It started as a casual conversation over dinner back in 2017. Today, it’s a major initiative for HFMA’s South Carolina Chapter.
Danielle Gori, FHFMA, CHFP, CRCA, current president of the South Carolina Chapter, was attending the Chapter’s 2017 Fall Institute when she started a discussion with Eric Summers, a senior director of sales and channel relationships with RevSpring. Gori said she wanted to know what it was like to be a Black man living in the wake of the Trayvon Martin shooting, the Eric Garner incident, “stop and frisk” and the 2016 presidential election. So she asked him.
“I was becoming more empathetic to the Black community, especially Black men, and wanted to know how the landscape was shifting for them essentially,” said Gori, whose family is multi-racial. “Eric and I had a very personal and intimate conversation that night about race in America, and, unbeknownst to us, others were listening in.”
Before they knew it, Gori and Summers had a diverse crowd of people engaged in a thought-provoking conversation. Their experience that evening led them to think bigger, and they agreed to have a session on diversity the following summer at the Chapter’s 2018 Annual Institute. Their goal was to create a safe space where people could be authentic and talk freely and openly about race, diversity, equality and inclusion, and feel free to ask any question — even ones they were afraid to ask — without fear, judgment or ridicule.
“That was just the beginning,” said Gori. “We knew we had started a movement within the Chapter that we needed to follow through on.”
Gori, who is an audit and appeals manager for Ensemble Health Partners in Greenville, South Carolina, was already thinking about key issues she wanted to focus on during her upcoming year as the Chapter’s 2021-22 president. When her term actually started in 2020 due to a resignation, she reached out to Summers and told him she wanted to launch a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council. Jaime Bailey, CRCR, MBA, joined Summers and Gori on the council, and the initiative was launched in February 2021.
Since then, the Chapter has hosted monthly “lunch and learn” programs with guest speakers. The April event featured David Richmond, Jr., son of civil rights activist David Richmond, Sr., best known as one of the Greensboro Four. Richmond shared stories of his father and the life lessons he taught him.
Future plans include sessions at Chapter institutes and a full-day educational program devoted to the topic of diversity, equity and inclusion. According to Gori, the initiative has been well received by Chapter members.
“I have very much enjoyed seeing members who I have never seen participate in Chapter events before getting involved with our lunch and learns,” said Gori.
Gori suggests that other HFMA chapters interested in launching a similar initiative should start with a diverse committee. Then establish an open dialogue with members and welcome ideas. Finally, be open-minded and allow for people to feel safe and be authentic.