MADIGAN ARMY MEDICAL CENTER, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash. – As a result of the civil unrest across the nation stemming from the George Floyd murder last summer, top leaders of the Department of Defense and the U.S. Army issued statements in support of the call to action that spread across the country.
The military’s response
This included a joint statement by then Secretary of the Army Ryan McCarthy, Chief of Staff of the Army Gen. James McConville and Sergeant Major of the Army Michael Grinston acknowledging the anger and that racial disparity is a national issue that impacts all facets of American life. These leaders affirmed that our oath of service binds us to ensure equitable treatment for every member of our formation and to establish a more inclusive environment.
In congressional testimony in July 2020, Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, declared, "There is no place in our armed forces for manifestations or symbols of racism, bias or discrimination."
These statements were quickly followed by the introduction of a new initiative, Project Inclusion, to improve diversity, equity and inclusion across the force and build cohesive teams.
Early elements of the initiative focused on listening sessions, of which Madigan had a few, where staff could have an open discussion on the current state of operations and challenges that impede achieving full success in the realm of DEI.
Madigan Army Medical Center on Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Wash., also answered the call and is tackling the challenge head-on with its new Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee.
New leaders emerge
At the start of the year, the request for applications went out to staff to apply for membership on the committee. The process included a questionnaire and interview that probed an applicant’s background, attitudes and commitment to affecting positive change for the organization.
The members have been selected and they have now met for their first few monthly meetings. In those sessions they have spent a good deal of time getting to know where each comes from and how they hope to engage staff. They have also hammered out a purpose and charter and gotten a mailbox set up to receive comments, concerns and suggestions from staff.
Aryanna Conyer, one of the committee’s co-vice chairs who is the administrative officer for the Department of Emergency Medicine, offered some insight into the overarching goal of the members.
“We are representatives to foster and to encourage diversity, equity, inclusion and, certainly to be a voice to advisors to the command,” she said.
Lt. Col. Marc Hohman, M.D., the other co-vice chair and a facial reconstructive surgeon who has operated on patients making gender transitions, repeatedly expressed interest in ensuring Madigan is as welcoming to all as possible.
“I think we're trying to keep an eye out for ways that we can make Madigan itself more welcoming to patients with diverse lifestyles, and to look for ways to ensure that career advancement opportunities are equal,” he said.
The members of this committee stepped forward specifically to be representatives, to be visible and available to their colleagues on every form of the topics at hand. While the impetus for the creation of such a committee stemmed from the civil unrest surrounding racial injustice, the committee’s own make up sheds light on the wide scope of its field of vision.
The members draw their ethnic backgrounds from all corners of the globe, varying genders and gender identities are represented, there are those who identify as lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender and a multitude of religious and spiritual belief systems are inherent in the group.
In his January commentary, Command Sgt. Maj. Albert Harris spoke of his intent to throw a wide net, saying, “We want a true mix and representation of the whole organization.”
Harris serves as the committee’s executive chair and representative on the executive committee where he brings issues and ideas forward for implementation. He views this forum as one aspect of the Madigan Mindset – taking care of each other.
Though the committee, by its very nature, asks its members to be very open personally on topics that are often hard to deal with, especially in a workplace, its members also find it refreshing to be granted the space to talk and deal with these subjects.
“We’re all very passionate about it,” Conyer added.
The typical committee meeting includes teambuilding exercises and, in the early stages of the committee’s formation, discussions of by-laws, process and expected event or observance support.
A teambuilding exercise can take the form of individual and team explorations of a scenario that examines values, judgment and responsibility. It invariably demonstrates that a group discussion of 10 committee members, plus the command sergeant major will produce 11 different perspectives on the scenario at hand. But, as Sgt. 1st Class Chris Guariglia, Madigan’s equal opportunity non-commissioned officer, points out in his facilitation of the exercise, the objective is to draw out those varying views so people can recognize that every individual brings their unique, personal experiences and values into their evaluation of any situation.
Engagements so far have included the committee’s sponsorship of the Juneteenth and Transgender Medicine in the Military events coordinated by the Graduate Medical Education Internal Medicine Residency Program’s DEI committee that occurred in June. Madigan’s DEI committee intends to explore different ways to support these types of observances.
Following the Army tradition of national leadership in providing equitable and inclusive opportunities, and in striving to eliminate subcultural elements that threaten Army values, Madigan’s DEI committee is leading the way promoting the principles of dignity and respect, as well as the Madigan value of taking care of one another while delivering safe, high quality healthcare.
With hundreds of resident, interns and fellows pursuing advanced medical training through its programs, Madigan is a robust training platform for military medicine. The programs of Madigan’s Graduate Medical Education department have been very active in promoting the goals of the DEI committee, as evidenced by the Internal Medicine Residency Program’s DEI committee and its events. At the request of GME, representatives are being added to Madigan’s DEI committee.
As the committee refines its processes and deepens its roots in the organization, it wants staff to be aware of its members and to consider them advocates to engage on DEI issues. Watch for information about the individual committee members as well as upcoming events and ways to engage with the committee.
Focus on intent and individuals
Command Sgt. Maj. Albert Harris (executive chair), senior enlisted advisor for Madigan
Aryanna Conyer (co-vice chair), administrative officer, Dept. of Emergency Medicine
Lt. Col. (Dr.) Marc Hohman (co-vice chair), surgeon and deputy director, Andersen Simulation Center
Tula’i Patane, practice manager, Dental Activity – JBLM
CH (Maj.) Rebecca Ammons, chaplain, Dept. of Ministry & Pastoral Care
1st Lt. Xavier Pollard, clinical staff nurse, Dept. of Pediatrics
Anthea Becerra, HR tech lead, Troop Battalion
Sylvia Draper, nurse assistant, Dept. of Surgery
Maj. Uyen Chu, OIC – Decentralized Labs, Dept. of Pathology & Laboratory
Mindy Wolfe, LPN, Internal Medicine
Melody Culp, medical support assistant, Dept. of Surgery
To advocate for a diverse, equitable and inclusive environment for all members of the Madigan community.
The Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee is charged with highlighting issues, concerns, and ideas which impact diversity, equity, and inclusion throughout Madigan. We act as a point of contact for concerns, issues, and the promotion of DEI, provide transparency on how issues are addressed, and advise the executive committee on matters related to DEI.
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