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Learning and Unlearning: Our DEI Journey

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“The pandemic plus the national attention to matters of equity—including access to healthcare—have highlighted the importance of diversity, equity, and inclusion. As an international surgical and public health organization, we need to understand and embody diversity, equity and inclusion,” 

Jeff Whisenant, President and CEO

This past year has brought many deep rooted inequities to light. As a society we are coming to a reckoning with the systems of oppression, police brutality, racism, and barriers in equity that persist both in the United States and across the globe.

At ReSurge International, our mission is simple. We want to provide the world’s most vulnerable populations with life-changing surgical care and dismantle inequities in global health. We’ve been doing this work for over 50 years, and with that comes an immense responsibility. It is our duty to constantly question the systems of power and privilege that we fit into both as an organization and as a sector as a whole. It is also our duty to ensure that we are being equitable not only in our external work, but internally as well.

There is work to be done. At ReSurge, we’re embarking on a journey to embed Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) deep into our DNA. While we are just starting on this path, we want to share our approach and our learnings, to hold ourselves accountable and inspire others in their journeys.

And who better to share an update on our work than Christa Peterson, our Development Manager and founding member of the ReSurge International DEI Committee. Read more from Christa about our DEI journey:

What does true Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) mean to an organization? And is DEI more than just having a varied employee representation of races, backgrounds, ages, abilities, and sexual orientations? These were just some of the initial questions we started to ask ourselves at ReSurge International as we started on our DEI journey.

We quickly discovered that true DEI work goes well beyond the ‘D’ of diversity, and that as an organization we wanted to learn as much as we could about DEI inwardly and outwardly. Our policies and philosophy don’t just affect us as employees, they also affect the patients we serve, our global partners, and our donors alike. But to learn more, we found that we first had to unlearn both conscious and unconscious biases.

In an already tumultuous year, the tragic murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Aubrey, and Breonna Taylor were a powerful wake up call for many of us based in the United States on just how deep injustice runs throughout our systems. These events created a new sense of urgency for us as an organization to make DEI work a top priority. We started to ask ourselves harder questions, and senior leadership jump-started the unlearning process by formalizing a strategy to talk about racism. We came together to read and digest resources as a team. Articles such as, Global Surgery Pro – Con Debate: A Pathway to Bilateral Academic Success or the Bold New Face of Colonialism, were particularly insightful. We also watched various video presentations about building a truly anti-racist organization and the history of healthcare inequities for underrepresented groups in America. In addition, an internal online forum was created so that all employees could reference and share relevant articles about the DEI space in both global health and in our own backyard.

DEI Foundations course led by Dr. Alexandria White, Director of Diversity at Reboot Accel

While we were collectively learning and unlearning, we knew that we had to further this work in action and deed. We began by first forming a DEI committee. Next we launched a DEI survey in the Summer of 2020 to get a pulse of how ReSurge employees were doing and shared those results with the executive team and then with the Board of Directors.

We were lucky to have complete buy in from leadership, but realized as a group that we needed guidance with our next steps. The ReSurge team enlisted the help of consultant and facilitator, Dr. Alexandria White, Director of Diversity at Reboot Accel, to lead a DEI Foundations course for our staff. We spoke candidly about our DEI experiences, asked questions, learned terminologies, and reviewed resources to track our DEI goals and successes.

Upon having taken this course, the DEI committee is proud to announce that we will soon be finalizing a Diversity Dashboard, formalizing our organizational DEI goals, and crafting an official DEI statement to share with our donors and external partners.

While we are proud of how far we have come, and what we have accomplished so far in this journey, we know that there isn’t a finish line to achieving DEI in an organization. There is always work to be done, and we are fully committed.

Christa Peterson

Christa Peterson

Christa Peterson, a native of Seattle, Washington, received her bachelor’s degree from the University of Washington in Business Administration with a focus in Marketing. In 2018, she obtained a continuing education certificate in Project Management, also from the University of Washington. She has extensive client services experience, is results-oriented, and works well in team environments to drive success. She has a heart for the nonprofit world with volunteer experience ranging from fundraising to mentorship. She also planned and executed personal and professional development workshops for women in the greater Seattle area from 2012-2015. Her ReSurge responsibilities include donor database maintenance and research, executing various fundraising activities, and recently she became a part of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee.

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