By Randena Hulstrand, Vizient
Since the onset of COVID-19, people have experienced unprecedented changes in their personal lives and in the workplace. Societal upheaval focused a keen eye on race, gender, healthcare and social inequities and employers have been challenged to address these issues within their organizations and communities.
"The role of diversity, health equity and inclusion (DHEI) leaders in healthcare systems is more necessary than ever to provide comprehensive solutions that address food insecurity, housing instability, lack of access to equal education and exposure to environmental pollutants, to name a few," said LeeMichael McLean, who recently stepped into his new role as associate vice president, member networks and performance improvement, responsible for diversity, health equity and inclusion, and ESG initiatives at Vizient.
McLean's professional journey spanning 22 years at Vizient — from marketing specialist to manager of business planning and operations to roles within member networks — has developed his skills in relationship management, collaboration, consensus building, change management and operational strategy. He's also gained significant experiences with diversity and inclusion and is passionate about helping those who are marginalized.
"I don't think there's any greater privilege than finding people who are having the hardest time or enduring the most hopeless situation," he said, "and helping to connect them to resources to improve their health, extend their lives and improve our communities."
Power of networks
During the pandemic, in his previous role as senior networks director helping to build a space where DHEI leaders could come together to problem solve, McLean started convening member network chief diversity officers remotely to talk about re-energizing their staff, providing anti-racism training and really trying to navigate the path of national discourse.
In doing so, he realized DHEI roles, especially in mid-sized organizations, report to a single executive, but many larger organizations have two leadership positions in their DHEI reporting structure — a diversity officer that is more internally focused on workforce culture and belonging, and a health equity officer that is more externally focused on community and population health.
"Because the two positions are so intertwined, working together hand-in-glove on almost every initiative, we brought the diversity and inclusion network and the health equity network together to share best practices and to particularly help hospitals who only have one officer benefit from those who have the resources to have two positions," he said. "But we also took this as an opportunity to more holistically weave Vizient's Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) offerings such as the Supplier Diversity Program and community contracting partnerships together with data and analytic tools such as the patent-pending Vizient Vulnerability Index."
In 2005, McLean became a founding member of Vizient's Diversity Council, an employee-driven group.
"I threw in my name for the new council, and later discovered I was the only applicant who had self-identified as being gay," he said, adding it inspired him to encourage more people to self-identify. "Together we focused on trying to collect demographics for our employee base, such as gaining a better understanding of how many women and people of color were in senior leadership roles. I also remember that first year asking if we could fly the gay pride flag in June in front of the organization and while it was too soon for many people to do that, I made that request year after year. Eventually, those initiatives snowballed and have since become ingrained in our inclusive culture at Vizient. When the pride version of our logo debuted, I almost fell off my chair because I didn't know it was coming. I'm so proud of what we are doing now."
He also participates in Pride@Vizient, one of seven Vizient Diversity Networking Associations (DNA), which promotes awareness around the unique challenges of LGBTQ+ employees and helps the organization attract, develop and retain LGBTQ+ community members and allies. And through McLean's openness and support through the years, he's provided caring mentorship to many employees and members.
Taking all he's learned, McLean is motivated through his new role to create more equitable opportunities for people, especially those who are underrepresented.
"The whole basis for Vizient's success in bringing healthcare leaders together to make improvements is looking for the best way to approach an issue, implementing it and then moving on to the next problem," he said. "I'm excited to employ that in the diversity, health equity and inclusion space."
And he has specific ideas in mind to forge connections such as creating a lending library of successful community interventions to transfer knowledge.
"One of the top questions we get from members is where they should start in their DHEI journeys and what are other organizations doing. So, I'm going to capture some of the organization success stories and tips around interesting community interventions to address issues such as hypertension, food deserts, transportation or housing issues," he said. "Then other members can replicate success and move forward faster."
But McLean's greatest promise for moving diversity, health equity and inclusion forward for healthcare organizations is his knack for bridging divides and bringing others together.
"I have the ability to listen and make connections that help healthcare leaders do their jobs easier, more efficiently and safer," he said. "I can't wait to create more success stories impacting those who need access to resources the most."