Commentary by Dennis Murphy
The COVID-19 pandemic has laid bare persistent, systemic racial disparities in communities across the United States, including the lasting effect of inequality in medical care and the resulting mistrust among communities of color. Recently, IU Health has faced questions about racial inequities in our own health care system, including questions about the quality and equity of Dr. Susan Moore’s clinical and personal care at one of our hospitals. These issues are serious and raise questions that must be answered thoroughly, independently and transparently.
Dr. Moore’s death was tragic, and we extend our deepest sympathy to her family and friends. As the leader of an organization that is deeply committed to equity, empathy and improving the health of underserved communities, I, too, seek answers to these questions. Dr. Moore’s family deserves these answers. And the communities we serve need these answers in order to be confident that they will receive clinical and personal care that is evidence-based, empathetic and appropriate, regardless of race, religion, gender, status or background.
We have initiated an independent, third-party review of Dr. Moore’s case, as well as our overall patient care protocols, communication and procedures. The review, which is already under way, is co-chaired by Dr. Jeannette E. South-Paul, the chair of the department of family medicine at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine, and Dr. David Wilkes, dean of the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine. The pair are among the most respected medical thought leaders in the country, in both clinical care and cultural competence.
The review will be conducted by six local and national independent experts representing a range of clinical, medical backgrounds along with those who have track records of advocacy and expertise on systemic racism, cultural competency, patient experience and communication, diversity and inclusion. Communities of color and women are well represented. Four of the panelists are African American, one is Latino and one is white. Three are women and three are men.
The panel will have complete access to all relevant records and personnel, and there will be no restrictions on the scope of their investigation. Upon completion of the investigation, the results will be shared with Dr. Moore’s family first. We will disclose results of the investigation publicly in a manner that balances transparency with respect for the family’s request for privacy. We are prepared to act swiftly and decisively to implement changes recommended by the panel in the interest of ensuring the delivery of appropriate clinical and compassion-based care, as well as accelerating and advancing our diversity, equity and inclusion commitments.
Undoubtedly, there’s much work ahead. But we won’t shy away from our commitments. As the largest health care provider in the state of Indiana, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to create meaningful change to eliminate racial disparities in health care. We recognize that we must earn the trust of Black communities and all communities of color in order to be a force for positive change. We acknowledge the history of systemic racism within health care and society at large and will work tirelessly to eliminate any racism or bias from IU Health in any form.
I will continue to earnestly and humbly seek feedback from our patients, staff, partners and local communities in the process. And we will work to actively promote greater trust between patients and their medical providers. I look forward to sharing findings with the public to demonstrate our continued dedication to transparency and equitable health care for all in the state of Indiana.
Dennis Murphy is president and chief executive officer of IU Health.