Healthcare Agency Roundtable 2022: Diversity, equity, and inclusion: Putting words into action

, , , ,
Coffee talk

Healthcare Agency Roundtable 2022: Diversity, equity, and inclusion: Putting words into action

By Maria Fontanazza • [email protected]

What is your organization doing to ensure that diversity, equity, and inclusion continues to be a prominent part of the conversation, having actionable impact and results?

Yolanda Macias, AbelsonTaylor

Yolanda Macias, AbelsonTaylor

Yolanda Macias, Director of Diversity and Inclusion, AbelsonTaylor: At AbelsonTaylor we are focused on creating a strong diversity, equity, and inclusion foundation, which starts with an agency-wide commitment to psychological safety. With the principles of psychological safety at the core, we bolster a culture of inclusion that makes all our team-members feel empowered to be themselves, learn, contribute, and challenge the status-quo. That accelerates innovation, fosters better collaboration, leads to greater accountability, and contributes to workplace harmony. We’re weaving the principles of psychological safety into our culture through meetings, performance, communication, and deliverables, with training and metrics across the entire organization, so that events, actions, and conversations genuinely reflect the values of diversity, equity and inclusion. We expect our agency-wide psychological safety program to be in full swing in 2023. AbelsonTaylor also recognizes that DEI is everyone’s responsibility, which helps us to keep a prominent spotlight on DEI.    

Minnie Damle, SVP, Human Resources, Brick City Greenhouse: DEI&B will continue to be at the center of all that we do at Brick City Greenhouse. Not only are we committed to creating a diverse and inclusive culture that all our employees feel proud of and have a sense of belonging to, but, equally important, we place an emphasis on doing the same for our clients and the communities they serve. We will continue to focus on initiatives that meet the needs of our team and clients. Our remote and fully distributed model allows us to hire untapped talent across the U.S., widening our reach in an effort to diversify our team, enhance our approach to the work, and make a positive impact on our clients. We will continue to celebrate and raise awareness of the different cultural representations within the agency and therapeutic categories we support on behalf of our clients.

Lisa DuJat, IPG Health

Lisa DuJat, IPG Health

Lisa DuJat, Chief Talent Officer, IPG Health: Everything we do at IPG Health is rooted in our healthy obsession with doing what’s right for our clients, their brands, and our people. That’s why we’ve woven EDI into everything we do – we cannot let the responsibility for making systemic change and building a healthy, inclusive culture sit within a siloed function or with a few people. Our overarching strategy – EDI+You –  challenges everyone to focus on what they can do to create the environment that they want to be a part of and to strive to deliver on work in which all voices are represented. This individual commitment may be as simple as attending workshops to learn more about EDI, or incorporating inclusive interviewing practices to your hiring process – or can be more robust by reviewing our processes with a new lens – and then making change to ensure we’re capturing all dimensions of diversity in the final product.

Steve Bernstein, CrowdPharm

Steve Bernstein, CrowdPharm

Steve Bernstein, Partner, CrowdPharm: With our worldwide network of more than 5,200 talented members in 113 countries, we are inherently diverse. Our talent shares their diverse voices and thinking on every project. As a global company, diversity, equality, and inclusion are at the heart of who we are. They also happen to be a core value, Everyone Welcome, because we value the differences that help make us smarter and the solutions we bring to clients more impactful. We are constantly exploring, researching, testing, failing, and learning. We push boundaries to achieve better solutions and more engaging experiences because we know this is how growth happens and how this growth impacts us and changes the world around us. We also work hard to ensure that the values of diversity, equality, and inclusion are a priority in every assignment we deliver. 

Toby Katcher, CMI Media Group

Toby Katcher, CMI Media Group

Toby Katcher VP, Video Investment, CMI Media Group: Improving diversity and inclusion in the workplace isn’t just about hiring. It is about effective integration into the structure of the organization. This means ensuring commitment, empowerment, and trust from a wide range of people across the company. CMI Media Group has taken action by creating an Inclusive Media Center of Excellence with the imperative of making DE&I an organizational strategic priority, with clear goals and performance measures that are reviewed and discussed regularly.   

Kristofer Doerfler, Director of Innovation, CMI Media Group: Our approach to innovation involves ensuring and restoring trust with consumers, which can only be done if we are properly supporting inclusion and empowering ideas from diverse points of view.  We are building relationships with partners who focus on bridging healthcare divides with multicultural audiences, are evaluating data sets for multicultural representation, and are developing multicultural specific programmatic and content offerings for our clients.   Additionally, given there is an intersection between healthcare, environmental conditions, and racial disparities, we are pioneering new GREEN media capabilities to help our clients reduce their carbon footprint and support community health.

Amy Gómez, Klick Health

Amy Gómez, Klick Health

Amy Gómez, Senior Vice President, Diversity Strategy, Klick Health: Klick is very proud of the progress we’ve achieved over the past few years in the DE&I arena and we continue to make more positive advancements in the year ahead. We made significant investments in our DE&I infrastructure in 2022 that will enable us to both accelerate the rate of progress and better monitor our results to promote accountability. Everything from increasing the number of Klicksters who are dedicated to DE&I — including a new VP hire, to upgrading our technology to facilitate automated tracking of our diversity metrics. We have also increased focus on inclusion and retention within our diverse representation strategy, and on efforts to further embed inclusion into our business practices and leadership development programs.

In our client engagements, we are 100 percent committed to helping lifescience companies improve health equity for historically underserved patient groups through targeted, insight-driven, cross-cultural marketing initiatives. More clients than ever are engaging our in-house cross-cultural marketing experts to provide training for their marketing teams on the best practices of cross-cultural marketing. We’ve also seen a significant increase in clients who are explicitly interested in providing marketing and advertising support to better engage patient populations across race, ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, and ability — and we’re energized by how this trend is moving in the right direction.

Susan Perlbachs, Chief Creative Officer, EVERSANA INTOUCH: We all have a responsibility to ensure that DE+I is front and center in what we do. As creative and strategic leaders, that means putting DE+I at the forefront of our marketing and communication efforts. DE+I is a lot more than casting – and if you find yourself only talking about it then you’ve failed. Additionally, we can’t just talk, we need to take action. 

At EVERSANA INTOUCH, we noticed that for all the years this industry has spent talking about health inequities in the system, little change was truly happening. We were thrilled to partner with Jamil Rivers and The Chrysalis Initiative on our Erase the Line campaign, showcasing the fact that Black women are more likely to face mortality from breast cancer, despite its lower incidence rate compared to white women. But we didn’t just create a campaign. We took on the systemically racist healthcare system, making active moves to disrupt disparities in care. We worked with Jamil to launch BC Navi, a digital resource that offers a number of services to Black women battling breast cancer with tools to address racism in their care, including 1:1 coaching with other Black women who have been through breast cancer diagnosis and treatment, resources and access to a patient community, and a patient-
curated provider directory and rating system – to hold the healthcare system accountable.

ShaVaughn Morris, Calcium

ShaVaughn Morris, Calcium

ShaVaughn Morris, Associate Director, Engagement and Multicultural Marketing, Calcium: We understand that diversity, equity, and inclusion go beyond evergreen programs and must be embedded into the fabric of our culture. As an agency of healthcare communications, our account, creatives, and strategists must view marketing from a DEI-centered lens. The considerations of representation, inequities, patient care and support, and share of voice from healthcare providers must be at the forefront of every insight, strategic imperative, and activation we propose.

With this as our foundation, we’ve begun to expand our efforts through our capabilities. Implementing a stronger health literacy process as it pertains to patient and HCP communications. Ensuring there are checks and balances with language, developing an internal lexicon to brand how we address gaps in communication, and involving the organization in its development. From our office experience manager to our president, health literacy must be an intricate part of our interoffice conversations, client meetings, and final products. 

Our efforts continue with our client partners, ensuring we inform them of the opportunities to further define patient segments for treatment options and arm HCPs with the nuance and language to encourage their patient population to consider new products beneficial to their quality of life. Together, we and our client partners solve for ways to share the message of support and awareness through unbranded efforts. Meeting our client population where they are and providing them with the information to make more informed decisions about the type of healthcare they deserve.

And finally, forward our commitment to DEI through awareness campaigns that highlight healthcare gaps affecting our most vulnerable. When we launched, I DON’T HAVE A BOX, it was important to highlight resources. With limited ability to identify on medical forms, persons who are mixed race and multiethnic lose the opportunity for healthcare providers to get the breadth of their medical history outside of genetic factors. With a quick Google search, one can find that Black Americans have the highest mortality rate of cancer, Southeast Asians disproportionately suffer from cervical cancer, and heart disease and cancer aren’t just the leading causes of death among Black Americans, but everyone in the BIPOC community. When we pair ancestry and statistical information together, it signals the need for more attention to detail, to create a sustainable health plan and partnership between the patient and HCP. 

Considering the touchpoints DEI affects, it would behoove us — or anyone — to treat DEI as an afterthought or a mere strategic element to seal a deal. DEI must be the perspective — layered into the groundwork of everything we do. And we measure that by the effectiveness of our internal and external programs and the ability of each person in our employee community to naturally think and follow this pathway to achieve our standard of success within our core values of commitment, integrity, and respect. 

Liz Landon, Chief People Officer, Fishawack Health: Diversity and inclusion (D&I) sit at the heart of our business and everything we do at FH. They are built into our values as an organization. We value difference, we treat everyone with empathy and humility, and we foster a culture that is equitable, purposeful, diverse, and inclusive. 

Last year, we hired a dedicated Global Diversity and Inclusion Lead, Sheena Amin-Liebman, who works alongside our HR and Talent teams. Together, they are constantly looking to implement more inclusive policies for recruitment and retention, such as implementing more generous PTOs, parental leave policies, and providing mental health resources to promote an inclusive and supportive employee experience and work environment.  As part of this commitment, we have strengthened our future talent through increasing the number of interns and graduates hired in 2020-21, including a program targeted at the black, indigenous, people of color (BIPOC) community. We have also partnered with five global, diversity and inclusion organizations, including Inclusive Companies,, GWork (for LGBTQ+ professionals), and HLPA (for Hispanic and Latino professionals).

Our six employee network groups focus on gender equality, diverse ability, race/ethnicity, family, mental health, and LGBTQ+. These groups have played a crucial role in spreading awareness and education, while providing safe spaces for our team members. Each group is sponsored by a senior executive to provide advocacy, guidance, and support, illustrating that our commitment to diversity and inclusion runs from the grassroots to the most senior levels of leadership. 

This year, our CEO Jon Koch, joined more than 2,300 CEOs and company presidents in pledging to the CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion — the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advance D&I in the workplace. The pledge includes acting to support a more inclusive workplace for employees, communities, and society.

In January, we launched our 21 Day Inclusion Challenge, designed to make inclusive thinking a habit for every employee. We also held numerous diversity dialogue talks and panels with internal and external speakers and developed a global unconscious bias and microaggression training, along with a reporting tool.

We know that to improve in diversity, equity, and inclusion, we need to measure ourselves rigorously and report our results. We have improved our Inclusion Index rating, which measures our employees’ sense of belonging from 74 percent to 85 percent (measured in our Your Voice Survey, 2022). We’re proud to say that women make up 65 percent of our global workforce. In the last couple of years, we have appointed the first female chairperson to the board, and five of our nine executive leadership team members are women. We have also launched a new leadership program to help women excel at the company, and we are partners of Creative Comeback, an initiative designed to help creatives back into the industry after taking a break to start a family. Additionally, we are supporting women by introducing a scheme for menopause mentors and educating all employees on the topic. Today, 84 percent of employees agree that people from all backgrounds have equal opportunities to succeed. 

JD Cassidy, President, Advertising, GSW/Syneos Health: GSW continues to be passionate about building and maintaining a diverse workforce of people with unique backgrounds and perspectives that spark new ideas and create groundbreaking work. This can only happen with an open and collaborative culture that encourages questioning our work and learning how we can do better.  

In 2018, GSW employees questioned why we didn’t have a group dedicated to learning about diversity and inclusivity practices, so they created RISE, an employee-led initiative that stands for Realizing Inclusivity and Success through Equality. RISE’s shared goal is for everyone in the agency to have the same opportunities to grow and advance as the person sitting next to them, and it continues to serve as a catalyst for the sometimes-uncomfortable conversations that our industry needs to have surrounding equality in the workplace and beyond. Today, RISE has grown from a just few founding members focused on equality to dozens of active teams cultivating a sense of belonging for all GSW employees. The remote and hybrid nature of our work has sparked even more growth in RISE and its collective goal, allowing members across offices to collaborate and connect with others they wouldn’t normally work with day-to-day. On top of this, RISE has had a great impact on our recruiting efforts, helping our agency hire the best and brightest at every management level. RISE continues to make ongoing contributions within the creative briefing process, ensuring every employee takes a diverse perspective when creating a strategy, doing research, or crafting a campaign.  

GSW maintains steadfast in our belief that a diverse agency is a creative agency. We continue to challenge our biases and learn from the broad range of perspectives we bring onto our team. There will always be more work to do surrounding equality in the workplace, and we’re excited to continue doing that work. 

Scott Neverett, Peregrine Market Access

Scott Neverett, Peregrine Market Access

Scott Neverett, Partner, Director of Human Resources and Corporate Culture, Peregrine Market Access: One of the great things about the Peregrine Market Access culture is that we value diversity, love learning, and appreciate that different perspectives and beliefs make us stronger as a company. In 2022, we expanded our holiday benefits to add on two extra days of paid time off to enable employees to celebrate ethnic, religious, or cultural traditions. We invite employees to share with our team why they choose to celebrate certain days so that we can learn and understand what matters to each other. It has given us a way to celebrate diversity and become more connected. Over the last couple of years, we have made a more conscious effort to find opportunities to diversify our workforce through recruitment and retention efforts. We have also added DE&I questions to our annual employee survey to ensure staff have a formal mechanism to rate our performance and provide feedback on these important topics. 

Finally, since the workforce at Peregrine Market Access is more than 65 percent women, we developed TogetHER, a group that provides peer-to-peer support and mentoring among female employees and offers professional skill development programs, networking events, and team-building activities. The aim of TogetHER is to elevate the female voice and empower our female colleagues to lead, navigate challenges, and realize their full potential.

Gail Flockhart, Chief Commercial Officer, and President of Marketing, Fishawack Health: We have made great strides in prioritizing a diversity, equity, and inclusion lens as we develop our direction and recommendations for healthcare strategies and solutions. 

We have developed an advisory council to help our clients navigate these challenges when producing external assets. We have leveraged the council’s expertise during our work with top biopharmaceutical companies to ensure campaigns are representative of the patient population, culturally sensitive, and void of unconscious bias.

We are particularly impressed that with Avalere Health joining the group, specific data sets such as the MORE2 registry and 100% sample of Medicare Fee-for-Service claims data are powerful sources to identify patient groups at risk of poor outcomes due to the social determinants of health. By analyzing this data and developing rich insights, we’re partnering with our clients to address health disparities, risks, and outcomes for specific patient populations.

A recent publication by Avalere Health and the Community Oncology Alliance in the American Journal of Managed Care highlighted the disparities in breast cancer screening rates during the COVID-19 pandemic among racial and ethnic minority groups.

Another highlight was the inclusion of the Global Malnutrition Composite Score, an electronic clinical quality measure developed by Avalere and stewarded by the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, in Medicare’s Hospital Inpatient Quality Reporting Program beginning in 2024. This resulted from nearly 10 years of work with hospitals across the USA, and once it is available for reporting to CMS, it will further expand the ability of hospitals to improve their malnutrition care.

Jonathan Issacs, TBWA/WorldHealth

Jonathan Issacs, TBWA/WorldHealth

Jonathan Isaacs, Global Chief Creative Officer, TBWA\WorldHealth: Talent is universal but opportunity is not. At TBWA\WorldHealth, we are committed to improving and sustaining meaningful representation at every level — deliberately investing resources to address and correct systematic imbalances and practicing intentional empathy to ensure everyone is empowered to thrive. 

Working from the inside out, we are ensuring underrepresented employees are supported, mentored, and developed for advancement. We are launching inclusive interviewing and hiring training, fostering monthly small-group conversations, and committing to a 100 percent completion rate of Omnicom Health Group’s DEI University modules. In addition, our DIVERS\TEAM is launching a buddy program for all new employees, and our TBWA\WH DEI Toolkit has made diversity and inclusion a business imperative—comprehensively outlining the process, lexicon, and tips that lead to more relevant and inclusive creative and thoughtfully navigating difficult conversations with peers and clients when cultural issues arise.

Our goal is to foster a safe space where we can learn about people of different backgrounds and identities and respect, honor, and celebrate our differences. All of this is measured through our yearly DEI survey that tracks demographics, feedback on DEI programming, and sense of belonging.  

Healthcare Agency Roundtable 2022: Positioning for resiliency: Back to the (virtual) office, building and retaining talent (Part I)

Healthcare Agency Roundtable 2022: Uncertainties of 2023: Looming recession, inflation, and reduced investment (Part II)

Healthcare Agency Roundtable 2022: Tech trends, opportunities, and woes (Part III) 

Healthcare Agency Roundtable 2022: Moving into 2023 (Part V)


Maria Fontanazza

Maria Fontanazza is the director of content, Med Ad News and