June 14, 2022
From its inception, Venice Family Clinic has existed to fill a gap in access to health care, making equity a primary goal of its operations.
So when George Floyd, a Black man, was killed by a white police officer in Minneapolis two years ago, igniting protests across the country calling for an end to systemic racism, we took stock of what it means to be an organization dedicated to justice. And in the months that followed Floyd’s death, Venice Family Clinic decided that our patients and staff, many of whom are people of color, would be better served if we became an actively anti-racist organization.
“Racism is a public health problem, and health care needs to be part of the solution,” said Elizabeth Benson Forer, chief executive officer and executive director of Venice Family Clinic. “Health disparities in the United States among people of color and especially African Americans have been well documented. Not only do we have an obligation to advocate for all our patients and for equal access to comprehensive health care, we must change the underlying causes of health inequities, including racism, that persists in the health care industry and in American society.”
In August 2020, Venice Family Clinic hired consultants Kimberly Nao, PhD, and Barrie Levy, LCSW, experts on how to combat bias, discrimination and racism within organizations, to evaluate and improve the Clinic’s capacity to identify and address structural racism.
After conducting a needs assessment, Nao and Levy recommended the Clinic take action in several areas: protocols and practices, professional development, outreach and services to Black clients, hiring and promotions, supervisory structures, strategic planning and diversity in leadership, and Black employee voices.
Based on those recommendations, the Clinic held anti-racism workshops for all staff members; established regular discussion groups as safe spaces for staff to talk about racism generally and their experiences at work specifically; and created action teams to develop practical recommendations that address staff concerns.
Tangible outcomes so far include a formal protocol to define what discriminatory behavior is and what the Clinic’s response to it will be; an easy-to-read outline of all the ways a staff member can report incidents of discrimination and/or harassment, no matter the source; a survey for patients about their experiences at the Clinic; and a recommendation for a new position to lead the Clinic’s diversity, equity and inclusion efforts. The Clinic is also actively planning to establish a mentorship program for staff.
Our next steps include extending anti-racism training to the Clinic’s Board of Directors and recruiting more Black patients to join our Patient Advisory Council. Because we started this process before the completion of our merger with South Bay Family Health Care, we are now beginning much of the anti-racism process with our colleagues at our South Bay sites.
We know that structures we create impact our staff members, patients, volunteers, board members and the communities we serve. We look forward to continuing this journey in becoming a more inclusive, equitable and anti-racist organization.