This message is from Brian A. Nester, DO, MBA, President and Chief Executive Officer, Lehigh Valley Health Network.
I am writing to provide an update on the third-party review team’s findings into the concerns raised by Dr. Robert Ray Jr., a former resident in the Lehigh Valley Health Network (LVHN) department of emergency and hospital medicine.
On June 19, 2023, Dr. Ray posted a blog in which he raised various concerns. Dr. Ray stated that while a resident at LVHN, he experienced discrimination due to race and retaliation. He also said LVHN did not appropriately respond to his concerns.
At LVHN, we condemn all forms of racism, discrimination and harassment. We strive to maintain a culture of respect, inclusion and equality across our health network to ensure all colleagues feel valued as part of the LVHN community.
We take any description of experiences of racism at LVHN very seriously. Any form of racism is counter to our core values of compassion, integrity, collaboration and excellence, as well as our commitment to promote an equitable and inclusive work environment.
Following the publication of Dr. Ray’s blog, LVHN took immediate steps to address the concerns raised. As part of these efforts, LVHN retained a diverse team of professionals from the law firm of King & Spalding. The review team consisted of eight lawyers who have significant experience handling similar third-party reviews and employment matters. The professionals who conducted the review had not previously worked with or for LVHN.
Conducting a third-party review is standard practice when an organization receives concerns of this nature. A third-party review allows for a fair and impartial examination of the issues raised and can provide a complete and accurate understanding of the events that occurred. The review also can include recommendations to the organization for how to mitigate a similar situation from occurring in the future.
Findings and recommendations
After a thorough process, the review team has completed its assessment. A summary of their conclusions is available here.
The review team also provided recommendations to LVHN. A summary of these recommendations includes the following actions LVHN is and will be taking:
- We are reorganizing our human resources department. This includes assessing the appropriate structure going forward.
- We are revising the process for submitting, investigating and responding to concerns raised internally through the human resources department. As part of this, we will implement reporting tools and ensure appropriate leaders are involved in investigations and trained to address colleague concerns of retaliation.
- We created a more senior Diversity, Equity and Inclusion position with involvement in leadership and Board meetings to ensure high-level visibility and promote DEI initiatives. That position was filled on Jan. 22 when we welcomed Pierre Vigilance, MD, to LVHN as Vice President and Interim Chief Diversity, Health Equity and Inclusion Officer.
- We will revise the current dress code policy no later than May 2024 with standards that prevent reliance on subjective interpretation for enforcement. Review of the policy will take into consideration DEI and patient safety.
- For our more than 20,000 colleagues, we will conduct robust, in-person interactive and educational sessions on inclusion and implicit and unconscious bias, as well as stereotypes and protected characteristics. LVHN senior leadership, including Dr. Vigilance, will develop the education in partnership with other LVHN leaders and DEI experts.
- We are taking appropriate personnel action.
This was an extremely comprehensive review. The review team spoke with 70 people, and some were spoken with multiple times. The review team spoke with the people named in the blog as well as others who were identified as potentially having relevant information. The team also interviewed leaders of LVHN’s various DEI groups, including the Actions Against Racism and Advancing Equity (AARAE) Council, Colleagues Aligned as Resources for Engagement and Support (CARES) Groups, the Multicultural Professional Development Group (MPDG) and the Lehigh Valley Resident Association, to allow them to share information and insights they believe would be helpful for the third-party review team to properly understand and address the issues raised in Dr. Ray’s blog.
To all the colleagues who participated, thank you for your cooperation. We thank Dr. Ray for raising his experiences while a resident, participating in the review process and we apologize to Dr. Ray for the experience he had while a resident at LVHN.
The review team also collected and reviewed extensive documentation from LVHN. This included more than 6,000 emails, antidiscrimination policies and training materials, dress code policies and communications related to dress code violations, documents concerning the toxicology fellowship and ranking process, and documents related to human resources and DEI efforts. The review team also obtained any relevant documents referenced by the people with whom they spoke, such as text messages, emails and notes.
LVHN leaders from across the health network will lead efforts to implement the recommendations. We are continuing to engage with LVHN’s various DEI groups and will work with them as we move forward with implementing changes. Colleagues are encouraged to join these groups to help advance DEI initiatives across our health network. Updates will be shared with all LVHN colleagues as new actions are taken to implement the recommendations.
Throughout this process, we strived to make sure the review team was able to take the appropriate amount of time to do the work they needed to do to ensure we get this right. This review and our dedication to taking appropriate action are an important reflection of our organization’s commitment to ensuring our values are evident in everything we do.
We are confident this review process and the subsequent recommendations we will implement will help us continue to learn and grow as an organization. These efforts reflect the importance of open and honest conversations and collaboration.
Our ability to serve our entire community comes from the collective strengths of our diverse workforce. We are committed to ensuring every member of our LVHN community feels safe, supported and valued.