CHRISTUS details its diversity and inclusion initiatives

July 1, 2019


DALLAS — The Catholic health ministry's commitment to diversity and inclusion is rooted in its mission of providing compassionate care for all in need.

Lisa Reynolds
Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./© CHA

To that end, human resource professionals at Irving, Texas-based CHRISTUS Health walked through that system's ongoing efforts to recruit, retain and promote women and staff of varying ethnicities and cultural backgrounds to all levels of the organization during an hour-long breakout session at the Catholic Health Assembly. The session was titled "Intentionality: The Impact of a Culture-Driven, Multifaceted Diversity and Inclusion Strategy."

Tiffany Capeles
Photo by Jerry Naunheim Jr./© CHA

CHRISTUS Health's footprint extends to four states — Texas, New Mexico, Arkansas and Louisiana — and three Latin American Countries: Mexico, Colombia and Chile. Lisa Reynolds, vice president of talent management at CHRISTUS, said 25 percent of the organization's executives and 45 percent of the system's overall workforce are non-Caucasian. In addition, 45 percent of the health system's executives are women.

CHRISTUS defines diversity as "all the ways in which people are different."

"If you have a diverse and talented staff, you ensure that our patients receive full and equitable access to care, which allows them to lead a full and healthy life," Reynolds told those in attendance. "What greater mission than that?"

Reynolds and Tiffany Capeles, CHRISTUS' director of health equity, detailed several system initiatives to develop and retain a diverse workforce. Among them:

  • A two-year executive fellowship program that began in 2012 to prepare minority talent for executive roles. To be eligible, an employee must have been in the workforce at least seven years, including three years in health care management. Applicants must have a master's degree. "It's taking that somewhat seasoned middle manager and preparing them for their executive role," Reynolds said. The current cohort of five fellows will complete the program in August.
  • Incentivizing executives to mentor minorities for leadership roles. The system set a "pay at risk" goal of having at least 20 percent of the senior team mentor a woman or minority associate in 2018. Each of seven ministries within CHRISTUS met or exceeded the goal that year. Three of the ministries have met the goal so far in 2019, Reynolds said. "We would still like to see it above (20 percent); we've got more work to do," Reynolds said.
  • An effort to strengthen women's leadership skills and visibility, and to seek opportunities to promote women in CHRISTUS' Latin American partnerships. Men occupy three-quarters of the combined executive positions in health systems co-owned by CHRISTUS in Mexico, Colombia and Chile.

Capeles said the commitment to diversity and inclusion extends to the governing board of the CHRISTUS parent organization. When Ernie W. Sadau became president and chief executive in 2011, he looked at the ethnic and gender composition of the CHRISTUS board and said, "You know what? I think we can do better." Rather than wait until the board terms ended, she said, CHRISTUS added more seats to the board and brought in members who added diversity.

"It's about intentionality," Capeles said. "We were not willing to wait."

At CHRISTUS, 35 percent of executives will reach retirement age within five years, which is a "big concern," Reynolds said, because the ministry will need to have its pipeline ready. During the breakout session, Reynolds also reviewed the generational diversity among the ministry's associate workforce. The largest group is Generation X, born between 1965 and 1979, at 38 percent, followed closely by the Generation Y group, born 1980 to 2000, at 37 percent.

Next year's Catholic Health Assembly will be in Atlanta and will feature speakers and programming that will examine issues of racism, diversity and disparities both in society and in health care. The theme will be "All God's Children."

CHA's Special Committee on Diversity and Health Disparities focuses on issues related to diversity of leadership and workforce, and on the effects of health disparities. CHA resources can be found at



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