Health Care and Human Resources

Health system hires first VP of diversity, equity and inclusion

June 5, 2019
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Rhae-Ann Booker
Rhae-Ann Booker. Courtesy Metro Health-University of Michigan Health

A health system in the area has named a new vice president.

Metro Health-University of Michigan Health hired Rhae-Ann Booker as its first VP of diversity, equity and inclusion, according to the system yesterday.

Booker is responsible for developing a strategic vision and overseeing initiatives that foster an environment of diversity, equity and inclusion. Metro Health has a health equity committee that historically has led these initiatives.

Booker said she has long recognized the important role health equity plays in the vitality of the community.

“It literally is life or death, when I think about the importance of individuals and communities trusting our organization, trusting what that doctor is saying or what that nurse is communicating,” Booker said. “I am so excited by this opportunity to be addressing health equity issues. When we think about wanting any community to thrive — our health is at the core of it.”

Booker said her motivation for this work has been fueled by a desire to "understand how social systems interact to advance some populations while holding others back."

“I would say there seems to be an intentional effort in our community for inclusion and just being aware of our diversity, seeing that as a strength,” Booker said. “We’re trying to leverage that diversity as a strength to hopefully draw others who are looking for a welcoming community.”

Dr. Peter Hahn, president and CEO of Metro Health-University of Michigan Health, said Booker’s skills and experience will reinforce Metro Health’s “progressive approach” to providing access and choice in health care.

“She understands our patient-centered approach to health care,” Hahn said. “She also recognizes our commitment to organizational structure that results in the best outcomes for those patients. We want to be recognized as a place that hires, supports and serves all people. That is how we fulfill our mission.”

Booker’s background

Booker spent the last nine years as executive director of diversity, equity and inclusion at Davenport University, where she led the design and development of its first university-wide DEI strategic plan. She also initiated Davenport’s participation in a health equity collaboration with the Grand Rapids African-American Institute, along with other area colleges.

Previously, Booker spent 20 years working for Calvin College, including four as an evaluator and two as assistant dean of academic multi-cultural affairs. At Calvin, she led the college’s inclusivity efforts, which included developing and implementing polices and partnerships to help the college reach under-represented student populations.

She is chair of the To College, Through College initiative through the city of Grand Rapids and is director of the IMANI Singers of Grand Rapids.

Booker’s work has earned multiple national and regional recognitions: including PRISM’s National ERG & Diversity Council Honors Award in 2016, 2017 and 2019; Corp! magazine's Diversity Business Leader Award in 2016; Grand Rapids Chamber's Diversity Visionary Award in 2016; and Insight into Diversity’s Higher Education Excellence in Diversity Award for six consecutive years, from 2012-17.

She holds Ph.D. and M.A. degrees in evaluation and a master of social work from Western Michigan University and a B.A. in sociology from Calvin College. 

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