Memo to IU Health Team Members from Dennis Murphy, President and CEO, Indiana University Health
The recent tragic events and protecting our internal community of mutual trust and respect
The terrible violence taking place in cities across our nation is heartbreaking and upsetting. The randomness of the attacks and the incomprehensible motivation for them is shocking, and causes feelings of insecurity, fear, anger and indignation. We worry about the future of our communities and our country, and wonder if we will ever be able to transcend our difficult history and truly extend the unique promise of American freedom and equality to all of our citizens, regardless of race, religion, ethnicity or sexual orientation.
Just as work stress often comes home with us, so too do the challenges of home and community accompany us to work. Many of our African-American team members have shared with me in recent days their heightened fear for themselves, their families and friends. Team members whose loved ones serve in law enforcement express similar concerns.
Such concerns cannot be neatly compartmentalized when we come to work. We must honestly discuss this among ourselves and understand how these events impact us as individuals, our organization and our value of providing you with an internal community of mutual respect and trust. I want to engage with you and ask for your help in focusing on what we can do at IU Health in these challenging times.
What can we do personally?
I am by nature and experience an optimist. I believe there is more that holds us together as Americans than pulls us apart. While I see real progress in how our society deals with intolerance, the recent tragic events remind us painfully of how far we still have to go. I see in younger people–my own children and also in many of you–a natural and instinctive embrace of diversity and a rejection of prejudice, which bodes well for our future.
Nonetheless, I want to acknowledge the real fear and concern many of you are feeling. I cannot pretend to know what it feels like to be targeted for simply being who I am, where I am from or for the uniform I wear. What I have done, and continue to do, is try to understand–and I am asking each of you to try as well. Demonstrate empathy for those around you by placing yourself in their shoes: Seek to understand their experience and feelings from their perspective. When we do this, we gain a better understanding of how others see the world and what challenges they face that might be completely foreign to us.
As caregivers, we are called upon every day to empathize with the patients and families we serve at IU Health. We do this extraordinarily well, and it comes naturally to us, in part because we can all relate to the circumstances of illness and injury. We’ve either experienced it ourselves or have family or friends who have been sick or injured.
Those of us who have not been the victims of prejudice or intolerance ourselves must work harder to understand the feelings and perspectives of our colleagues, friends and neighbors who must live with such attitudes and behaviors daily. I have tried, hard, once again this week, to put myself in their shoes, and I’m asking you to do so as well.
In these difficult times, we must demonstrate mutual trust and respect–and empathy–by making an extra effort to listen to our colleagues and be mindful of the specific challenges they experience. Don’t be afraid to do for each other what you do so well for our patients and families: Reach out, listen, learn from and stand alongside one another, and work to understand their feelings. This is what empathy looks like.
Let’s support each other, just as we support the patients and families we serve.
What are we going to do about it as an institution?
As president and chief executive officer of Indiana University Health, I am deeply committed not only to the well-being of our team members, but also to a diverse and inclusive team. We are not immune from the disparities that exist in our larger culture. We employ more than 30,000 people, representing diverse attitudes, races, ethnicities, political beliefs and many other segments of our communities.
Just as we welcome all persons who come through our doors as patients, I want to make sure we are a welcoming, inviting and affirming organization for all current and prospective team members. And, like the rest of the country, I know we need to do better in this regard. I believe we will do better if we are honest with ourselves and commit ourselves and our resources to change.
To make lasting and meaningful change, I need your help. Wherever in the system you work, in whatever capacity you serve, you have a unique perspective on how well–or not–we succeed in providing you with an environment that is inclusive and welcoming. How can we better understand one another? How can we best honor the immense diversity among us? I want to invite your comments about how we are doing and encourage you to write me with your ideas about how we can grow as a diverse and inclusive community of mutual trust and respect.
Thank you for helping me to make IU Health a better, safer, place for us all.