Disparities Leadership Program Alumni Spotlight: Ramanathan (Ram) Raju, MD, MBA, FACS, FACHE

Ram RajuPresident and Chief Executive Office of New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) 

  1. Why are you passionate about this type of work?

The 6th Aim of the Institute of Medicine remains unrealized. We are failing to provide high-quality and equitable care to all patients regardless of race, age, gender, ethnicity, income, geographic location, or any other demographic factors. I am passionate about addressing this failure within our healthcare system.

Until I read the Institute of Medicine report, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Healthcare, the focus of my practice as a vascular surgeon was limited to my own patients, and the care I was providing them. Upon reading the report, I was shocked to discover how many people in US do not have access to healthcare. Furthermore, within vulnerable populations, even those with access may still have poor health outcomes. I couldn’t believe that, even in the US, people are dying early from diseases that are easily preventable and treatable. As I became more educated about these issues, I felt embarrassed that I was part of a healthcare delivery system that did not provide equitable care for all patients.

  1. What was your “aha” moment while working on equity-related efforts at your organization?

My aforementioned embarrassment served as a catalyst to embark on a mission to address the unacceptable lack of healthcare equity. As Chief Medical Officer, I started the first Equity Council, installed the first Equity Officer, and initiated the practice of tracking of health outcomes based on ethnicity within New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation.

  1. What part of the Disparities Leadership Program has been the most useful in moving your work forward?

The collaborative network of professionals within the Disparities Solutions Center has helped move my work forward. This particular program brings together people who are passionate about embracing diversity and ending disparities in healthcare in this country. The DLP network spreads an infectious passion, which I consider quite wonderful. Those who are selected for this fellowship enter already committed and passionate to this issue and, during the course of their fellowship, are exposed to new ideas and a collaborative atmosphere. In the end, they leave as zealots for equity in healthcare.

  1. What is one piece of advice you would give anyone working on disparities/equity related efforts?

We should identify and work towards eliminating existing disparities, while also being aware of new disparities within our society. Currently, there are widening disparities in the US Healthcare System based on immigration status as well as gender identity. As we work towards minimizing disparities based on race, ethnicity and language, new disparities are constantly arising. So, not only should we be fighting the disparities that have existed historically, we also need to be vigilant in our work to prevent new disparities from being created. Healthcare is better by inclusion and the inclusion of all patients should be our goal.

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