Diversity and Health Equity



Meritus Health values diversity and health equity of the community we serve by empowering a diverse workforce to eliminate disparities in the care we provide to our patients.

Health equity allows for our patients to realize their full health potential no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make. To deliver on our mission, execute our vision, and embody our values, Meritus Health will strive to achieve health equity for the patients we serve.

Meritus Health Statement on Racism and Values of Diversity and Inclusion:

Meritus Health is committed to fostering a culture of diversity, inclusion and health equity within our health system and community. At Meritus Health, all persons will be treated equally and respectfully. Discrimination in any form is unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

We are committed to:

  • Continuously educating ourselves on important issues, such as unconscious bias, so that we increase self-awareness and respectfulness of diverse perspectives
  • Developing a common language and approach to diversity, health equity and inclusion
  • Eliminating disparities in care by looking at quality measures and identifying, reducing or eliminating root causes
  • Maintaining accurate and up-to-date data or patient information on race, ethnicity, language preference, other socio-demographic data and social determinants of health to meet patient-centered health needs
  • Building an engaged workforce and leadership that reflects the diversity of the community we serve
  • Developing strong and trusting community relationships with the goal of addressing conditions that negatively impact vulnerable communities

We have started the journey to increase diversity and inclusion and eliminate healthcare disparities across our health system.

  • Respect above all
  • Deliver culturally sensitive patient-centered care
  • Recognizing the uniqueness of every individual
  • Treating all with dignity and respect

These values guide our work and have earned us national recognition. In 2022, we were proudly showcased in the 15th anniversary edition of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Healthcare Equity Index (HEI).

2022 Hei Top Performer

Leadership in Equity and Disparity (LEAD) Council

In 2002, the Institute of Medicine produced the landmark report, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities, which outlined the stark reality that disparities in health care exist and are associated with worse health outcomes.  Since that time, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality publishes the National Healthcare Quality and Disparities Report (QDR) each year, which tracks the nation’s performance on health care access, quality, and disparities. These reports have increased awareness that disparities are systemic across health care industry, but outcomes have not changed.

Put simply, racism and inequitable treatment are a serious public health concern.

In July 2020, our CEO Maulik Joshi published a call to action titled: Hundreds of Days of Action as a Start to Address Hundreds of Years of Inequity in the NEJM Catalyst.  In response, Meritus Health formed the Leadership in Equity and Disparity Council better known as “LEAD,” to help eliminate disparities and inequality both within our health system, and throughout our community.  The LEAD Council is a representative cross-section of employees, providers and management from our health system who desire to take action and affect positive change.

Meritus Health values diversity, inclusion and the health equity of the community we serve by empowering a diverse workforce to eliminate disparities in the care we provide to our patients.  Health equity allows our patients to realize their full health potential no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make. To deliver on our mission, execute our vision, and embody our values, Meritus Health will strive to achieve health equity for the patients we serve. The commitment to promote equitable practices and to eliminate disparities ultimately results in the core work of improving quality and patient safety.

“We can no longer only dream of equality and hope for change. We must act. Together, we will eradicate racism and inequity in all forms and commit to fostering a culture of diversity and inclusion.” Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H.

LEAD Charter

Purpose: The LEAD council exists to help eliminate disparities in care for patients at Meritus Health and in our community by:

  • Ensuring that the diversity of Meritus Health leadership and staff is representative of the communities it serves
  • Teaching leaders and staff how to understand and speak about cultural diversity related topics such as color, race, age, gender identity, sexual orientation, ethnicity or many other factors that make us all unique
  • Raising general awareness and encouraging a culture of diversity, respect, and inclusion
  • Creating ways to increase the inclusion of all people at Meritus Health, with a specific focus on understanding unconscious bias and eliminating inequity and prejudice
  • Learning and practicing intercultural competence and sensitive patient-centered care
  • Building trusting & inclusive relationships within our community

FY2021 LEAD Accomplishments

  • Developed the LEAD Charter
  • Created and published Meritus Health statement on Racism and Diversity
  • Created workgroups with volunteers from LEAD
    • Quality measurement and improvement
    • Training/Education
    • Health Equity Index
    • Established the LEAD Dashboard
  • Provided review and input on the “Meritus Medical Center Prevention and Intolerance of Discrimination, Harassment, Hate and Violence in the Workplace” policy

AARP LEAD Collaborative

Meritus Health is proud to partner to help reduce health disparities and work with others to create best practices.  We are proud of our AARP LEAD collaborative, bringing those with shared values together to impact positive change. 

Learn More

Meritus Health ‘Care to Share’ program addresses food insecurity

June 13, 2023

Nearly 80 percent of what determines a patient’s health happens outside of hospitals and doctors’ offices – the social determinants of health. “As our region’s health system, our teams are dedicated to understanding the factors that impact our patients’ health,” explained Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H., President and CEO of Meritus Health. “If a patient can’t access healthy foods, we cannot expect them to be in good health. These challenges are dynamic, but we can’t wait until we have permanent solutions to help our patients. Sometimes, we need to approach these challenges that’s as simple as making sure they have their next meal.” The approach in this instance are two bright blue food boxes, located on the Meritus Health Campus off Robinwood Drive. Similar to the Little Free Library concept, the Care to Share boxes are stocked with food and anyone is free to take what they need. “At every appointment, our caregivers ask patients if they have access to food. If they don’t, our Care Management team is informed to connect the patient with community resources. Sometimes it can take a day or two for a person to get established in those programs, so these Care to Share boxes really help address that immediate need for the patient,” Joshi offered. It happens more often than one may realize. In Washington County, 13% of people are considered food insecure, and 15% of children also fall into that category. Food insecurity is defined as a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food. For Meritus caregivers, these aren’t just statistics, they are real families. “We helped someone who had no transportation and who recently started living at a downtown Hagerstown hotel,” said Sydney Myers of Meritus Community Health. “The patient was without food, and she was able to pick out things she desperately needed. She was so thankful,” Myers added. “One of the Care to Share boxes is right outside of Meritus Family Medicine – Robinwood,” said Karessa Cameron of Meritus Outpatient Care Management. “I have personally helped a patient get food there, and it was very convenient to have the box right outside of the family medicine suite,” she said. “This effort is a perfect example of how a little kindness can go a long way,” Joshi said. “We are only three months in, but we are on track to spend approximately $30,000 a year in food to fill our two boxes, in addition to the donations of food received,” said Joshi. The donation boxes are located at the main lobby entrance to Meritus Medical Center and the Purple Entrance to Robinwood Professional Center. A list of suggested donations can be found at MeritusHealth.com/CaretoShare.

Meritus named finalist for 2023 Foster G. McGaw Award

April 24, 2023

Memorial Hermann Health System is the 2023 winner of the AHA’s Foster G. McGaw Prize for Excellence in Community Service. Memorial Hermann – a non-profit, award-winning health system committed to creating healthier Houston communities – is recognized for its leadership and breadth in building programs, services and initiatives that address the varied health needs of its patients and community. The health system will receive $100,000 toward programs that further these goals during the AHA Annual Membership Meeting in Washington, D.C., on April 24.The Foster G. McGaw Prize is sponsored by the Baxter International Foundation, the American Hospital Association and its non-profit affiliate Health Research & Educational Trust. The prize is given annually to a health care organization that has shown exceptional commitment to community health and developing innovative partnerships with community organizations to address societal factors influencing health and improving access to high quality, safe and equitable health care. Memorial Hermann is one of the largest not-for-profit health systems in Texas and serves patients across its network of 32,000 employees, 6,700 affiliated physicians, and more than 265 care delivery sites – including 17 hospitals and numerous specialty programs and services conveniently located throughout the Greater Houston area. “Each day Memorial Hermann, in collaboration with numerous community partners, advances the health and well-being of individuals across Southeast Texas,” said Rick Pollack, AHA president and CEO. “From providing important care information through a 24/7 hotline to programs that encourage physical activity and bring care for children into schools, Memorial Hermann is going outside the four walls to make a critical difference in its community.” “Meeting a community’s unique healthcare needs is often best done with and in that community,” said Verónica Arroyave, executive director of the Baxter International Foundation and senior director of global community relations at Baxter. “This means implementing localized care when, where and how people may need it. We applaud Memorial Hermann and the 2023 Foster G. McGaw Prize finalists for their creative programming – from “Dancing with a Doc” to “Go for Bold!,” these organizations are making a meaningful difference in the health and well-being of their communities.” “Our organization is honored to be recognized by the American Hospital Association with this prestigious award. The Foster G. McGaw Prize is especially meaningful because it reflects our strong commitment to our community,” said David L. Callender, MD, President and CEO, Memorial Hermann. “As a system, our vision is to create healthier communities, now and for generations to come, and within that vision is our unwavering commitment to improve health – keeping individuals out of our hospitals by providing accessible preventative care, resources and support to help families live healthier and more satisfying lives.”Memorial Hermann’s strong initiatives include: Nurse Health Line: In operation since 2014, and scaled up with Hurricane Harvey in 2017 and the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the system’s Nurse Health Line provides a bilingual staff 24 hours a day, seven days a week, to answer calls, assess callers’ primary health concerns and direct them to an appropriate level of care, free of charge – regardless of health care affiliation, primary care provider or insurance status. In addition, it provides education and resources to support doctors’ plans of care as well as providing life-saving advice and resources in coordination with local agencies, such as dialysis centers. During the COVID-19 pandemic, a nurse triage hotline was established to assess callers’ symptoms and direct them to appropriate care. In total, the system has responded to 27,600 COVID-related calls on its Nurse Health Line, which receives 170,000 calls annually. Only 25% of callers are sent to the ED, saving $4.7 million in health care costs.  StepHEALTHY: This initiative has been promoting physical activity since 2016, including through walking groups; Walk with a Doc, where a physician walks, talks and provides health education to community members; Dancing with a Doc, where a psychiatrist leads a Zumba class and then speaks to the class about mental health; StepHEALTHY Connects, which recruits and supports community members to become certified professional group fitness instructors; Walk to Clark Park, which increased access to the park from two schools with new concrete and sidewalk art; and a soccer program for children.  Health Centers for Schools: Operating since 1996, Health Centers for Schools provide year-round medical care for children who are uninsured or covered by Medicaid and serve as a secondary access point for insured children. The nine centers provide medical, mental health, dental, nutritional, navigation, and exercise programming to eligible children and adolescents in more than 80 schools in the Greater Houston area. Memorial Hermann and the five served districts share the goal of keeping kids in school where they can learn. Transportation from feeder schools is provided, and consented students can be seen without parents present with no charge for services. Outcomes are academic as well as clinical with 94% of the 24,000 student visits returning to their classroom to continue their school day. Community Resource Centers: Three geographically dispersed Community Resource Centers are one-stop locations where individuals and families can get help with access to health care, health education and social services. Staffed with community health workers and social workers, the goal of the Centers is to support patients and community members not only with navigating the health and social service systems but also in becoming more engaged in their own disease prevention through decision-making and self-management. Nonprofit and state agencies are brought together either at the Centers or through referral arrangements to deliver a powerful collective impact.  Mental Health Crisis Clinics: Three Mental Health Crisis Clinics (MHCCs) eliminate the 90-plus-day wait time to be connected to outpatient behavioral health by offering psychiatric urgent care, so any patient in need can walk-in, without an appointment, and be immediately assessed and cared for by a licensed mental health team. Memorial Hermann receives referrals to its MHCCs from local providers, other hospitals and health systems, social service agencies, schools, the regional crisis line and even local mental health authorities. An innovative access point, the MHCCs have extended and weekend hours enabling patients to access care during non-traditional hours. Approximately 52% of patients report improved symptomology. 2023 FinalistsThree Foster G. McGaw Prize finalists are also recognized for their community health programs and will each receive $10,000. These finalists include: Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles for its community clinic initiative that provides resident physician clinical support rotations at community health centers, initiating pathways for specialty care and charity care referrals to Cedars-Sinai. The hospital is also recognized for its Community Outreach Assistance for Children’s Health (COACH) for Kids program that provides immediate care, connects patients with integrated, high-quality medical, dental, vision and behavioral health care, supports Medi-Cal enrollment and provides access to resources that address food insecurity, housing, domestic violence and legal concerns. Additionally, the Share & Care program provides school-based K-12 mental health and early intervention programs for students, parents and educators who have been affected by traumatic events. GBMC HealthCare System in Baltimore for its Gilchrist We Honor Veterans Program that serves veterans with serious illness, including end of life care, and in our community. In addition, the Sexual Assault Forensic Examination (SAFE) and Domestic Violence Program treats victims of all ages in a confidential setting at no cost. Evidence collected by the SAFE team has led to hundreds of guilty verdicts and the program also provides advocacy and crisis intervention to more than 300 people a year. Finally, the Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment (SBIRT) Program identifies and screens patients whose health is at risk due to alcohol or drug usage and refers them to a treatment program through community partners. Meritus Health, Inc. in Hagerstown, Md., for its Go for Bold! campaign to lose 1 million community pounds by increasing physical activity, encouraging healthy eating habits, and improving stress management and mental well-being for community members. In addition, Meritus and the Washington County Health Department co-chair a coalition of 55 public and private community organizations, with initiatives that include increasing awareness of blood pressure risk and improving overall health and wellbeing. Meritus has also implemented an innovative Care Caller program where lonely community members receive weekly calls from Meritus employees and volunteers to check in, which has resulted in people feeling less lonely. About the Foster G. McGaw PrizeThe Foster G. McGaw Prize recognizes health care organizations that are committed to community service through a range of programs that demonstrate a passion and continuous commitment to making communities healthier and more vital. The prize, first awarded in 1986, inspires hospitals, health systems and communities to assess and implement programs that improve their communities. For more information, visit www.aha.org/fostermcgaw.About the American Hospital AssociationThe American Hospital Association (AHA) is a not-for-profit association of health care provider organizations and individuals that are committed to the health improvement of their communities. The AHA advocates on behalf of our nearly 5,000 member hospitals, health systems and other health care organizations, our clinician partners – including more than 270,000 affiliated physicians, 2 million nurses and other caregivers – and the 43,000 health care leaders who belong to our professional membership groups. Founded in 1898, the AHA provides insight and education for health care leaders and is a source of information on health care issues and trends. For more information, visit the AHA website at www.aha.org.About the Baxter International FoundationEvery day, Baxter and the Baxter International Foundation strive to make a meaningful difference in the lives of people who depend on our products, and in the communities where our employees live and work. The Foundation helps advance Baxter’s mission to save and sustain lives by partnering with organizations around the world to increase access to healthcare for the underserved, develop the next generation of innovators who will lead the way in advancing healthcare and to create a positive, long-lasting impact in communities globally. For more information, please visit Baxter’s Corporate Responsibility page.

Meritus among top 1% of hospitals for community investment

April 12, 2023

Meritus Medical Center is in the top 1 percent of nonprofit hospitals where charity care and community investment exceed tax credits, according to a report released April 11, by the Lown Institute, a nonpartisan think tank advocating bold ideas for a just and caring system for health. The report reviewed the finances of 1,773 nonprofit hospitals in the U.S., and calculated “fair share” spending by comparing each system’s spending on financial assistance and community investment to the estimated value of its tax exemption. “At Meritus Health, our mission is simple, ‘To improve the health of our community,’” Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H., president and CEO said. “We are all-in for supporting the needs of our community and as such we are committed to providing charity care and investing directly into programs and partnerships that support the health of our region,” he said. The report looks at the tax year 2020, and shows that Meritus Medical Center was ranked #17 in the nation. According to the Meritus Healthcare Foundation’s annual report from fiscal year 2020, the health system contributed more than $57 million in benefits to the community that year. Support for the community continues to be prioritized with more than $10 million reported for charity care alone in fiscal year 2022. The majority of that community benefit was provided through mission-driven healthcare services and charity care, which is free or discounted health and health-related services provided for patients who cannot afford to pay their medical bills. Read more about how Meritus supports its community at MeritusHealth.com/Foundation.

Support grows for Meritus Health’s goal to reduce health disparities

March 7, 2023

Meritus Health, the largest healthcare provider in Western Maryland, continues to gain support in advancing health equity. The health system has been awarded a $49,000 grant from CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield (CareFirst) to be implemented through the AARP Leaders in Equity and Diversity (LEAD) Collaborative. The idea stemmed from the work of Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H., president and CEO of Meritus, and his desire to address health disparities, especially in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. “This work is a necessity, not a nicety,” Joshi said of the collaborative. “We are thankful for the support of CareFirst in our work,” he added. In October 2022, a group of committed healthcare leaders representing 32 organizations across multiple mid-Atlantic states set goals to reduce health disparities among aging populations. Each member has committed to at least one of three key goals:  Reduce health disparities in the community Address social determinants of health Increase diversity in their organization’s leadership  Joshi noted, “The LEAD Collaborative is about improvement in results. The participating collaborative organizations are committed to testing, learning and sharing, with a focus towards meaningful, measurable change. That is what makes these organizations leaders in making health and healthcare better for all.” According to AARP research, if no action is taken, the annual economic cost to the U.S. GDP caused by racial disparities in life expectancy alone is expected to reach $1.6 trillion in 2030, and could result in an annual loss of $1.1 trillion in total consumer spending. The LEAD Collaborative has been supported generously by the thought leadership of AARP. The CareFirst grant money will be distributed amongst LEAD Collaborative participating organizations in two ways: Testing Grants to support LEAD collaborative organizations in their testing of improvements and Sustainability Grants awarded at the end of 2023 for LEAD Collaborative organizations to further and sustain their work in health equity. For more information about the LEAD Collaborative or to join, please visit MeritusHealth.com/AARPLead. 

Healthcare leaders join forces to reduce health disparities

October 26, 2022

A group of committed healthcare leaders, representing 32 organizations across seven states are embarking on focused and intentional work to address health disparities among minority aging populations. The newly developed collaborative, Leaders in Equity and Diversity (LEAD) Collaborative, with funding support from AARP, stemmed from the work of Meritus Health president and CEO, Maulik Joshi, Dr.P.H., who has committed to reducing health disparities in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic in rural Maryland and further.  The LEAD Collaborative, being led by Joshi, Deneen Richmond, President of Luminis Health Doctors Community Medical Center, and Arti Varanasi, president and CEO, Advancing Synergy, is focusing efforts to reduce disparities, address social determinants of health, and increase the diversity of leadership to accelerate results, with a commitment of sharing best practices and implementing bold solutions that reduce disparities by 2024. This week, the leaders gathered in Hagerstown to set the foundation for learning and growing together. “It is work that isn’t an option, or something that can be ignored,” Joshi explained as he started the session by reminding participants of “why” action is needed.  “I tend to go back to Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s quote, ‘The moral test of government is how that government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in shadows of life, the sick, the needy, and the handicapped.’”  “I believe government sets policies and direction, but healthcare providers take action. There are lots of people living in the shadows, begging the question, how do we as a healthcare entity, as an anchor of the community, how do we not just speak for everyone, but do?” he shared. Coupled with this backdrop and the desire to accelerate change through meaningful action, each member of the LEAD Collaborative will commit to setting measurable goals in at least one of three key areas: reduce health disparities in the community; address social determinants of health, and increase diversity in their organization’s leadership.  Organizations will share progress on their efforts and learn practices from other collaborative members. The discussion and learning of the session were captured by a graphic illustrator, who brought spoken issues to visual art, to help demonstrate the aligned goals and needs of the participating organizations.   

Meritus recognized for expanding efforts in health care equity

March 1, 2022

The hospital’s designation is showcased in the 15th anniversary edition of the Human Rights Campaign Foundation’s Healthcare Equity Index (HEI) alongside other health care providers that have policies and practices dedicated to the equitable treatment and inclusion of LGBTQ+ patients, visitors and employees. “To attain health equity, every person must have the opportunity to access safe, quality health care, with no one disadvantaged or disrespected because of gender identity, sexual orientation, social position or other social determinants,” said Maulik Joshi, Dr. P.H., president and CEO of Meritus Health. Under Joshi’s leadership, Meritus Health formed the Leadership in Equity and Disparity (LEAD) Council in 2020, bringing together a representative cross-section of employees, providers and management who desire to take action and affect positive change. From there, an initial health equity report was published and posted online in 2021. “We’ve accomplished a good deal with respect to training and educating our employees and providers and are now beginning to establish employee resource groups for several audiences, including the LGBTQ+ community,” said Allen Twigg, executive director of community and behavioral health for Meritus Health.  Foundational policies and training in LGBTQ+ patient-centered care and services and support for the community are among the four pillars scored for the Healthcare Equality Top Performers. Ryan Gabriel, D.O., a third-year resident in the Meritus Family Medicine Residency Program and a physician champion for these initiatives, said that “the openness and opportunities to provide new education and information on the inclusive needs of our patients is something Meritus Health continues to get right.” “Trainings on health care needs specific to the LGBTQ+ community have been very well-received by our physicians and providers, who want to be aware and helpful to all of the patients coming through our doors,” said Gabriel.  The Meritus Family Medicine practice in Robinwood Professional Center, suite 200, where Dr. Gabriel sees patients alongside numerous other colleagues, has been a leader in connecting LGBTQ+ patients to more complete screenings and tests and community resources for communication and other needs. “We are in the beginning of our journey to increase inclusion and eliminate health care disparities, but it’s great to be recognized for our initial accomplishments and the direction we are heading,” said Joshi. “Meritus Health will continue to recognize the uniqueness of every individual patient and work to treat all with dignity and respect.”

Health Equity Reports

Health equity allows for our patients to realize their full health potential no matter who they are, where they live, or how much money they make. To deliver on our mission, execute our vision, and embody our values, Meritus Health will strive to achieve health equity for the patients we serve. This year, Meritus Health took a long, hard look at our data relating to race, ethnicity, and language across thirteen safety and quality measures to identify health disparities at Meritus Health. This information helps us better understand our patients and their needs in order to eliminate the disparity in care we provide.

Below is a link to our Meritus Health FY20 Health Equity Report. The report highlights our analysis of multiple quality measures and identifies six areas that warrant further understanding and improvement to eliminate disparities in care. Transparency in our performance is essential to improving health equity.

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