Uniting for Black Lives

June 05, 2020

DETROIT – Henry Ford Health System, in partnership with Health Alliance Plan, joined other health care professionals nationally Friday for silent reflection to demonstrate solidarity for Black Lives Matter.

Team members were joined by senior leaders in moving demonstrations held outdoors simultaneously at Henry Ford’s hospitals, medical centers, corporate office and at HAP’s offices in Troy, Flint and Grand Rapids.

Some kneeled, some sat and some stood for eight minutes and 46 seconds - the time George Floyd was held down by police before he died – in support of the #WhiteCoatsforBlackLives movement to end racism and improve the health and safety of people of color.

It came on the 11th day of protests across the United States calling for police accountability and justice for Floyd and other African Americans killed in the past month.

Henry Ford President and CEO Wright Lassiter III says he was humbled by and proud of the organization’s response.

“Henry Ford’s arms are open to embrace the community,” he says, “to embrace our team members in a way that says that we respect you for you. And that you will be treated with the utmost respect for who you are when you come into our circle.”

Henry Ford has achieved a national reputation for its commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion and best practices. It is consistently recognized by DiversityInc. for its efforts in employee resource group participation, health care equity, mentoring opportunities and supplier diversity program. The Henry Ford Medical Group comprises physicians and researchers from across the globe. In 2019, minorities represented 33 percent of the workforce and African Americans accounted for 26 percent of all hires.

Still, Lassiter pledged that Henry Ford can and will do more. In a personal message to team members Wednesday and published online at henryford.com, he wrote “I have a renewed sense of urgency to reduce the gap between today and what’s possible and I’m certain that we are stronger together.”

“I am committed to ensuring that our organization creates an environment where critical conversations about race, disparities, and bias can occur; where all individuals, irrespective of their points of view, have an opportunity to share their opinion,” he says.

“What’s most important here is NOT that we are all of one mind, but that areas of difference can be shared and explored and that our organization can evolve as a result of these conversations. And, that our 33,000+ team members can grow in understanding, and that we can continue to find opportunities to galvanize our efforts to make the communities that we serve better because of Henry Ford’s presence.”

Actions the health system has taken or is taking include:

  • Partnered with Streetwise to provide mentoring opportunities to team members and residents from the city of Detroit.
  • In collaboration with Detroit Regional Workforce Fund, developed apprenticeship cohorts for new hires and entry level team members for targeted healthcare positions.
  • Focused hiring with zip codes surrounding the city of Detroit. Several hiring events took place 243 hires took place from such efforts in 2019. First quarter of 2020, 50 hires have taken place.
  • More than 26,000 team members have completed an online equity course.
  • Donated 4,000 facemasks to the City of Detroit for protesters to use to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
  • Ten Henry Ford Employee Resource Groups with more than 2,500 members increase engagement, education and awareness on diversity and inclusion.
  • Lassiter signed the CEO Action Pledge for Diversity & Inclusion, a national collaboration of more than 800 CEOs. A Henry Ford Unconscious Bias Task Force works with internal and external partners on an online resource center, increased capacity for unconscious bias education, storytelling as well leadership training and multi-level communication.

Also Wednesday, Lassiter joined top executives from Detroit’s nine largest corporations to reject all forms of racism, sexism and violence and commit to supporting reforms for a fairer criminal justice system. The event was organized by Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan and Rev. Wendell Anthony, president of Detroit’s NAACP chapter. The corporations also committed to three additional reforms:

  • Call upon appropriate government officials to hold accountable all individuals involved in the deaths that have occurred.
  • Support calls for an independent prosecution of those accused to demonstrate fairness and eliminate possible conflicts in the judicial process.
  • Invest in programs and policies to transform disparities in partnership with local and national leaders.

“Generational prejudice and injustices won’t be solved easily or alone, yet by embracing our ability to understand one another, we naturally better the communities we serve,” he says.

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MEDIA CONTACT: David Olejarz / David.Olejarz@hfhs.org / 313.303.0606