As a part of CHOC’s commitment to developing a culture where everyone feels they belong and can truly be their authentic self, we’re honored to announce our first Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer. Learn more about Dr. Sharonne Herbert and CHOC’s new DEI initiatives in this Q&A.
CHOC’s New DEI Officer
Meet Dr. Sharonne Herbert, a board-certified clinical psychologist, motivational interviewing trainer, and inclusive community builder who has been at CHOC for seven and a half years. This past February, she became CHOC’s inaugural Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Officer. In this new role, Sharonne will evaluate the organization’s culture and develop DEI principles into CHOC’s goals.
Tell us a little about yourself and about your new position at CHOC.
I am a board-certified clinical psychologist, motivational interviewing trainer, and inclusive community builder who has been at CHOC for seven and a half years. Prior to becoming CHOC’s inaugural Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (DEI) Officer this past February, I was supervising an ambitious and dynamic team in the emergency department (ED) – the Mental Health Emergency Services – that evaluates kids who present to the ED with a mental health concern. My job now is to evaluate the organization’s culture and develop DEI strategy and integrate DEI principles into CHOC’s strategic goals.
How did you become interested in taking on this new role?
I began exploring my interest in DEI work in graduate school and gravitated toward honing skills that emphasized centering all aspects of people, such as motivational interviewing (MI), a communication style rooted in partnership, empathy, compassion and evocation for change. Over the last year and a half, I had been asked to develop and implement unconscious bias models and trainings, deploy inclusive processes, and consult with organizations regarding leadership and belonging. I knew the DEI Officer position would allow me to impact our patients on a larger scale and create a place where everyone – associates, providers, patients, and families – could walk through CHOC’s doors feeling their authentic self.
This is a new department for CHOC, how did this come to fruition?
It is a new office housed within the Department of Government Relations led by our Chief Government Relations Officer, Jena Jensen. The DEI office was born from the leadership and vision of our Chief Executive Officer & President, Kimberly Cripe, a couple years ago. Prior to the death of George Floyd, there had been discussions about developing a position for a DEI officer as leadership was looking to embark on a journey that would allow us to become an organization as diverse as its patients, ensure decisions made and practices implemented always happen through a lens of equity, and cultivate a workplace where individuals feel they belong and engage their full self. Formalizing a DEI office was expedited because of last May’s events.
What does this new position/department mean for CHOC?
The new position allows us to look at the organizational culture with a different lens and is dedicated to ensuring that everyone feels they belong and can truly be their authentic self. The DEI office shines a light on embracing who people are and celebrating these attributes and identities, while ensuring we have access to the appropriate resources.
What are some of the current initiatives your team is focused on?
Prior to me accepting this role, we hired a consulting firm, Prism – A Talent Dimensions Company, to guide us at the beginning of our journey for the first 18 months. This engagement has led to assessing the culture through listening sessions, associate and provider demographic data, an organizational inclusion survey, and focus groups. We are now in the process of reviewing the feedback to develop our strategy. It is so crucial to conduct the assessment first to know what is going well and where we have gaps. In the coming months, we will be laying out our strategy and year one initiatives. With that being said, the DEI Office is busy and has been partnering with thought leaders, champions, and influencers within and outside of the organization. We have been able to get children’s books in Spanish, wide-toothed combs for patients, and provide statements and our internal newsletter in English and Spanish.
How does attention to Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion impact care at CHOC?
Emphasis on DEI impacts care in so many ways. Aside from making our kids and families feel heard and like they belong, underscoring DEI principles leads to enhanced performance, increased productivity, and higher levels of innovation for associates and providers. In essence, we ultimately elevate the care provided by underscoring DEI initiatives with our workforce. It really is a win-win situation.
What are the biggest hurdles in the healthcare industry regarding DEI?
I am not sure these are only specific to the healthcare industry, but I would say some hurdles are lack of engagement from leadership, the DEI Officer does not have a direct link to the CEO, lack of funding for the DEI office, and the belief that this work is solely for the DEI officer instead of knowing that this work is for all of us.
What advice can you give to companies interested in starting a DEI department or work team?
First, congratulations on taking this step! It is not easy, AND this work is extremely rewarding; who does not like to see someone feel they belong, and the company become more successful? Second, to really move DEI initiatives, leadership must be involved and, in many ways, the face of the work. Actively work toward engaging leadership and tying the initiatives to leaderships goals. Third, you will make mistakes (I just made one again two weeks ago) and that is okay. You are going to have to get comfortable with being uncomfortable and making mistakes. Growth and innovation come from learning from our mistakes and having diversity of thought. Embrace it as a catalyst for change. Lastly, although there are many things we could talk about, engage in self-care. It is going to fuel you and remind you of your “why” – why you chose to do this work to elevate your business and be more competitive in the national and global markets.
What’s the biggest myth surrounding DEI that you’d like to debunk here in this short article?
That’s a tough question. I often hear people say that focusing on diversity lowers the standards or quality of work. What the data show is quite the opposite. When you create an inclusive environment, you reap the benefits of diversity and companies are far more successful, innovative, and collaborative. Emphasizing DEI principles is a culture-add!
What are you most excited for CHOC in the coming year?
I am most excited about developing our strategy and embedding training that will amplify our associate and providers skill sets. Ultimately, doing those things will improve overall care for the patients, which is and always will be my priority!