Perspectives 3 minute read

Dr. Marijka Grey on Diversity and Health Equity

Marijka Grey, MD, System VP of Ambulatory Transformation and Innovation, Physicians Enterprise, discusses deepening commitment to diversity and health equity.
Marijka Grey, MD, System VP of Ambulatory Transformation and Innovation, Physicians Enterprise, discusses deepening commitment to diversity and health equity.

Is there a person or experience that helped shape your views about health equity and diversity?

I trained in Baltimore, a predominantly African American city, where the health care institutions and the teams who provided health care did not reflect the population. I saw how folks were treated inequitably — as well as how they responded when they met someone of their same race who treated them with compassion, who saw them as mothers, fathers, sons or daughters, as opposed to just a patient or just another person in the emergency room. That had a huge impact on me.

African Americans are 13 percent of the overall population but just five percent of physicians. Being a Black female physician, I've always carried that health equity mission with me as well as the heavy knowledge that the system has often failed people of color in the past.

When you joined us in 2018, what did you know about our commitment to health equity and diversity? Has that perception changed?

The Catholic mission of the organization drew me to CHI. Health equity was part of the Foundresses' fundamental mission. The fact that the sisters went into areas where they weren't necessarily welcomed but knew that folks needed them is a huge part of their impact.

Then, I was very moved and heartened that when we became CommonSpirit Health, health equity and diversity were further cemented into the mission and vision of the organization.

Even at the time of the killing of George Floyd, the founding congregation for CHI Memorial, located in Chattanooga, came out and issued an apology for their role in racism in the past. To own the mistakes of their ancestors, to say, "We will do better," is such a huge part of continuing the work. It shows that our commitment to health equity and diversity has grown even stronger.

Why is it important for CommonSpirit to recognize various heritage months and Black history?

We are stronger when we all feel that we can bring our full selves to work. The recognition of various heritage months allows us to acknowledge the diversity that makes our organization so special.

Is there an innovation that you and your team have championed that enhances CommonSpirit's commitment to health equity?

We partnered with the population health team under Dr. Alisahah Jackson, System Vice President of Population Health Innovation and Policy, to leverage an AI [artificial intelligence] product used in conjunction with community health workers to reach out in areas with some of the lowest vaccination rates nationally. We've been able to contact more than 50,000 patients, usually in their preferred language, to encourage them to get vaccinated or to determine their vaccination status. What we've heard from patients is, "Thank you for caring. Thank you for reaching out."

Do you have a special message for caregivers?

It's simply, “Thank you.” We see the hard work you do every day. You come in and place this job right there in order of importance with your family and friends and your community obligations. We appreciate you for the work that you do to keep our community safe and healthy. I think you find that people here bring their hearts to work and really, truly try to extend that healing mission to all those in need.