DISPARITIES LEADERSHIP PROGRAM ALUMNI SPOTLIGHT: CHARLOTTE ALEXANDER, MD

Alexander, CharlottePresident and Chairman of the MHMD Board
Memorial Hermann Health System

Houston, Texas

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

At Memorial Hermann, we are passionate about quality which has been a core value for years. Houston is a large multicultural city with significant diversity. To elevate the quality of health care and wellness in our community, it is critical to understand and treat each patient in a place and in a way that maximizes their ability to be successful in managing their own health. Communication in their language and an appreciation of the socioeconomic and cultural factors that influence their health is necessary to provide equitable health care. This is particularly important as we are addressing the challenges of chronic disease management and population health.

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

My “aha” moment came when I heard Dr. Betancourt describe some of the consequences of inequitable care, which include the fact that more expensive tests are ordered on patients with limited English proficiency. I had recently ordered an MRI, which is rarely needed for surgery, for a non-English-speaking patient for whom I was having difficulty getting a good history. Prior to this situation, I would have said that I treat everyone the same. The second realization was that equal treatment does not necessarily provide equitable care. My elderly patients may need more explanation about their disease, reminders about medication or appointments, or extra help at home if they have a surgical intervention.

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

The Disparities Leadership Program has given me the tools to collect and present supporting data to make the case that we do have inequality in care delivery in our hospitals. Because this is tied to the delivery of quality care, developing a solution has been elevated to a priority with system leadership. It is now also part of the conversation as we are discussing new healthcare initiatives. By changing the conversation, our system will be able to provide better care to all of our patients.

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

My advice to someone working in disparities related efforts is to find or develop good data to support your recommendations. It is particularly helpful if you can align this effort with a core value or mission of the organization.

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