A Defining Moment

A special letter to all Virtua colleagues from Virtua President and CEO Dennis W. Pullin 

This past week has been deeply troubling to me. As a human being, I find it gut wrenching to process the senseless killing of George Floyd and all those who came before him. As a person of color and citizen of the United States of America, I find it unbearable to watch this ugly history repeat itself again and again in the land of the free and home of the brave. 

There is nothing brave about racism. Nothing free about living in fear because of the color of your skin or some other aspect of yourself that society deems unworthy.

While we stand together actively fighting an invisible yet insidious virus called COVID-19, a more dangerous societal virus that has been woven into the fabric of our communities, institutions and economy silently eats away at the tenets of our humanity.

Racism, hatred and discrimination run counter to the great American dream. What we should all recognize by now is our interconnectivity. What affects one of us, affects all of us.

Over the weekend, we witnessed many peaceful demonstrations, calls for solidarity between police departments and protesters, and influential leaders giving eloquent voice to the pain inflicted on our community. We also saw reprehensible violence, disgraceful looting, and civil unrest.

Our country, our neighbors are hurting — from the pandemic, economic hardship, and intolerable hatred. It is a particularly trying time for our minority communities. They are crying out in frustration for a way forward, to be seen and valued as human beings.

My mother always encouraged me to be better than today. Her advice still rings true for me. We have got to be better, to do better, to open our hearts and minds and embrace the differences around us. I liken it to travelling to a new or exotic part of the country. We readily immerse ourselves in the sights and sounds. We enjoy the people, the culture, the food and the rich, intriguing history. Why not adapt this travel-like approach in our own settings, seeking more awareness and understanding of those around us, appreciating those differences which make each person unique.

Here at Virtua Health, we are our own community, dare I say even a family of 14,000+ amazing individuals. Through our collective development of our “Culture of We”, we profess to value all roles and unique perspectives and contributions. We work to create a safe environment that gives everyone a voice. In the end, it always comes down to us, the people, and how engaged we are. We simply cannot stand up for something while sitting idly by on the sidelines.

Humanity is an action. We must continue to be deeply committed to creating a more inclusive, more diverse, more respectful and more caring culture than ever before.

I’d like to think that a world with less judgement and more understanding is a collective and worthy cause. I humbly ask you, my colleagues, to be proactive in this cause, more than just empathetic.  We must find the courage to speak up when we hear a disparaging or disrespectful comment or if we witness someone being judged or excluded.  

If we wish to work in an organization where everyone knows they matter, we must take responsibility for creating that environment of inclusion and equality.

We must become aware of our own biases and work to grow a more diverse circle of friends and colleagues to broaden our understanding of different viewpoints.

When I came to Virtua Health, it was my intention to bring everyone together to serve this entire community with an undeniable philosophy that signaled “we are here for you, here for good.” That notion of being here for good weighs heavy on my heart.

In the wake of recent events, I now find myself asking: Are we doing enough to expand the conversation around the disparities in health care? Are we widening our lens so that we truly see everyone? Are we doing better in a manner that would make my mom proud?

It is my sincere hope that we emerge from this current state as a new nation — one where we embrace those who may not look, act, speak or think exactly the way we do.