Our health system has operationalized our Diversity, Equity & Inclusion work and created a report to share the impact of this foundational work. This team member profile and others share the story of these efforts and how their own impact is reflected in our work. We are committed to investing and improving to ensure diverse and inclusive environments where our patients, team members and communities can thrive.
When system CEO Dr. Richard Vath began to engage in listening sessions in the wake of George Floyd’s murder in the summer of 2020, LaTina “Tina” Schaffer, M.A., SHRM-SCP, vice president, talent strategy and chief diversity officer, was quick to participate. She became our system Diversity, Equity & Inclusion accountable leader. “It was a no brainer for me to just raise my hand and say, ‘Put me in, Coach,’” she says.
As a Brown Girl, as she calls herself, Schaffer is familiar with the realities of being treated differently, and she shared her story through that lens with Dr. Vath. “I told him about my experience being passed over for a promotion [at another organization] because of my color and because I was female,” Schaffer says. “The board was not ready for a Black female to be an executive in their company, and they told me so.”
She also has experienced racial profiling, being pulled over on I-10 and having her car searched. Two professional women in a nicer vehicle, she and her best friend, a Black dental hygienist, were told they looked suspicious for drug trafficking.
Schaffer’s conversations with her 16-year-old son, passing on lessons of what to do when interacting with the police if stopped while driving, also play a role in her decision to lead our DEI work. “My son, standing in the kitchen, said, ‘Mom, I know what to do if I’m stopped by a police officer, but you have to understand there’s a strong possibility they’re going to kill me anyway.’”
Quickly, Schaffer got to work developing a DEI model and proposal, telling Dr. Vath and her boss, Hunter M. Richardson, chief human resources officer, “This is what it should be. I would love to lead it, and I’ll learn along the way the things I don’t already know.” They agreed, and since then our DEI efforts have been full speed ahead.
“As one of the largest employers in Louisiana and now into Mississippi, it’s important that we demonstrate our commitment to diversity, equity and justice across these southern states,” says Schaffer, who has worked for our ministry for 10 years. “We have influence, and because we are mission driven it’s important for us to lead and model the way for justice for all of God’s people in our communities.”
Schaffer envisions a future where the culture doesn’t require anyone to tuck in. “People don’t have to leave part of themselves at home when they come to work,” she says. While team members will still demonstrate our standards of behavior and align with our mission and values, they will be able to be their authentic selves.
Equity is a key component from a justice perspective. “We are working to give everyone access to reach their full potential,” Schaffer says. “We’re not asking for anybody to be removed from the table, but we are asking people to scoot over and create more space for others.”