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Covington recommendations: An update on our progress

Nationwide search for an Executive Vice President (EVP) for Human Resources and Chief People Officer

 

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OHSU President Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H., shared this message with the OHSU community Friday, April 29, 2022.

 

Dear OHSU Community,

The last time I wrote to you about the Covington report was to announce the creation of our Implementation and Oversight committees to address the report’s recommendations. Today, I write to update you on their efforts to date and share what I think we can expect in the coming months, as part of my commitment to ensure OHSU members receive regular updates on the committees’ essential work.  

A high priority recommendation from the Covington report was to search for an Executive Vice President (EVP) for Human Resources and Chief People Officer. I am pleased to announce that a nationwide search for this person has begun. 

The focus on this senior leadership role was an intentional and critically important step needed to help facilitate addressing other recommendations from Covington & Burling’s evaluation. Reflecting on their findings, I believe that how we go about changing is as important as what is changed. One of the main purposes for establishing the two-committee framework was just that. 

The 15-member Implementation Committee comprises people whose roles at OHSU give them the authority to act. This committee is charged with developing actionable plans to meet the recommendations. But there needs to be more, and this is where the second committee comes in. 

The 38-member Oversight Committee, excluding the two co-chairs, comprises other members from across our university — employee resource groups, unions, the student council, the faculty senate, schools, the professional board and many others. The committee is charged with providing guidance on the plans developed by the Implementation Committee before they are enacted — to offer wise counsel informed by the voices of employees and learners across OHSU.
 
The power of the two-committee collaboration was clearly demonstrated as we worked to launch the search for a head of Human Resources. Over more than a month, Oversight Committee members offered revisions to the description of the roles and responsibilities of the new EVP to the Implementation Committee. This back-and-forth “pilot” process was undertaken using a trauma-informed systems change model. In this context, being trauma-informed means committee members bring to their work an understanding of how trauma — acute, periodic or persistent — affects behaviors and how organizational systems may often contribute to traumatizing and re-traumatizing individuals, especially people affected by racism, harassment, violence and other oppressions. It also means that we embrace this approach as an academic health center that brings our values to the front.

The collaboration between the two committees, intentionally working past traditional academic hierarchical thinking and across historically separate entities, used a diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging “lens” to review and revise the EVP for Human Resources and Chief People Officer’s job description. This illustrates how a trauma-informed systems change model can be brought to life. 

This level of involvement and oversight, I believe, is a first for OHSU. More importantly, however, I believe the job description and expectations for this position now more accurately reflect the voices of all our members. As a result, the probability of finding the right person is substantially increased and recruiting that person will, in turn, facilitate additional improvements and enhancements at our university.  

Now, after working to develop this process, every proposal generated by the Implementation Committee and reviewed by the Oversight Committee will be considered using the same trauma-informed, collaborative model. This approach will help us design plans and take action to meet the recommendations in a manner that avoids inadvertently recreating elements of the very environment we are seeking to change. We thank Dr. Alisha Moreland-Capuia, co-chair of the Oversight Committee and a nationally recognized authority on such matters, for guiding this effort. 

I know that there is a sense of urgency and an eagerness to move quickly on the Covington recommendations. It is a feeling I share. However, meaningful, trauma-informed, culturally responsive changes in an organization as complex as OHSU take time and practice. The committee members are working carefully, diligently and with intention. We will keep you informed of progress on specific recommendations in the coming months. 

I also encourage you to read the monthly progress reports from each committee, and to watch the April 22 video of the committee presentations to the Board of Directors. You can pose questions and comments to the Oversight Committee by emailing oversightcommittee@ohsu.edu.

I appreciate the time and energy of all committee members as they focus on this vital, fundamentally important work. And I thank everyone for their interest and engagement. Together, we will set new standards and expectations for OHSU and academic health centers across the country, showing what it means to be a place where everyone feels safe, welcome and able to make a difference in ourselves and those we serve. 

Sincerely yours,

Danny Jacobs, M.D., M.P.H.
President

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