Diversity Equity & Inclusion Council

At Cooley Dickinson we are committed to achieving an environment of inclusion and equity that respects, affirms and leverages the rich backgrounds and life experiences of the Pioneer Valley’s multicultural communities. Across our health care system we are mindful of all aspects of human differences, such as socioeconomic status, race, ethnicity, language, nationality, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, geography, disability and age. We recognize that excellence in all aspects of care and service delivery can only be achieved when staff, patients, and residents genuinely connect and engage across cultures to create health equity.

The Diversity Equity & Inclusion Council of Cooley Dickinson was established in 2014 to help us achieve this vision.

Our Mission

Guided by the needs of our patients, and the talents of a diverse and inclusive workforce, we support efforts to help Cooley Dickinson deliver equitable health care in a culturally responsive, compassionate way and to improve the health and well-being of the diverse communities we serve.

Our goals
  • Diversify the workforce and governance to reflect and leverage the diversity of populations served
  • Enhance cultural and linguistic competency to improve safety and quality of care
  • Eliminate health disparities to advance equity, quality and value

To learn more about the work of the DEI Council and some of its initiatives to make the Cooley Dickinson Community more inclusive and healthcare more equitable, follow the links to the right.

Diversity & Inclusion

Have you ever requested a female provider for your OB/GYN care? Ever felt relief when your doctor explains your treatment plan to you in a language you can understand? Do you feel more welcome in a doctor’s office when you see people who look like you providing care?

You’re not alone. Studies have found that when a provider and patient share the same cultural backgrounds, patient satisfaction and self-rated quality of care are higher. And these, in turn, are closely linked to more positive health outcomes.

The combined forces of health reform and demographic shifts in the U.S. make increasing diversity in the workforce and in leadership positions a priority across the country and at Cooley Dickinson. Leveraging the power of diverse talent will allow us to expand health care access for all and enrich the pool of managers and policymakers to meet the needs of our increasingly diverse community.

Cultural Competence

Diversifying our workforce does not mean that we are only able to care for and serve people like ourselves.  All of us need to strengthen skills in communicating and healing across cultures. We all must have a firm understanding of how and why different belief systems, cultural biases, ethnic origins, family structures, and a host of other culturally determined factors influence the way people experience illness, adhere to medical advice, and respond to treatment. Such differences are real and translate into real differences in the outcomes of care. Being “culturally competent” in health care means:

  • Treating every patient with equal respect and dignity regardless of culture, ethnicity, gender identity or social status
  • Having knowledge of important customs, values, and health beliefs for different cultural groups
  • Having the skills to communicate well with any patient to explore how customs, values, and health beliefs may affect clinical care
Equitable Care

In a recent study, Hampshire County was named one of the healthiest counties in the U.S. Yet on some of the most important indicators, like how long we live, too many residents don’t have the same opportunities to be as healthy as others. This isn’t fair, it isn’t safe, and it’s costly.

At Cooley Dickinson, we want to raise the bar for everyone; that’s why we’re working to eliminate health care disparities that we know exist in the Valley–like higher rates of diabetes and asthma among blacks and Latinos, and lower rates of cancer screening among LGBT residents. Studies show that these actions not only help us close the health divide, but increase the quality of care delivered to all patients.

National Coalition for LGBT Health, Cooley Dickinson Medical Group, Northampton, MA 01060.Did you know…

…that 31% of gay and bisexual men say they don’t have a regular place to go to receive medical care or do not have a regular physician? Or that transgender people have a high prevalence of mental health issues, HIV, STIs, but are the least likely population to have health insurance? Did you know that lesbians and bisexual women are more likely to be overweight or obese, more likely to smoke, and less likely to get screened for breast and cervical cancers compared to heterosexual women? And, that for LGBT people of color, these risks are even higher? If you live an actively high-risk lifestyle with multiple sexual partners (or just one who hasn’t been tested) do you know about HIV PrEP? (It could save your life).

Cooley Dickinson Health Care acknowledges LGBT populations as a unique health care demographic, and we work to highlight that demographic in our community outreach as one that is at elevated risk for many health concerns. Click HERE to learn about LGBTQ care at Cooley Dickinson.


LGBT History

October is LGBT History Month in the United States. When it was founded in 1994, LGBT History month celebrated contributions by Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Americans, but it has since grown to celebrate the diverse spectrum of LGBTQIA communities and is inclusive of people who identify as Queer, Intersex, and Asexual as well.  October was chosen as the month to celebrate LGBTQIA history because it coincides with National Coming Out Day and the Second March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights in 1987 (The Great March), which are both commemorated on October 11th.

It is worth noting some of the pioneers of LGBT history all year round, however, and we’ve shared a few brief profiles below of people and organizations that have played a big part in moving LGBTQ rights forward and helped mainstream what were once considered fringe ideas into the larger American and global culture.

Magnus Hirschfeld and Lili Elbe

Magnus Hirschfeld was an outspoken advocate for gay and transgender rights, and an out gay man who lived in Germany after the turn of the century. He established the world’s first gender identity clinic in 1920’s Berlin, the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft. The Institut housed a large archive and library on sexuality and provided educational services and a full range of mental and physical health services. He was one of the first physicians who treated Lili Elbe, an artist who became the first person to undergo gender confirmation surgery. With the rise of Nazism, Hirschfeld was forced into exile, the institute was sacked, and all the books in the library burned.

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera

Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera may be best known for their vanguard roles during the Stonewall Riots in 1969, but that is only one small part of the contributions they made to LGBTQIA health and communities. They both knew from personal experience that systemic poverty and racism can have health impacts on an entire community, and together in 1972 co-founded STAR House, a shelter to support youth who were being forgotten and left behind by the larger cisgender and white movements of the time. Marsha died in 1992 under suspicious circumstances that were at first ruled a suicide, the investigation into her death has recently been reopened as a possible homicide. Her story is a reminder of the high risk of violence against trans people, and especially trans women of color, that still exists to this day.

Josephine Baker

Sara Josephine Baker made many contributions to public health during her lifetime but is probably best known for her role in tracking down Mary Mallon, the infamous Typhoid Mary. She graduated second in her class at the New York Infirmary Medical College in 1898 and soon went to work studying mortality in New York City’s slums, with a focus on infant mortality. Baker invented a safe infant formula that allowed mothers to work to support their families, and designed a container made with antibiotic beeswax for keeping medication doses from becoming contaminated. During World War I, Baker pointed out that babies born in the US had a higher mortality rate than soldiers in France and was able to use the publicity from her comment to start a lunch program for school children. Dr. Baker lived for many years with novelist Ida A.R. Wylie and fellow health professional Louise Pearce and is known to have described herself as a woman-oriented woman.

ACT-UP (AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power)

ACT-Up was formed in March of 1987 at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in New York in response to the inadequate response by the US government to the AIDS crisis. ACT-Up organized visible protests and acts of civil disobedience to demand transparent, expedited, and accessible drug trials for people living with HIV. Just a few of the places they successfully protested include the FDA, Wall Street, and the CDC. They successfully partnered with the very people they protested to pioneer more transparent and effective drug trials, and, at great personal cost, brought wider attention to one of the greatest health crises in modern times.

Louise Pearce

Louise Pearce was an American pathologist from Winchester, Massachusetts, who helped to develop a treatment for African Sleeping Sickness. She traveled to the Belgian Congo in 1920 where she designed a drug testing protocol for human trials to test the safety and effectiveness of tryparsamide. Her trial proved successful at combating the fatal disease with a recovery rate of 80% compared to nearly 100% fatality without treatment. She received the Order of the Crown of Belgium and the Royal Order of the Lion for her work. Pearce was also successful at developing treatment protocols to treat syphilis with tryparsamide before antibiotics. She spent much of the rest of her career studying cancer in animals. Pearce lived with fellow health professional Dr. S. Josephine Baker and with novelist Ida A. R. Wylie. They were all members of a heterodoxy feminist book club with many other members who were known to be lesbian or bisexual.

Alan L. Hart

Alan Hart was a physician, radiologist, and tuberculosis researcher who pioneered the use of x-ray photography for tuberculosis detection. Born Lucille Hart in 1890, Alan’s family allowed him to present as a boy until starting school at age 12. He attended Lewis and Clark College and Stanford before receiving his medical degree from the University of Oregon (now Oregon Health and Science University). His medical degree was issued to his birth name, which would cause credentialing issues when he presented as male to future employers. Hart was one of the first Americans to undergo transition surgery and legally change his name and gender. He would later become one of the first individuals to use testosterone as part of his transition. Hart and his wife, Edna, settled in New England, where his work on early diagnosis of TB helped to cut the death rate substantially before the introduction of antibiotics.

Sources: Wikipedia; Lambda Legal; and Human Rights Campaign

Louise Pearce

Diversity Equity & Inclusion

CONTACT 413-586-8288 ext. 5

Location & Directions Cooley Dickinson Health Care 30 Locust Street Northampton, MA 01060 betsy_shally-jensen@cooley-dickinson.org
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Cooley Dickinson Hospital once again scored 100/100 in the Human Rights Campaign’s 2022 Healthcare Equality Index, confirming its commitment to caring for the LGBTQ community through affirmative policies on patient non-discrimination, patient services and support, visitation, employment non-discrimination and training in LGBTQ patient care.

For more information on LGBTQ resources, please direct inquiries to the LGBTQ Ombudsman, at LGBTQombudsman@cooleydickinson.org.