I took a deep breath and looked around the room, slowly taking in my surroundings. There were 15 of us; 13 males and 2 females. I thought to myself; “Wow, it is a little different today; another female is present”. But somehow, yet again, I was the only Black person in the room and not surprisingly the only Black female. I did not take a deep breath because I was taken aback but because it was only disappointing to see…. I was “alone” in a room full of people yet again.
Humph! Don’t get me wrong, I excel alone. That is what I faced most of my college life but most prevalent in my career. A career that took me from the “lonely” cubicle of an outpatient coder to the “lonely” big table of a board room. Interestingly, somehow, I loved every minute of that loneliness, even times on the hot seat. It was a place that I worked for, earned, and proved to be vital in for the success of the organization. I was fully invested and supported and respected by my colleagues. They surprisingly looked to me for guidance and answers. I never felt any disdain. I only wished to see more people like me and wondered why. Why am I here and what will it take to get other smart, hard-working, committed, black individuals here? When will they come?
Fortunately, we are in a time where things are changing. Dynamic individuals are taking the helm and working in tandem with the framework of the past. We are seeing great things happening across the spectrum lead by many colorful arrays of leaders. It is so exciting seeing the different hues, shapes, and ideas come together and shine a new light for the future. Board rooms are beginning to look like the people they serve. In turn, beginning to give those that have been “alone” a new level of comfort that time will only fully provide.
I am often asked the question; How did you get that job or elevate your career? Outside of believing in and recognizing my higher power, God; I think back to these key things that you may do or should begin to. First, it is important to bring a team attitude in whatever you do. A huge part of that is being an ear. This allows you to hear the thoughts of others to move forward but also provoke your thoughts and bring forth innovation and resolution. Achieving success together is a great satisfier. It reminds me of my high school band days. Each section working together to not only make beautiful music but beautiful formations on the field. Working in conjunction to be the best and win that trophy. Not only can you celebrate your contribution but looking around you and knowing you all made something happen is magical. You have impacted others and they have impacted you.
Two, I came prepared and thus was respected and listened to. I always stay abreast of current trends but not only that, luckily, I am a forward thinker and think about the possibilities. Why stay in the box? This allows me to support the vision of the organization and bring about new thinking in others. Awareness of the latest and the greatest led to many saying, “Call Sharon!”. Many still call me today.
Three, I made great work friends even while “alone” in the room. This can be as simple as taking a moment to help another colleague with a problem or helping them navigate their career decisions. We all have things in common. Those things allow us to share ourselves and establish a connection. This helps us strengthen the team bond and be open to hearing each other.
Four, I am dedicated and loyal. I am sure many of you heard the term, “Ride or Die”. Being invested in your work/organization shines through. The success of us all is the goal.
Lastly, I volunteer and share my expertise. Volunteering allows you to showcase yourself but can also provide the opportunity to grow others and pass the torch along. I look forward to the me and the you of the future. As things grow, over time they change and can become better; more resilient, more intuitive, and durable. I choose these words because what I give you today will make you better for the future.
I think I should also mention how we sometimes neglect seeing different sides of an issue and how “The “Take A Sec” Methodology” is beneficial. Take a second to see the issue, problem, or concern; evaluate how you can impact it; and collaborate on the solution. If we all just could take a second and try to see and bring the contribution of all forward positive results will come.
It is so exciting to see major transitions within healthcare. We have begun to add top level leaders of all races, ethnicity, and backgrounds across the spectrum of industries. I do believe this is so important to move healthcare forward and ensure we can serve all communities with ideas that span across all lines. I often see panels related to disparities in healthcare or population health with no representation of the population to gain perspectives. I wrote an article recently about being from a small town, that has no hospital in the town or county. Understanding their needs is very different and is impacted by racial and economic divides. Various individuals are needed to put plans into action for communities like this and will require diverse, broader, and innovative thinking. I believe we are at the threshold of a new type of inclusion that will really yield impact.
I am hopeful for what is to come and commend those who are already seeing; “It will take a village to move us forward” and people like me and some of you will not be “Alone at the Table”.
Sharon Easterling, MHA, RHIA, CCS, CDIP, CRC, FAHIMA