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It’s Time to Stand Together, Again

June 01, 2020

This message from Jeffrey Flaks, Hartford HealthCare President and Chief Executive Officer, was shared with the healthcare system’s 30,000 employees.

Dear Colleagues:

As a healthcare community, we are here to heal. The very core of our calling is as plain as can be in our mission statement: “To improve the health and healing of the people and communities we serve.”

Those words weren’t written to exist only on plaques and in reports. They’re our North Star, intended to steer our direction and guide our actions.

Today, people in our communities, and in particular, in minority communities across our nation, are hurting — confronted by at least two traumas: The prolonged pandemic and its disproportionate effect on communities of color; and the undeniable reality of anti-black racism in our nation.

The justified anger over the grotesque killing of George Floyd last week provoked a flash point, to be sure, as do the deaths of Ahmaud Arbery and Breonna Taylor. Their killings — part of a tragic litany of horrors — are a piece of a larger framework of inequity, injustice and racism that is woven into the very fabric of our nation.

This is a time to understand our mission to heal some of the deep wounds in our nation. This is a moment for leadership.

As healers, we must help those around us. Never has there been a greater need for being in the moment; for suspending judgment; for acknowledging our different realities. Our behaviors, like our mission, must transform words into action. We need to reach out, listen, learn, and become engaged. We must understand that our black colleagues, in particular, are hurting and have been hurting.

As leaders, it would be too easy to avoid this crucial conversation. It would feel normal to rest on our good works — the “what” and “how” of what we do. It would seem simple to ignore the “where” and “why” health disparities persist in the very communities we have served for decades.

It would also be wrong. The “when” is now.

This is a time for each of us to contemplate our place in this reality and work for something better. Self-reflection is key. As a dad, I often advise my sons to “make good choices.” But I must challenge my assumptions, and face the fact that many individuals we serve and work with have choices inflicted on them because of the color of their skin. We must also recognize and renounce other forms of prejudice and bigoted behaviors.

My expectation is that Hartford HealthCare will advance the work we’ve begun to stand for not only inclusion but also for equity and strongly against inequity in all its ugly forms.

Over the past months, faced with the COVID crisis, we’ve repeatedly said, “We stand together.” This was not just rhetoric. We lived it. Together we worked to beat back a virus that threatened us all — and, once again, affected people of color disproportionately.

Now we must stand together to defeat injustice and provide hope and healing for ALL the people in ALL the communities we serve. Benjamin Franklin once said that justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.

I am outraged. And that outrage fuels my personal commitment to drive this conversation and our work.

Jeffrey A. Flaks
President and Chief Executive Officer