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Why our cultural competency means better care for our members

Not every culture approaches health care the same way. With friends and loved ones, you’ve likely disagreed at some point about child care or dietary choices. Now imagine you’re having a conversation with a colleague or even a stranger about bloodless medicine or birth control. These are just two examples of “taboo” topics that people of different backgrounds process in vastly different ways and often require carefully chosen words when part of a discussion.

These conversations are part of our everyday interactions with members – and we embrace the challenge of getting them right. We recognize that as demographics shift, our workforce must evolve in order for us to understand these nuances, communicate more clearly and work together effectively.

Dakasha Winton

“Diversity is woven into the fiber of our being,” says Dakasha Winton, senior vice president and chief government relations officer. “We do not exist and we cannot serve our 3.4 million members without having levels of diversity. It’s imperative because we have so many employees with different interests, and those employees serve multiple businesses, multiple constituencies, multiple members that have very different interests.”

How diversity tells our story

A vital part of the employee experience at BlueCross is our emphasis on inclusion. We’re not just content to have a diverse workforce; we strive to ensure that all voices are heard in all aspects of how we serve our members. To celebrate and educate, we created a video that showcases just a few of our team members, their unique backgrounds and their experiences at BlueCross.

Despite their differences, these team members share a common experience – they’re part of a company that thrives on their input and skill sets.

“We’ve made a long-term commitment to creating a culturally competent workplace where everyone is valued, respected, trusted, communicated with and part of the team.”

Don McArtor

Consider the story of Don McArtor, director of the office of chief information officer. For Don, who has Asperger’s syndrome, something as simple as engaging a co-worker in a conversation didn’t come naturally. He would often have to remind himself on his morning drive to ask others how they were doing. But at BlueCross, he has never felt excluded due to being on the autism spectrum.

The idea that diversity is more than just skin color or country of origin permeates the BlueCross company culture.

Ron Harris

“Diversity – like people – is always changing,” says Ron Harris, vice president of diversity & inclusion. “That’s why we’ve made a long-term commitment to creating a culturally competent workplace where everyone is valued, respected, trusted, communicated with and part of the team.”

How we develop cultural competency

Cultural competency is the end result of a progression that begins with diversity and continues through inclusion. Built into our day-to-day operations, our efforts are why BlueCross was named one of the Top 11 regional employers for diversity in the United States.

These efforts include:

  • Fostering engagement through Employee Resource Groups
  • Quarterly cultural awareness sessions (Black History Month, working with colleagues who are differently abled, Hispanic Heritage Month and international employees are among the topics featured)
  • Company-sponsored mentoring program

How we engage with our communities

A major goal for BlueCross is to ensure our commitment to cultural competency carries over to the communities we serve, as well. We honor this commitment through:

  • A diversity scholarship program that awards $30,000 annually to minority students studying for careers in health care
  • $66 million spent with businesses owned by women, minorities and veterans in 2016

Though our outreach efforts help us all connect, we still find the greatest inspiration through the stories of our team.

“My great-great-grandparents were slaves, my grandfather was a Memphis sanitation worker with a third grade education, and my grandmother was a maid,” Dakasha says in our video. “Diversity, every day, is a part of my life. It is who I am.”

It is who you are, as well. If you’d like to learn more about how BlueCross promotes a diverse workplace that translates to a better experience for you, visit www.bcbst.com/diversity.

About Jesse Thompson, Principal Communications Specialist

A photo of the authorJesse joined the BlueCross BlueShield of Tennessee corporate communications team in 2017. A Chattanooga native, he has more than 15 years’ experience in content creation, management, and strategy for consumer audiences, including a six-year stint in health care marketing.

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