The Institute for Diversity in Health Management (Institute) can more closely coordinate the many – but sometimes isolated – efforts underway to eliminate health care disparities and achieve health equity, says the organization’s new president and CEO.

“One of the biggest opportunities that the Institute, with support of the AHA, has is to convene and lead this effort across the country in a shared call to action,” says Tomás León, who became the Institute’s leader last month.

He says linking efforts to improve quality, equity and collaboration to the Triple Aim – improving the patient experience of care (including quality and satisfaction); improving the health of populations; and reducing the per capita cost of health care – is critical to success. 

“There’s an opportunity for the Institute to lead the way in how we support and help hospitals and health systems connect with diverse communities and stakeholders to change those conditions that are resulting in health disparities and chronic health conditions,” he says.  

León succeeds Fred Hobby, who led the Institute for 10 years. Hobby will remain with the Institute in a senior executive role through 2015.

Before joining the Institute, León served for four years as president and CEO of the People of Color Network, Inc., a community-based accountable care network serving about 6,000 individuals in the Phoenix region. There, he led health innovations through integrated collaborative care models focused on delivering culturally and linguistically responsive services to individuals with chronic conditions, mental health disorders, co-occurring addictions and complex needs. Prior to leading the accountable care network, he held leadership positions in a community foundation, chamber of commerce and behavioral health organization in Arizona.

"The Institute represents all of what my purpose is in life, which is to serve people and communities and to help create better conditions so people can fulfill their potential,” León says.

For more than 20 years, the AHA-affiliated Institute has provided educational programs, summer internships, professional development initiatives, leadership conferences and other initiatives to expand health care leadership opportunities for ethnically, culturally and racially diverse individuals, as well as increase the number of these individuals entering and advancing in the field.

One of León’s top priorities during his first 90 days in his new role will be meeting with Institute member organizations, partners and sponsors.

“Members are at the heart of all of that we do,” says León. He wants to evaluate Institute programs and look for opportunities to bring additional value to members.

Other major initiatives for this year will be fielding the latest version of the Institute’s diversity and disparities benchmarking survey, expected this fall, and planning for the Institute’s 2016 national leadership and education conference. In addition, León plans to strengthen the Institute’s partnership with the Equity of Care initiative and the national call to action to eliminate health care disparities.

Launched in 2011 by the AHA, Association of American Medical Colleges, American College of Healthcare Executives, Catholic Health Association of the United States, and America’s Essential Hospitals, the groups aim to eliminate health care disparities by increasing diversity in health care governance and leadership; cultural competency training; and collection and use of race, ethnicity and language preference data.

“We have a lot to build on, but the emerging theme across the country is ‘How do we accelerate progress over the next five years to have a collective impact in health care?’” León says.