Jennifer Mieres, MD, FACC, MASNC, FAHA started her career as a physician at Northwell Health before she returned to the health system in 2010 to establish the office of Diversity, Inclusion and Health Literacy. In 2012, she assumed oversight for the Katz Institute for Women’s Health before leading the evolution of her team into the Center for Equity of Care in 2017.
Today Dr. Mieres is the senior vice president, Center for Equity of Care and the Chief Diveristy and Inclusion Officer at Northwell Health. In addition to her Northwell responsibilities, she’s also a professor of Cardiology and associate dean of Faculty Affairs that Zucker School of Medicine. Through all of her roles at Northwell, from director of Nuclear Cardiology at North Shore University Hospital, to becoming our first Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, Dr. Mieres has been a leader with a passion for diversity, equity and inclusion.
We spoke with Dr. Mieres to discuss Northwell’s commitment to diversity and inclusion and the work of the Center for Equity of Care.
What exactly does your role as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer entail?
For 17 years, my role as a cardiologist was a mixture of clinical practice, women’s heart health research, teaching, community education and some administrative work. Now, as Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, my mission is to identify gaps resulting from disparities in healthcare and establish evidence-based strategies for eliminating them. For the past 10 years, I have spent most of my time on the design and implementation of programs dedicated to diversity, cultural and linguistic competency, health literacy, and the expanded model for women’s health with the Katz Institute for women’s health . We have established several strategic partners throughout the health system, to advance our diversity , equity and inclusion agenda forward.
What role does the Center for Equity of Care play within Northwell Health?
The Center for Equity of Care (CEC) is Northwell’s platform for advancing Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Health care. Since being established in 2017, or mission has been this: To advance the delivery of culturally and linguistically appropriate health care in partnership with our communities with the goal of achieving health equity.
Northwell has taken a comprehensive approach to addressing healthcare disparities by making Diversity, inclusion and health equity a priority in all areas at Northwell Health, the Zucker School of Medicine and the Northwell Hofstra School of Nursing. CEC serves as a resource for the health system and communities, focusing on diversity and inclusion, women’s health, health literacy, education, cultural and linguistic competency, community partnership and appropriate community-and gender-based research initiatives. Our objective is to ensure all team members have the skills and knowledge to provide culturally responsive health care to all our patients. We work with all areas and departments of Northwell to embed the tenets of diversity, inclusion and health equity across the health system, medical and nursing schools. The CEC defines diversity as the mosaic of people who bring a variety of backgrounds, styles, perspectives, values and beliefs as assets to the workplace. At Northwell Health, we believe that every team member deserves to feel welcomed, respected and supported, and that differences should be acknowledged and embraced.
You founded and maintain strategic oversight of Northwell’s BERGs. Why is this program so important?
The Center of Equity of Care founded Business Employee Resource Groups (BERGs) in 2013 and they have been instrumental in advancing an inclusive culture at Northwell. The BERGs program was established to enhance employee engagement, innovation and talent development, and promote an inclusive culture ensuring the delivery of culturally sensitive, quality patient care. Our BERGs are integral to fulfilling our mission, serve an important role in building a diverse pipeline of talent at all levels and sustaining trusted partnerships with the communities we serve.
BERG objectives include developing employee engagement, enhancing talent recruitment, retention, and development of a diverse pipeline, and serving as ambassadors to minorities, women, people with disabilities, veterans and individuals who identify as LGBTQIA+. The objectives lead to high-quality patient care and overall community wellness.
How has the Center for Equity of Care team help foster an inclusive workplace as well as translate that to within our communities?
The foundation built by the CEC, contributed to the evolving roadmap for Northwell’s rapid response to addressing the health disparities unveiled by Covid19. With the newly established Office of Community and Population Health lead by Dr. Debbie Salas – Lopez, a Health Equity task force was established with the faith-based organizations and community members in Nassau and Suffolk with a focus on testing and vaccination of members of underserved communities and vulnerable populations served by Northwell.
During this challenging year, our clinical leadership has also created initiatives in response to racial injustice. Recognizing the connections between racism and mental health, Northwell’s behavioral health services works to empower employees to become active participants in dismantling racist structures that contribute to inequity and injustice.
Zucker Hillside Hospital created RISE (fighting Racial Injustice and supporting Systemic Equity), a resident- run organization committed to educating individuals in the community about mental health disparities. The group currently has 32 active members.
Other anti-racism efforts include roundtable discussions with team members, inclusive leadership training, Grand Rounds series on health equity, diversity and inclusion, and a Psychology Diversity Training Council. The Department of Medicine also established a Racial Equity Task Force to bring awareness of structural racism within health care and develop anti-racism initiatives and strategies. A comprehensive plan was laid out in the department, starting with a Department of Medicine Commitment to Equity.
What are some of the initiatives your team has planned for 2021?
CEC is now a member of the Department of Community and Population Health. Overall we are aiming to advance the link with quality and equity, address healthcare delivery disparities, expanding cultural competency education for the Northwell workforce and to amplify and expand our community partnerships. Working with the Health Equity Task Force, we will continue to invest and partner with our vulnerable and underserved communities.
Additionally, a priority is to foster a culturally responsive workforce to support the mission of the health system. We are evolving Northwell’s Inclusion Academy in alignment with the Center of Learning & Innovation to build team member skill, knowledge and abilities in diversity, inclusion and health equity. We are also developing and implementing programming to build awareness of racism as a public health crisis. Another priority is to partner with HR to advance diversity in leadership and governance, including the Board of Trustees, to ensure we reflect the communities we serve.