AHA creates senior management role to oversee health equity strategies

The American Hospital Association is adding a new position within its senior leadership that will be focused on promoting the organization’s workforce diversity, equity and inclusion strategies.

The AHA announced Thursday that current AHA Vice President of Strategic Policy Planning Joy Lewis has been promoted to the newly created role of senior vice president of health equity strategies.

Lewis, who has been with AHA since 2018, will oversee the association’s diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives to reduce health and healthcare disparities and build healthy communities.

Lewis will also serve as executive director of the AHA’s Institute for Diversity and Health Equity, which works to expand leadership opportunities for ethnic minorities in health management.

The new position will be part of the AHA’s 15-member executive management core, marking the first time a role primarily focused on diversity issues has been added to the association’s senior management team.

“An association reflects its members’ priorities – while issues related to health equity and workforce have been front and center for years, the pandemic has underscored their importance in new ways,” said AHA President and CEO Rick Pollack in a released statement.

In her new role, Lewis will have broad oversight for several key association priorities related to diversity, health equity and inclusion to support and build healthy communities.

Prior to coming to AHA, Lewis worked for more than a decade at Kaiser Permanente where she last served as a senior health policy leader.

Robyn Begley, who currently serves as chief executive officer of the American Organization of Nursing Leadership as well as chief nursing officer for the AHA, will take over the role of overseeing the association’s workforce strategies, which includes leading AHA programs like its Physician Alliance and its Committee on Clinical Leadership.

AHA’s move comes at a time when efforts to promote greater focus on improving diversity and inclusion within many healthcare organizations has made slow progress.

A recent AHA snapshot survey of 600 hospitals on their current strategies to advance health equity, diversity and inclusion found the proportion of C-Suite positions being held by individuals representing a racial or ethnic minority group was 16% in 2020. A previous AHA benchmark survey found the share of minorities holding executive leadership positions was only 11% in 2015.

But the latest survey also found that more than half of respondents reported not having a documented plan to increase diversity on their board of trustees, while one-third indicated their organizations had no stated goal of increasing the diversity within their executive leadership.

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