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Roper St. Francis Hires Mary Toni Flowers As Its First Director of Diversity
Published:
8/24/2016 3:46:51 PM


Toni Flowers
 
By Barney Blakeney


Roper St. Francis healthcare system has hired Mary ‘Toni’ Flowers as a vice president and chief Diversity officer. She will join the system Sept. 6 to become its first ever chief of diversity. Flowers is president and CEO of ETHOS Worldwide, a Michigan-based consulting firm. She will report directly to Roper President and CEO David Dunlap.

Roper St. Francis is Charleston’s only private non-profit hospital system and has three hospitals located in the region. It is the Lowcountry’s largest private employer with over 5,400 employees including more than 800 doctors representing every medical specialty and provides services at 125 locations in seven counties.

Flowers is recognized as a leader who has addressed healthcare inequities among underserved populations, said Dunlap. She has been an advisor to diversity leaders nationally, and has assisted in the creation of organizational diversity and disparity strategic action plans. She was honored by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid for work in developing and implementing a three-year statewide program that achieved the greatest national reduction in healthcare disparities. She also is a nurse and medical anthropologist.

Some view Flowers affiliation with Roper St. Francis as an opportunity to address perceived discrimination in both employment and the delivery of services.

“Roper has hired a diversity officer!” said one awestruct former nurse at the system’s peninsula Charleston hospital. She left the system after four years employment in the wake of discrimination allegations against white supervisors. The registered nurse added that she witnessed disparities in care to black patients because of insensitivity or lack of diversity training.

In 2010 officials of Roper St. Francis Healthcare worked to address issues of racial discrimination brought forward by a group of minority doctors. Members of the Tri-County Medical Society said increasingly aggressive discrimination stemmed from the Chief Medical Officer’s office.

In a letter to Roper St. Francis President and CEO David Dunlap the members said, “The level of intimidation has reached such a climax that we as a group feel threatened and unanimously have lost total confidence in the activities of the office of the CMO.” The bias against African American physicians and double standards imposed on them forced the group to seek legal advice.

The letter outlined issues that included damaging members’ reputations, intimidation, interfering with patient management, unfounded complaints about the quality of care minority physicians provide and disregarding and disrespecting minority physicians’ judgement.

One physician said the discrimination against the doctors ferments a culture of discrimination that ripples through all levels of patient care and support services. He added that if Black physicians were being discriminated against, it’s reasonable to assume Black employees likely were being discriminated against also. An employee at the system’s Mount Pleasant hospital this week said discrimination, though not as bad, still exists.

Flowers said while her role will focus on disparities in healthcare, it must include working to create an environment where all the system’s teammates can do their best work. Diversity, she said, is not just the right thing - it’s the smart thing.
 

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