Everyone lives a unique life. It’s time to tap into the spectrum of experiences to nurture an ecosystem that gives everyone the chance to be healthy.

Showing up for care is probably an item on a person’s to-do list. No one wants to be a patient, especially if they don’t feel welcome or trusting of the staff or environment.

In Episode 4, guests talk about why it’s essential to reset the paradigm of trust and welcoming if healthcare is going to meaningfully work toward health equity.

Communities are powered by people—and the variety of lives, jobs, schedules, and skills keep cities buzzing. Providing care means healthcare has to show up for “y’all” no matter the gender identity, work schedule, or preferred language. But there are countless ways the current health care systems fall short on demonstrating compassion and respect for the people who show up for care.

Everyone lives a unique life. Hear why it’s time to tap into the spectrum of experiences to nurture an ecosystem that gives everyone the chance to be healthy.

“I’ll start with trust. I mean, I think that we focus too much on ‘trust’ sometimes and not enough on ‘being trustworthy.’ We as healthcare providers, as health system researchers, sometimes put the onus of trusting on patients and the community, when we haven’t actually determined what is necessary for us to be deemed ‘trustworthy.’ That looks very different for different people,” said Consuelo Wilkins, MD, MSCI, Senior Vice President and Senior Associate Dean for Health Equity and Inclusive Excellence.

“We have to make sure that, when we prioritize bringing in individuals from different backgrounds, that it’s not just so that we can have some concordance and all of the black people can take care of black people, and all of the queer people can take care of queer people. That shouldn’t be our excuse for having cultural humility and understanding that we have a responsibility to be the best physician, nurse, pharmacist, front desk coordinator. We owe that to everyone, it can’t just be for people who are like us,” said Wilkins.

‘You don’t have to put your opinions into it’

Jarod Parrish, PharmD, a clinical research pharmacist who grew up in a small, rural town in Georgia, wants “to be the change in these neighborhoods and the change, not just in Nashville, but in our nation, to help find ways to reach our community so that the future generations [live] a lot longer.

“That’s one thing that has been on top of my mind, is consistency in all aspects of your life; like you were saying, like the LGBT community, the Black community. If we can consistently make people feel valued, then they’ll consistently be able to tell us ways that they can feel valued. And they’ll feel open to telling you, ‘Man, I don’t feel that comfortable with you saying those types of things.’ Opening up to us and not just passing it off as: they’re going to look at me some type of way,” said Parrish.

“If you truly feel that you’re being harmed or you truly feel like this can make your experience in life better, that’s what we need to do. If someone wants to be called something, that’s what you call them. You don’t have to fuss with them about it. You don’t have to put your opinions into it.”

“Claim space for who you uniquely are and educate”

Seemingly small, thoughtful touches of personalization can create a lasting impression of welcomeness.

Del Ray Zimmerman, Director, Office for Diversity Affairs and LGBTQ Health, said he “can’t underscore this too much, but mis-gendering a patient can actually be linked to suicidality.” His team looked for a way to minimize potential harm while making the health care system more welcoming to everyone. They’re also involved in an enterprise-wide health IT effort to change the electronic health record system – “the way we do business” – to accommodate people’s preferred name.

“In an effort to do that, we started a visible campaign. We put different sets of pronouns on buttons that our clinical providers can wear. And so, uniquely, that actually gives providers an opportunity to declare who they are in the world–and not all of our providers are she, her, hers, he, him, his. We have a growing number of people within our system who identify as non-binary and carry other identities. What a wonderful time to live, where, as a health care provider in your workplace, you can actually claim space for who you uniquely are and educate other people,” said Zimmerman.

“Now, for patients who are coming in that also signals welcoming. When I visibly see somebody’s pronouns on a white coat or on a lanyard, then that tells me [you] understand the concept of gender diversity. If you’re wearing a button, you’re going to be more accepting so my interaction with you is going to be a lot more pleasant because I can let down my defenses, because I’m not preparing myself to be mis-gendered in your presence.”




Vanderbilt Health professionals reach out to Black communities ahead of vaccine roll-out

Buttons demonstrate wearers’ pronoun use

Barbershops targeted to improve health of Black men

VUMC lauded for healthcare equality efforts

Wilkins outlines COVID-19 health equity lessons to US Senate

Study shows gender identity plays key role in access to care

Health equity’s role in pandemic response crucial 

Wilkins on what health equity is — and isn’t

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To learn more about Vanderbilt Health DNA and access episode extras, visit www.listendna.com.

More About Our Contributors

Dr. Consuelo Wilkins

Consuelo H. Wilkins, M.D., M.Sci., is a professor of medicine and vice president for health equity at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, and an associate dean for health equity at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. A national thought leader in addressing the elimination of systemic inequities, she has pioneered new approaches to engaging vulnerable, socioeconomically disadvantaged, and minority populations. She is the principal investigator of three NIH-funded centers and of a Robert Wood Johnson Foundation award on engendering trust in health care among African American men.

Del Ray Zimmerman

Del Ray Zimmerman is the Director of the Program for LGBTQ Health and the Office for Diversity Affairs.

Dr. Jarod Parrish

Jarod Parrish, Pharm. D., is a Clinical Research Pharmacist.