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Joyce Sackey to become Stanford Medicine chief diversity and inclusion officer

Joyce Sackey, advocate and leader of inclusive excellence, will join Stanford Medicine as its inaugural chief diversity and inclusion officer.

- By Hanae Armitage

Joyce Sackey

Joyce Sackey, MD, FACP, an accomplished leader of diversity and inclusion in academia, will join Stanford Medicine as the inaugural chief diversity and inclusion officer. Her appointment begins Sept. 1, and she will report to the dean of the school of medicine and the medical center’s two hospital CEOs.

Sackey comes to Stanford Medicine after nearly 14 years at Tufts University, where she held roles as the dean for multicultural affairs and global health at the school of medicine and, more recently, as the associate provost and chief diversity officer for the health sciences schools. As Stanford Medicine’s CDIO and associate dean, Sackey will oversee enterprise-wide strategies and efforts to advance diversity, health equity and inclusion, and will help implement the recommendations issued by Stanford Medicine’s Commission on Justice and Equity. Sackey will also support and unify existing diversity, equity and inclusion efforts underway at the Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care, Stanford Medicine Children’s Health, Stanford Health Care Tri-Valley and Stanford Medicine Partners.

“Diversity, equity and inclusion sit at the heart of Stanford Medicine’s mission, and our community embodies this commitment through extraordinary efforts every day,” said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the school of medicine. “In welcoming Joyce, we will more effectively align and advance Stanford Medicine’s many DEI initiatives to benefit our institution, our surrounding communities and beyond.”

With Sackey’s expertise and guidance, Minor added, Stanford Medicine leaders will be further empowered to foster and integrate DEI across all levels of the organization, including efforts to educate the next generation of medical leaders, to promote inclusivity in Stanford Medicine's culture and to enhance representation in its workforce.

“When we talk about health equity work — promoting access to care; improving health outcomes for all patients; and making the academic medical world a more inclusive place for everyone, from patients and physicians, to staff, students and faculty — we have to remember that this important work cannot be done in silos,” Sackey said. “Stanford Medicine’s leaders share a vision and are truly aligned in their goals for health equity. That sets the stage to strategically and effectively identify best practices and to scale them to the enterprise level — that’s a real opportunity for advancement.”

The search

In June 2020, in the midst of a growing, nationwide racial reckoning, Stanford Medicine established the Stanford Medicine Commission on Justice and Equity. Led by Terrance Mayes, associate dean for equity and strategic initiatives, the commission’s overarching goals were to dismantle racism and advance representation in health care, starting within the Stanford Medicine community.

After several months of surveying the workforce and deliberating, the commission issued a set of recommendations to bolster and sustain diversity, equity and justice and a culture of inclusion at Stanford Medicine. Chief among them was to hire a leader to oversee that effort and help solidify principles of DEI throughout the medical school and the two hospitals.

“Two years ago, we pledged as a leadership team to confront racism in all forms and actively apply our talent and resources to drive meaningful systemic change,” said David Entwistle, president and CEO of Stanford Health Care. “Joyce’s arrival to Stanford Medicine signals a new chapter for our institution, one that will bring forth a more inclusive and equitable environment for our patients and our community.”

“In cultivating a true sense of belonging among people of all backgrounds, Stanford Medicine aims to enrich its community and improve patient care,” said Paul King, president and CEO of Stanford Children’s Health. “Throughout her career, Joyce has demonstrated a unique ability to engrain belonging into communities, and I am delighted that she is bringing her expertise and compassion to Stanford Medicine.”

After an eight-month national search, Sackey’s arrival is the first major step in realizing this vision.

“One of the findings from the commission’s work pointed to a long history of Stanford Medicine’s DEI efforts, at all levels of the organization, but it showed that we’ve engaged in a fairly fragmented way,” said Mayes, who led the commission as executive director and will continue advancing its recommendations in partnership with Sackey. “We have, as it goes, a thousand flowers blooming, but the commission felt that in order to really elevate DEI as a core value, we need a leader who will unify our work across the organization. That is what we hope to see from a CDIO and what I believe we’ve found in Joyce Sackey.”

To come into a new institution with a landscape so thoughtfully set by those already working to promote equity, diversity and inclusion — department liaisons and representatives, DEI committees, cabinet members and the commission, among others — is exciting, Sackey said. “The ground has been tilled, and already flowers are blossoming. I see my role as chief diversity and inclusion officer as taking an aerial view, partnering with our community members to design a beautiful garden for Stanford Medicine,” she said. A chief landscape architect, if you will.

Health equity champion

Sackey grew up in Ghana, moving to the United States after high school to follow her love of science at Dartmouth College. But what drove her to medicine stemmed from an early realization she had as a teenager volunteering in her local community. There were stark differences in medical and health care access between the city where she grew up and the one where she attended school, just an hour away.

“Even in my youth it was clear to me that good health and medical care are not always evenly distributed,” Sackey said.

My hope is that individuals come to feel a shared sense of mission and that coming to work is joyful. That will have ripple effects across our health care system.

That experience fueled her passion for medicine, and after graduating with a degree in biology, she stayed at Dartmouth to pursue her medical training at Geisel School of Medicine. After graduating in 1989, Sackey continued her training at Harvard Medical School’s Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center. As a resident, Sackey chose a specialty in primary care, internal medicine, intent on building lasting relationships with her patients, particularly those who lived in underserved communities. She continued her practice for 20 years as a physician and educator at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center and Harvard Medical School until she was recruited to Tufts University to lead their global health and DEI efforts.

Now, at Stanford Medicine, Sackey is looking forward to sharing her knowledge and expertise with an overarching goal — that Stanford Medicine will be an example to other academic medical centers and hospitals, demonstrating how to foster and fuel inclusive excellence. “To me, the mark of an institution that embraces inclusive excellence is a richness in diverse perspectives and backgrounds. Everyone feels welcome, empowered and a sense of belonging,” Sackey said. “And when you cultivate an environment in which people feel a sense of belonging, everybody is able to operate at their maximum capacities, their maximum potential, because their voices and ideas matter.”

An equitable, just and inclusive future

Ultimately, Sackey said, she aims to empower an environment in which people get up in the morning excited to come to Stanford Medicine to work toward the same goal: achieving inclusive excellence and health equity, and helping patients have great outcomes, regardless of their race, ethnicity or demographic background.

Sackey and others will leverage the continued work of the commission around four foundational priorities:

  1. Aligning existing DEI efforts across the organization.
  2. Providing all members of the Stanford Medicine community an opportunity to engage in ongoing learning.
  3. Ensuring bias reporting is properly and appropriately addressed.
  4. Leaning into a responsibility to advance health equity.

Action planning working groups, formed as recommended by the commission, are tackling these priorities and updated information around these issues will be shared with the community this fall, according to Mayes.

“I know Stanford Medicine will continue to have innovative and creative ideas for achieving inclusive excellence and health equity,” Sackey said. “I look forward to new models and interventions that we’ll put in place to promote these priorities. My hope is that individuals come to feel a shared sense of mission and that coming to work is joyful. That will have ripple effects across our health care system.”

Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care, and Stanford Children's Health. For more information, please visit the Office of Communications website at http://mednews.stanford.edu.

2022 ISSUE 1

Understanding the world within us

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