DIVERSITY IN THE EXECUTIVE RANKS
Properly treating a patient population means adhering to their unique needs, and healthcare executives are increasingly turning their attention toward understanding how diversity meshes with the goal of improved quality of care. “If you don’t understand that and deal with that, then the outcomes won’t be good,” says Dr. Ram Raju, CEO of the Cook County Health & Hospitals System based in Chicago.
Raju, who joined Cook County last November, is the former executive vice president for the New York City Health and Hospitals Corp.
American Indian He makes his first appearance this year on Modern Healthcare’s biennial list of the Top 25 Minority Executives in Healthcare. His chief undertaking in his new position at Cook County is turning around the financially strapped government-run system. While the Cook County system is smaller than New York’s, it’s not exactly compact, ranking as the third-largest system in the U.S. The staff at Cook County also speaks 53 languages.
“Cook County is very diverse … and the workers are very diverse,” Raju says. Minority executives often draw on the experiences of their childhood or those of their parents, which motivate them to help underserved populations. Raju, while speaking last month in Chicago at the American College of Healthcare Executives’ annual Congress on Healthcare Leadership, drew a parallel with his native India and America, comparing how the subcontinent’s caste system prevents the poor from receiving healthcare. He talked about how he was stunned to learn that the same problem plagues America, despite the difference in percapita incomes.
“Even today, in the greatest country of the world, people—mostly people of diversity— go without adequate healthcare,” Raju told his ACHE audience. “Even when they get healthcare, the outcomes are not as good as the majority.”
Raju and other minority administrators say their perspectives allow them to better focus on the needs of these communities. Raju’s new job includes overseeing Chicago’s only safety net hospitals.
He says he’s determined to succeed at Cook County: “I won’t fail.”
That same determination helped Raju along the way as he faced the same challenges most administrators coming from a variety of back-
Breakdown of ACHE fellows and members
Multiple minorities* 3.9% 1.9% 1.8% 0.3% 7.5% 3.6% 4.8% 0.6% 0.2%