We all want to feel included – that we are part of a community that supports and nurtures us.

However, many, if not all, of us have had experiences where we haven’t felt part of the broader group. Why? Because we were seen as “different” or “other.” 

But here’s the truth: What makes us different makes us stronger, as individuals and as a community. So we need to support and embrace those differences, while continuing to look for similarities. 

That message was driven home this week at the Institute for Diversity and Health Equity’s National Leadership and Education Conference in Chicago. Several hundred hospital leaders, diversity practitioners and leaders in the diversity field came together for three days of thought-provoking discussions and workshops. They discussed where we as a field have been and where we’re going, and why this work is so vitally important to not just our workforce, but our patients and communities.

The fact is, America is growing more and more diverse every day. The U.S. Census Bureau predicts we will become a majority-minority country by 2045. Specifically, the multi-racial population is projected to be the fastest growing over the next several decades, followed by Asians and Hispanics.

But diversity is not only racial. It’s multi-dimensional, encompassing not just race and ethnicity but gender, sexual orientation, religion and more. And understanding individual differences can be critical to delivering care that best meets their needs.  

As a nation, we’ve become much more aware of our differences. But awareness and inclusion are not the same thing. 

And when we aren’t inclusive, we all lose. To quote legendary coach John Wooden, “It’s easier to reach our potential when we learn the value of including others in our quest.” 

At America’s hospitals and health systems, we want to make sure everyone feels seen and included – from the frontlines to the boardroom. And we’re working hard to ensure that our patients feel valued and recognized as the unique individuals they are.