July 18, 2023
New Brunswick, NJ — Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital’s (RWJUH) Health Equity Program has been honored by the American Hospital Association (AHA) with the 2023 Carolyn Boone Lewis Equity of Care Award. RWJUH accepted the award at the AHA’s Annual Leadership Summit in Seattle.
The Carolyn Boone Lewis Equity of Care Award is an annual recognition of outstanding efforts among hospitals and health care systems to advance equity of care to all patients and to spread lessons learned and progress toward diversity, inclusion and health equity. Lewis was the first African-American and first hospital trustee to chair the AHA Board.
RWJUH, an RWJBarnabas Health facility, was selected as the Equity of Care Award, Emerging Winner for dismantling structural barriers in its care delivery system and the community it serves. RWJUH launched a Health Equity Department to refine its organizational equity strategies, strengthen the delivery of equitable, person-centered and culturally sensitive care to its populations and foster a workforce culture of equity and inclusion. To support its community engagement efforts, RWJUH embraces representation and direct feedback from community leaders through advisory councils, community events and growing community relationships.
“We are proud of our team’s efforts to increase access to essential health care services in our community through identifying and removing barriers and we are honored to be recognized by the American Hospital Association with this prestigious award,” said RWJUH President Alan Lee. “Eliminating health care disparities requires systemic change in care delivery and the courage to address the root causes of the challenges that our diverse communities face. We continue to evaluate the equity of our healthcare delivery systems, identify areas for improvement and collaborate with our various partners to better serve our patients and communities.”
RWJUH and Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School (RWJMS) have a shared vision to improve the health of the communities they serve through the delivery of person-centered care and a diverse workforce culture that is inclusive and equitable . RWJMS faculty partner with the hospital health equity team across programming.
“This award recognizes the commitment of RWJUH and RWJMS as partners in ensuring that every individual in our community has access to culturally-sensitive, comprehensive care,” said Amy P. Murtha, MD, dean of Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School. “It is through embracing diversity and cultivating an inclusive culture that we can achieve our mission of improving health and well-being for all.”
RWJUH in collaboration with RWJMS developed an Equity/Population Health steering committee in 2022 to help improve data collection of Race, Ethnicity, and Language (REaL) and Sexual Orientation/Gender Identity (SOGI) data. This initiative focused on improving comprehensive REaL electronic health record data. Further, RWJUH also established various policies to create an environment that is safe and inclusive. For example, RWJUH ensures culturally sensitive care for the LGBTQ+ community by establishing the PROUD Gender Center of New Jersey in partnership with RWJMS, to offer hormone therapy and other therapeutic models contributing to more equitable outcomes in care.
Additionally, RWJUH and RWJMS work closely with community partners and the Rutgers Eric B. Chandler Health Center, a federally qualified health center, operated jointly by the medical school and a community board, to help patients who would traditionally receive their primary care services from the Emergency Department obtain access to comprehensive care at the health center. The model has been expanded to include postpartum and newborn care to ensure that all services are properly coordinated within the allotted time post-discharge. RWJUH’s Health Equity Team also provides breast care referrals for screenings, language support services, medical appointments, discharge calls, and navigation services among others. These services are provided through dedicated community medical programs staffed by multilingual health navigators.
Accepting the American Hospital Association (AHA) 2023 Carolyn Boone Lewis Equity of Care Award for RWJUH’s Health Equity Program are from left to right: Stephanie Zou, MA, Regional Director, Community Specific Medical Program; Franck Nelson, Assistant Vice President, Health Equity; and Melissa Hernandez, MSN, RN, FNP-BC, Director, Health Equity & Breast Care Connection. RWJUH accepted the award at the AHA’s Annual Leadership Summit in Seattle.