there. I worked for the Federal Bureau of Prisons for almost 13 years and had progressive roles in talent development, leadership development, affirmative action community corrections, and was on a career path to be a warden. I had a mentor who was leading me and guiding me and helping to shape me who’s still with me today. Then I found myself exiting prison and went into manufacturing. I was recruited by a company in Milwaukee that was a global company, still is, and they manufacture signs and labels, I had roles there in talent management and organizational development. My background is industrial psychology and OD and so those roles and those environments became a platform for me to learn a lot — skill development, strategy, understanding people, influencing people. Then I found myself with a call from a healthcare system that asked me about looking at a role in diversity, equity, and inclusion. At the time, it wasn’t an area that I wanted to go into. I had some biases, I guess I’ll admit, that oftentimes those roles were kind of pigeonholed or organizations said, “Hey, we’ve got to do diversity so let’s find a woman or woman of color and put them on the website,” and so on. But when I talked with the leadership, I saw it as something new. I love building things that don’t exist. I love connecting dots that people don’t see and the opportunity to build something from the ground up and particularly looking at where we are now, I feel like I’m up to change. You can see I’ve changed industries and I’ve changed roles, but I feel like I’ve found a niche to bring a balance of my career experience into something now.

Renee DeSilva 4:44
Yes, and I can see the patterns on what you just walked through. When you talk about stress research, when you talk about even the prison work that you did around training and equipping those leaders to do some pretty important work, I can see how that would connect back to healthcare. I imagine you can draw on that body of work quite liberally. I don’t know that I knew that about you, but that’s an interesting evolution of career steps that you’ve taken. I love your sentiment around the little bit of skepticism with which you approach the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion work. I would even say, across the last several years, maybe most acutely this year, the national conversation around it has certainly moved. Let’s just start there. How have you seen the conversation shift in both leadership circles, in boardrooms, on the front line as it relates to the importance of equity and inclusion, particularly within the healthcare setting?

Erickajoy Daniels 5:47
Yeah, it’s interesting, because we’ve heard the term “perfect storm” before. It was a storm of many challenges last year. COVID started to hit communities in a continual way that shone a light on the disparities and the inequities and how marginalized communities get impacted differently. For those who know it, whether it’s through lived experience or awareness of understanding and equity in that kind of body of work, it wasn’t new news. It was, to me, surprising that it became newer news to others. I do think it was this clarion call to say there’s an intention that needs to occur to understand the dynamics and the implication across groups that may be different than we expect or assume. Then you layer on top of that economic forces, you lay upon that the forces of racial tension and the situations that came from, the George Floyd murder and those instances while at the same time in COVID people are hibernating and staying at home. We had nothing to do but look at television and watch the newsreels and watch updates on our phones. I think that we were in this moment of being contained for a time of this attention. People sprung out. There’s so much research, I saw LinkedIn numbers about the increase in CDO roles within the last year and people were kind of scraping like, maybe we should do something about diversity. In healthcare, particularly, we know that no matter where anyone is in the country we’re here to help people live well. That is our tagline, but it’s a shared mind in the industry. Are we making sure that all are living well? It causes us to question that differently.

Renee DeSilva 7:37
Absolutely. So let’s just stay on the clarion call, as you mentioned, and put some data underneath that. When we looked at communities of color, we saw that they had a roughly three times higher hospitalization rate, death rates were two times higher. I’ve heard you talk about getting to the root cause of that and sometimes that root cause is not as obvious as just a greater rate of comorbidities or other susceptibility factors. Talk about the dot that you connected around, maybe what drove some of that inequity in outcomes for communities of color from your lens.

Erickajoy Daniels 8:13
Yeah, it’s interesting, because when we were trying to understand more, you’re right, the data always leads us right. There was quantitative data about the cases and then we drilled in and said, well, where are the cases happening? They are happening in these geographies and these zip codes. Okay, well, what else happens to reside or not reside in those zip codes? What dynamics are impacting people’s health? You go back to the age-old understanding of social determinants of health. These same zip codes have issues around safety, have issues around being food deserts where food insecurity is a continual burden. These same places don’t have the same access to physical activity and workouts. The things that you would “prescribe,” quote, unquote, to an individual to improve their health, there may not be the ready opportunity to fully leverage all those assets and tools. When you get to the heart of that, along with listening, we did a lot of listening in our community and not making assumptions, taking the time to be on the ground at boot level and say, “What are the real needs?” Even if we took COVID, for example, just as it was an absolute petri dish and lab for us to learn. We’re telling people to quarantine, we’re telling people to mask up, okay, but can everyone mask the same way as they don’t have access to those? When you think about multi-generational households, it is not as easy to find their own private place there. Schools started to shut down and kids were at home. It caused us to uncover and unbundle all of the dynamics, recognizing we couldn’t fix them all. But what could we take our responsibility to either address ourselves or find partners to collaborate with to make an improvement?

Renee DeSilva 9:51
Yeah, and staying with that a bit, I loved what you just said that the data leads us. I think we know in healthcare that we’re all on various stages of the maturity curve in terms of the data that we’re even capturing. We’ve been doing some work at The Academy around health equity in terms of really trying to understand what that maturity curve looks like. One of the things that we note is that some organizations aren’t even at the point now where they’re capturing the right amount of demographic detail upon registration or other access moments. Just to start a little bit around unpacking how do you think about setting up the data infrastructure at the earliest parts of interaction with patients that then allow you to mine for where the opportunities are? Where do you begin?

Erickajoy Daniels 10:35
Absolutely. The core fundamentals of real data — race, ethnicity, and language. Getting that insight on your patients gives you intel into how to best address them and their needs. It also enables an organization to understand where their greatest areas of opportunity are. Because the more that you go at things with a macro level, those who are being adversely impacted at a micro-level will never reach the surface to get the attention that’s needed. Understanding someone’s race and ethnicity, understanding their language preferences. People don’t realize how much language preference and access and support in that manner contributes to health equity, to be able to understand and comprehend and be able to connect with a provider for your greatest care so that you can get those better outcomes. Once you have that information collected, and I want to stay there for a minute, Renee, when I think about not just the collection, but the appropriate collection and understanding how you even ask for the information.

Renee DeSilva 11:32
Say more about that because I think that can be a barrier in terms of how do you ask in a way that lands well with the person on the other side of that conversation?

Erickajoy Daniels 11:41
The ask should come with the why. Why do I want to know your race and ethnicity — because it helps me help you better. It helps me understand cultural nuances that I should be attentive to. If someone’s a Jehovah’s Witness, understanding restrictions around blood collection or if it’s understanding, like I said, language — language needed if getting your information where you have a written language or spoken language, right? Understanding when I provide a diet for you, it doesn’t just mean you put it in another language but it is tied to the foods that you are already connected to, we just want to cook them differently. Those things matter. If someone understands that and that trust is there, they’ll disclose that and more. They’ll provide it because they understand that you’re coming from an authentic place of learning them, even to the fact of thinking about how some pharmaceuticals don’t have the same efficacy across certain groups. We have to have that intel to be better informed in our decision-making. Then you get to very dicey information like sexual orientation and gender identity. You have to be very careful how you ask, why you ask, and the collection and protection of that information. That kind of education to those who touch the patients to get the questions answered and then the adequate tracking to ensure that we are collecting it and keeping our eye on it and using the information for decision making.

Renee DeSilva 13:02
That’s right. We generally as leaders perform to what we measure. There’s now a national conversation at CMS around this notion of a hospital equity score which would take a stab at synthesizing some of the social risk factors, the disparity measures, holding providers accountable for how they’re nuanced in that. It’s good to see some of these national conversations happening. What are your thoughts on models like that? Maybe it just comes down to, when you think about all the data that we’re collecting, how do you even start in terms of figuring out the metrics that are meaningful to drive the right outcomes that we’re hoping to achieve as an industry?

Erickajoy Daniels 13:44
It’s funny how you said earlier about the breadcrumbs in my career path because I remember when I came into healthcare, coming from a factoring standpoint we measured a lot for productivity, for safety, for quality, for delivery to door, and I thought, what does that look like? What’s the process in the evaluation of healthcare? I quickly learned what that looks like. We measure a lot in our industry because it informs us. When asked about what measures do you collect, my first questions here were, what do we already measure that’s important? We just need to stratify it by the meaningful dimensions of diversity. But then you take it to that next kind of level of maturity and you’re saying, “Where do we need to dig deeper?” I do believe that composite scores or a health equity score for an organization gives you a few benefits. One, it becomes a singular place to understand the richness of how many attributes it takes for accountability to drive advanced health equity. The other benefit, I think, is that it also incorporates and engages the multiple stakeholders because each of those measures come from different parts of the business which come from different processes and data owners. So it becomes a collective effort, not just a single department that’s trying to raise health equity to its premier place. In doing that, designing what that scoring model looks like, agreeing upon what we believe we should measure, even if it shows us it’s something we’re not measuring now, but we need to do the homework, sometimes that will surface as well. It’s like in your car — you can see your oil, you can see your battery, you can see your mileage, you can see your gas, but it’s a single view. Having that dashboard enables you to see and have the quick alert of, oh, your engine is not working well, your health equity engine is not working. So you don’t have to pop the hood and think everything’s awry, but I can zero in and understand where my misses are.

Renee DeSilva 15:44
I think that’s right. It’s also an opportunity for providers to drive the conversation versus responding to it. Sometimes when CMS or CMMI get involved in things, the aim and intent are there, I guess maybe the path can be debatable at times. I’m hopeful that many of our members will have an opinion on that and try to drive the conversation so that we adopt things that are useful and impactful to the end state of the patient experience.

Erickajoy Daniels 16:11
Yes and that we own it, not for it to be imposed upon us.

Renee DeSilva 16:14
Exactly. So staying a little bit on that, one of the things that I’ve noted in the last several months is that the board-level conversation on equity is becoming much more active. I would say that Advocate Aurora, and there’s maybe one or two health systems that I’m aware of that are also forward-leaning on this, recently stood up an equity committee of the board. So the same way there’s a quality committee and executive compensation committee and audit/finance committee, there’s now an equity committee. That’s interesting to me in terms of a really strong signal in terms of board-level requirements around really leaning into this and getting this right. Talk to us about just that journey that you all made. What was the impetus for that and what’s the charter of the equity committee of the board?

Erickajoy Daniels 17:05
Yes, I think it follows suit with these building blocks that we’ve had of lifting diversity, equity, and inclusion to a strategic imperative in the organization. I first got to Aurora at the time, because I came at the time before the merger, with a personal determination. I was like, I’m gonna make DE&I a strategic imperative for the company. I want to show them that it’s a strategic enabler and it can drive this business like nothing else. In doing so, operationalizing the work was very key and getting the conversation to be led by people outside of who had the signature block of diversity. That was important. I think doing that when leaders are sharing an understanding that it is an enabler, it is a prioritization, we then were able to arrive at a place where it’s lifted to that esteem. Just like you mentioned, the same level as other committees, just like a governance level, you keep an eye on those most important levers of the enterprise. It was recognized that DE&I was at the same place. So internally we were raising it as part of our annual incentive plan. It’s part of our monthly scorecards that all leaders not only see but are held accountable to. We’re growing that momentum. At the same time, we had increased board interest, engagement, and personal learning where they’re growing and seeing what questions do they ask, how do they engage with the organization to understand what role they should play? A great combination of the two led to our committee which we launched this spring, recently. The role of that group is to understand the strategic priorities around diversity, equity, and inclusion and understanding the new connecting points, how they can help us to bring the right challenging questions, the right support, and then when they’re in other seats of other committees or on the full board, they can raise and bring the connections into broader conversations. When you talk about getting a seat at the table we don’t have to physically be present from management because that voice and that position is coming in because the board’s voice is bringing it and that’s a great ability. Yes, absolutely.

Renee DeSilva 19:17
And is their charter, it’s DE&I holistically so the workforce side of it, the community side, the patient and outcomes piece as well?

Erickajoy Daniels 19:26
Yes, absolutely because we also don’t want to miss the connections that lead up to that big due north of health equity. But representation affects health equity, our committee investments affect health equity, so we wanted to go at it with a comprehensive view.

Renee DeSilva 19:41
If you stay on the board topic for a moment, you and I have both worked closely with the organization Black Directors Health Equity Advancement, Inc which is a coalition of current healthcare black directors that wanted to mobilize to also try to be a little bit of a clarion call around the importance of advocating for this in boardrooms across the country. Talk a little bit about how we need to equip current directors, whether they’re of color or not, to maybe ask the right questions, drive the right conversation. Is there any advice that you’d offer in terms of a playbook or some tips or tactics around if you find yourself in positions of influence? What’s the right way to nudge and move the conversation along based upon some of the work that we’ve both done with BDHEA?

Erickajoy Daniels 20:31
Yeah, I mean, the interesting thing is that at the point of who’s responsible for providing care across the country, we kind of take competition out of the conversation. We’re all in it for the improvement of the health of our nation and hospitals, large and small around the country, have directors that can be in a position to help influence what happens. I think having a collaboration like this helps to provide a critical mass of drivers. But those drivers, how do we empower them through education and research, understanding what’s the latest while at the same time having a healthy balance of what’s practical and how it can be operationalized in the organization? The questions that can be posed and asked can happen at any committee, opportunity, and voice or, like I said, any broad board discussion, but bringing to bear resources, white papers research is helpful. Just this past year, we created a quick reference guide around COVID based on the data that we understood. There were webinars – everyone was doing webinars. How do you put your mind around all the information out there? We were trying to channel it in, bring the best of these directors, here’s what you should know, and then here’s what you should ask. It resulted in this one-pager placemat with key questions as is a ties to fiduciary responsibilities or for governance or if you’re looking for new individuals to come onto your board. That quick reference guide became a quick cheat sheet so that directors could know. Particularly when some directors are coming from spaces where their career experiences are not in healthcare, with health equity there is an urgency about this work. We want to see if we could be any kind of asset to shorten up and tighten up the learning curve so they can be deployed immediately and be in the conversation.

Renee DeSilva 22:29
That’s right, yes. I think there’s this power in catalyzing the right conversation. There’s a way to move through that conversation where you as the person of color on that board do not have to be the only one that holds the mantle. A lot of those conversations were oriented around how to do that at scale. That is a really powerful way to continue to drive momentum here. I am excited to see how that continues to unfold. We’ve talked a bit about the four walls of the organization and the role of providers and trying to drive quicker movement and momentum on closing equity outcomes and that starts at the board level and it goes all the way through the organization. I think the other thing that has been prioritized at Advocate Aurora certainly is around the community, so both from the supplier diversity and workforce investments angles. Can you talk a little bit about that journey and what you’ve seen work within that space?

Erickajoy Daniels 23:29
Yes, the community becomes such a key anchor because that’s where you get your patients from, it’s where you get your team members from, it’s where your brand is either elevated or not fully supported, it’s where your growth happens. Relationships matter. In our industry, we know that systems are getting larger and larger. No matter what the size, healthcare is still local. People need to know that there’s a connection because that builds trust and trust builds relationships and relationships are really at the heart of any truly effective health connection for outcomes. For us, we make sure that our community partnerships go beyond relationship events. Are we hearing from them? Are we listening? Are we tuning in? Are we making better-informed decisions because we build with our community and are not just assuming for them? Our partnerships make a difference, our organizations that we’re strategically tied to, that are connected to our priorities help us whether it’s for recruiting events or whether it’s sourcing talent or building new vendor relationships and opportunities. Like you mentioned, supplier diversity we have, especially with our size, we have a responsibility with our spending power that those dollars should also be specifically placed in areas that may otherwise get looked over. That’s how you grow the economic health of a community.

Renee DeSilva 24:50
Can we stay on that for a second?

Erickajoy Daniels 24:52

Renee DeSilva 24:52
I read through the equity and inclusion report from Advocate Aurora for this year and I was struck by the level of specificity in terms of goal setting around supplier diversity. This wealth creation and economic support came through. It looks like across the last three years you all have doubled down on that investment, having a specific target percentage of spend on women, people of color, veteran, groups have different abilities. I think it’s interesting when you have the goal, you set a particular segment of the spending on that, and then there are the habits that we all get into in terms of, I need to source something very quickly. How have you all built the system, and I know that you’re not in the supply chain per se, but at a high level, how do you get to the intention while not slowing the day-to-day work of all the teams? How have you balanced those two objectives?

Erickajoy Daniels 25:46
Absolutely. You have to take the time and the candid approach of saying, “Are we willing to evaluate and understand our current behaviors and preferences?” and understand, “Are they in contradiction to our desired outcomes of investing in the community?” I say that because we have shared conversations. I don’t need supply diversification in our area of responsibility. We meet collectively with the supply chain and with finance and with construction. The one thing I have shared with my organization here is that anyone who has spending authority has got supplier diversity responsibility.

Renee DeSilva 26:22

Erickajoy Daniels 26:22
Anyone who can write a check and spend money needs to be held accountable there. The system goal helps us get there, but you’re right, the behavior is different. Reevaluating and understanding if any of our processes are barriers, such as our net pay terms or our requirements on insurance liabilities. We’ve been looking at those things to make sure that we don’t have barriers that are contradictory to the outcomes that we’re going after. It’s been encouraging to see that shared ownership. We’ve got construction leaders who are saying, we know we have an end build, we know we have an end bid, but who are we missing or who do we bring along? Who do we mentor? How do we find programs that will provide that? It’s not just finding the businesses and giving them business, but it’s also giving them an opportunity, giving them feedback. Investing can go far beyond just dollars. We’ve sent different smaller companies to business development programs like at Dartmouth because we believe investing has more than a check behind it.

Renee DeSilva 27:21
That’s right. To underscore your sentiment there, we can all have good intentions, but sometimes the way that we run processes can get the better of those intentions. You talked about maybe it’s the terms or things that are required that would make it harder for a small business to compete. I think you could draw that same parallel on the workforce side of it.

Erickajoy Daniels 27:38
Oh absolutely.

Renee DeSilva 27:38
When you think about filling candidate roles…

Erickajoy Daniels 27:44
Just like Teller.

Renee DeSilva 27:45
Yes, exactly.

Erickajoy Daniels 27:50
Even looking at how you look and when you look. Forward-thinking, you don’t have to only look for a new hire when you have an open position. You can keep your eye out there on what talent you want to grab one day. The same thing with vendors. The bid may not have come up for a turn yet, but do you have a network of accessible businesses that you may seek after?

Renee DeSilva 28:14
That’s right. I talk a lot about this too. You have to invest in relationship building with those groups that you are not as well connected with. Our social networks and we’re all very guilty of this no matter who you are, tend to get into a rhythm so that when you’re recruiting you go back to the very familiar sources. Building out those relationships in advance of need is an important way that we do better on all these metrics. Humans left to our devices will take the easiest path forward oftentimes. What you’re saying here in terms of investing in advance of need makes a lot of sense to me personally.

Let’s talk about your leadership style and your life experience and how that impacts how you show up as a leader. I’m going to go back to where we started the conversation around your early reluctance to take on the equity inclusion role, being aware of the fact that you are a woman of color and not wanting to pigeonhole yourself into a view. At the same time, that’s a force multiplier too because you have a shared experience, a lived experience that’s important to all the work that you’re doing. Where has your journey been on that? How have you reconciled that? Talk to us a little bit about how you show up and how that is shaped by your personal experience and background?

Erickajoy Daniels 29:33
Yes. Having a mentor, having an at-home consultant, otherwise known as my husband, people who check you. Interesting enough too is my son. My son is 12, he’s a very astute, old soul. When you allow people to have visibility in your life, they can help you calibrate a few things. I’ll never forget one time I had gone to a local leadership meeting externally in the community. I was fired up. I wasn’t there as a representative of diversity and inclusion, I was there for another reason. I was thinking, “Oh, I should say this, but no, they won’t because they just expect me because I’m the only black person in here.” I came home and told my husband. He said, “Well if you didn’t say it, who would?” Then said, “If you already think they’re expecting you to say it, then why wouldn’t you just share?” That has stuck with me of how do I leverage my voice and use it responsibly? I do think there’s an art to how we share and how we challenge and how we nudge and how we provoke, but I do think there’s a time and need for it. I’ve had to calibrate that often with myself, whether it’s something I write to myself first to make sure the words came out effectively or understanding the plan and the place and the space for it. There have often been times where I’ve reserved my concern or I often say my curiosities for a more private environment because I never want to blast someone, but I do want to challenge them so they can be better.

Renee DeSilva 31:04
You can’t see me because we’re not on video, but I’m shaking my head and I’m looking like a crazy lady. Yes, everything you said, yes. I think there’s awareness when you’re the only one in a room — whatever only would come after that word. I would say for myself it’s been a journey because you are aware that you’re often the only one, you sometimes are still getting comfortable with your place at the table and there can be self-talk that might cause you to hold back on things or to want to play a little bit smaller than you should. I have said to myself, even for me more recently, if not me, then who? There’s also the privilege with the platform. It would be irresponsible to not use it. I’m totally with you. I say the importance of calling people in versus calling people out. The way that you have that conversation does make a world of difference.

Erickajoy Daniels 32:01
Yes. A relationship is needed to do that. I do think that relationship and rapport, as much as possible, sometimes when you have a short window of time you can’t build a long term relationship, but some kind of rapport or connection that can precede a challenge or feedback can go a long way.

Renee DeSilva 32:19
That’s right. That requires all of us to just spend the time on the important things, things that may not be urgent to sort of seed that relationship capital in advance of need, and be thoughtful about how we do it. There’s also the role of allies in that conversation and how you tap into other people to help amplify that. Talk a little bit about how you’ve thought about that in your career.

Erickajoy Daniels 32:42
The power of allyship is, I have found for myself, I learned when I stumbled incorrectly, some of the best allies are the most unusual suspects. I can think of a few people early on in my career that probably would have been strong allies but I had my own biases that kept me from extending the relationships. Holding on to that lesson, interestingly enough, from what I learned in prison. I learned a lot sitting across from inmates. There are assumptions we make about people that can become such an impediment to us getting something valuable that’s mutually beneficial. We would benefit from being willing to suspend our judgments and our understandings and seek to do differently. When I meet people, people are like, “Oh, I met you and I looked you up on LinkedIn.” I am so bad because I don’t like looking people up until I meet them. I want to come with a fresh understanding of who they are. For allies, finding people in places, I often look for the places where I feel like I either don’t have reach or influence. I first want to learn from them what I don’t know about that space or that topic or that industry or whatever it is because I’m going to learn from them and then I also am hoping that they can learn from me. So looking for mutually beneficial allies, not just allies that can carry my message. That’s been important for me.

Renee DeSilva 34:11

Erickajoy Daniels 34:12
That ends up setting up a more sustainable impact and people who want to build you up because there’s so much I want to learn. From a sense of diversity, equity, and inclusion, I always want to talk about it in context and application. I can’t do that if I don’t understand the nature of what I’m getting into.

Renee DeSilva 34:34
I love the word that you used earlier — that you’re curious. That’s a powerful framework to bring to what can sometimes be charged conversations. I’ve heard you all talk about it within your system as having real talk, real conversations and there’s so much power in doing that.

Erickajoy Daniels 34:53
With curiosity too, I think it’s also authentic curiosity that gives people grace to jump into the topic of diversity and inclusion. When leaders are saying, “I’m not too sure, I might mess up.” But if someone knows you’re authentically curious, they’ll give you a pass.

Renee DeSilva 35:08
That’s exactly right. I think there’s power in terms of how that brings people into a conversation that they may otherwise not have been open to having. For better or worse, this past year has collectively made people willing to engage in things that would be hard, like we can do hard things, we can have hard conversations. People seem to be more willing to do that across the world, but particularly within the healthcare circles that I tend to run in for sure.

My final question. In launching season two of this podcast, we renamed it The Academy Table. Part of my vision for that was that I wanted to create space for more voices to be at The Table. There’s so much joy that comes from being around a table sharing a meal, sharing a glass of wine, a coffee, whatever your drink of choice is. My question for you and this can be fictional people, people who are still with us or maybe have passed on. If you’re head of a table and could invite any two people for a conversation at your specially curated table, who would you pick and why?

Erickajoy Daniels 36:19
Oh, wow. That’s a good one. I almost want to bookend it with someone who’s no longer here who has a historical view and someone who’s here now that has a forward-thinking view and find out what do we miss and what’s taking so long? I’m trying to think of who, but I just think about, if I’m in the middle of the past and the future, what can I do to accelerate something different?

Renee DeSilva 36:49
That’s a perfect answer. You don’t even need to name names. That’s a perfect answer.

Erickajoy Daniels 36:56
Oh good. That’s what I want my table to be.

Renee DeSilva 36:56
Yes, that’s great. Well, it’s always a pleasure chatting with you. I appreciate your time today and again, hope to be with you in person soon. Thank you so much. You’re such a cogent, clear voice on an issue that can sometimes be murky. I appreciate always when you come and give us your insights so thank you so much for joining us today. I really do appreciate it.

Erickajoy Daniels 37:18
Thank you for the invitation, Renee, I enjoyed it.

Renee DeSilva 37:21
Thanks again for joining me at The Table. The Table is a podcast produced by the Health Management Academy. Make sure you catch future episodes by visiting our website or by subscribing on the podcast platform of your choice. If you have suggestions for topics or guests, I’d love to hear from you. Please drop me a note at I look forward to talking with you soon.