Disparities Leadership Program Alumni Spotlight: Laura Vail, PHR, SHRM-CP

Director, Office of Inclusion and Health Equity

Cone Health

Greensboro, NC

Laura Vail

Class of 2017-2018

Why are you passionate about this work?
Cone Health is where the courts first integrated healthcare in 1963. Nine courageous black physicians and dentists in our community changed the conversation about race and health equity across the nation. That story, our history, inspires me to do the work to address race and health equity today.

What was your “aha” moment while working on equity-related efforts at your organization?For me, it was an ‘aha’ to begin to see the data that demonstrated disparities within our health system and our community. I think it’s easy to look at national data and assume that those disparities happen elsewhere but “not in our backyard.” There were surprises about which races were suffering disparities and which quality outcomes (or sometimes access issues) were bubbling up to be of the greatest concern.

What part of the Disparities Leadership Program has been the most useful in moving your work forward?
The relationships we formed with the DLP staff have been so valuable to us. The subject matter expertise that they provided throughout the program was amazing. We are still tapping into that subject matter expertise! Last fall, we held a Social Determinants of Health Summit for local health providers and those working with non-profits and invited Aswita Tan-McGrory, MBA, MSPH, Deputy Director of the DSC, to be the keynote speaker. This spring, we are hosting an event for physicians where Joe Betancourt, MD, MPH, Director of the DSC, will share information about health disparities.

What is one piece of advice you would give anyone working on disparities/equity-related efforts?
Carpe diem—seize the day and start with what you have! I started collecting data using pdfs and transferring the information manually to excel spreadsheets. It was not sophisticated, but it was our data, and it was revealing disparities in both patient satisfaction and quality measures. Today, the data system we’re using is much more robust, but I would say to anyone, you can start simple and add metrics and analysis tools along the way. Start with what you have and be commited to continuous improvement!

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