News & Announcements

Phoebe’s New Diversity Council Gets to Work

Albany, Ga. – Around 40 members of the Phoebe Family gathered recently – via video conference and socially-distanced in a large classroom on Phoebe’s main campus – for the first official meeting of the Phoebe Diversity Council. Though the council members may be different in many ways, they say they are united by a common goal: to ensure Phoebe provides a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for employees, patients, board members, visitors and volunteers.

“A diverse and inclusive workforce is an empowered and engaged workforce, excited about leading their organization forward,” said Jennifer Williams, PhD, Phoebe Organizational Development Coach.  “A focus on diversity helps improve productivity, recruitment and retention.  We believe our council’s work will benefit Phoebe in many ways, and it’s the right thing to do for our employees and patients.”

Addressing diversity at Phoebe was a key goal health system President & CEO Scott Steiner set for himself not long after joining Phoebe in March of last year.  “We have an incredibly vibrant and diverse workforce that is representative of the communities we serve.  In some areas of our organization – like on our management team – that diversity has been less evident, and we are committed to looking at ways to making meaningful change,” Steiner said.

Like so much else, Phoebe’s diversity work was delayed during the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic.  A few months ago, Steiner tasked Dr. Williams with getting it back on track.  “We began with focus groups made up of minority leaders across the health system – distilling their input into key action items.  Two recommendations were the establishment of a permanent diversity council and system-wide diversity and unconscious bias training.  Our senior leaders and health system board quickly adopted those recommendations, and we’ve been off and running,” Dr. Williams said.

Phoebe leaders vetted potential council members, securing recommendations from supervisors before inviting around 40 people to serve.  “This group includes people of different races, ethnicities, ages, religions, sexual orientations, and years of experience at Phoebe. The group also represents a diversity of thought, ideas and life experiences,” Dr. Williams said.

Ursula Mathis-Dennis, the Oncology Quality Director in the Phoebe Cancer Center, is one of those selected to serve on the council.  She says it is rewarding to see the organization acknowledge shortcomings and commit to change.  “I can honestly say there is a shift in the atmosphere and culture at Phoebe, and I am grateful to be a part of that change.  I want to be an inspiration to women, minorities and anyone who has ever felt excluded.  I am proof that we, too, can achieve.  Our hard work is valued by this organization, and I am proud there is a seat at the table for everyone,” Mathis-Dennis said.

More than 230 Phoebe leaders have already undergone diversity and unconscious bias training, led by one of the nation’s foremost experts in the field, and the Council plans to roll out similar training to employees throughout the health system. “We want to take a hard look at our organization and identify areas where we need to do better. Depending on what we see, that might make me a little uncomfortable, but if we’re not dealing with discomfort head-on, then we’re not diving in deeply and honestly enough,” Steiner said.

As part of its commitment to diversity, Phoebe joined the Georgia Diversity Council (GADC) which is an extension of the National Diversity Council.  Steiner now serves on the GADC Board of Directors, and Dr. Williams serves on the GADC Advisory Council.  “This is a significant investment by Phoebe that gives our organization a strong voice in regional and national conversations on diversity, equity, and inclusion. It also provides our leaders and Diversity Council members access to tremendous resources and training opportunities,” Dr. Williams said.  “I told our council members they may have to reign me in because there is so much we can do, and I’m excited to get to work and see what we can accomplish together.”