CASA Celebrates Black History Month
Member Profile: Sungayaia Harris
CASA Celebrates Black History Month
CASA celebrates diversity and encourages increased awareness of different cultures to grow the pipeline of diverse healthcare workers and support the best care possible for our diverse patients in California. In recognition of Black History Month, we want to encourage our ASC members to think about the following priorities:
- Recognizing the importance of improving Black health and wellness and addressing health inequities.
- Celebrating the incredible legacy of Black healthcare professionals and their role as pioneers.
- Creating an inclusive and diverse environment for patients and workers.
Additionally, it’s a great time to think about how we can purposely support Black-owned businesses. If your ASC is holding an event – think about using a Black catering company or buying supplies from Black-owned businesses.
Here’s a list of resources:
- Amazon has a Black-Owned Business badge to help customers discover and shop from those businesses.
- Etsy features items from Black-owned shops.
- The U.S. Chamber has a list of small business directories that help you find Black-owned businesses.
- EatOkra is a directory of Black-owned restaurants from around the United States.
As we move through 2023, the CASA DEI committee will be profiling different members and issues – would you like to share your stories and/or be highlighted in a future DEI committee newsletter issue? If so, please reach out to CASA Executive Director Beth Labouyer @ email@example.com.
CASA Member Spotlight: Sungayaia Harris
Sungayaia Harris, Project Coordinator for Sutter Health
What does Black History Month mean to you?
I’m really glad that Black History Month is noticed and celebrated. Too often Black people feel isolated, disrespected, or looked at differently because of our experiences or background. I believe it is important to celebrate our history and accomplishments, build connections with those around us, and create more exposure for opportunities and pathways for success.
Particularly in healthcare, it’s important to have a diverse workforce. If you’re Black, having a healthcare provider that looks like you feels rare, but it’s so valuable and can help improve patient communication and care. Right now, not a lot of Black/African American people work at surgery centers – it’s not zero, but it’s not a lot. That feels very dissatisfying. I would like to see a focus on building up a diverse pipeline of healthcare providers so that in the future there will be a lot more Black people working at surgery centers and throughout the healthcare environment. To do this, we need to promote opportunities for Black people, encourage them to apply, and also help them be prepared and qualified for the jobs that are available.
How did you get into healthcare?
My own family has a strong presence in healthcare – one family member is a pediatrician and another an ER doctor; my aunt and cousins work in hospitals and also medical insurance groups. So growing up I saw them being successful in healthcare and was inspired to pursue that pathway – I wanted to be a CEO of a hospital while in college pursing my medical career, it was clear to me that clinical field was out of the question after my internship. Having personal exposure and seeing people around you work in a particular field makes it much easier to feel like the opportunities and pathways are available to you as well.
Are there any ways that you have celebrated Black History Month at home, at work, or in your community?
There used to be a Freedom Train in Oakland – and I have great memories of going to that event as part of celebrating Black History Month. It was a big, free festival, like a Juneteenth celebration. It was a great chance to celebrate our culture, our past, and our future. Growing up in the southside of San Jose, I was the only Black kid in my elementary school classes, and there were only six Black students in my high school graduating class. That could feel isolating, so I think it is important that we are working to always increase diversity and awareness. I can remember my great aunt pulling out old pictures giving us a history lesson at her old Victorian house in Berkeley, and we always ended the day in the kitchen cooking a full course meal, which was a lesson. I come from a great line of outstanding cooks. In fact, my sister is the first black female Executive Chef at Stanford University.
There are different ways that we all can honor Black History Month – do you have any tips for ASC readers about different activities to support?
I think it’s great when ASCs run contests and create events for their staff to participate in. During the holidays we did things like pumpkin carving and gingerbread house making contests that got everyone excited and engaged. I think it would be great for ASCs to create events that help shine a spotlight on diversity or draw attention to different cultural celebrations. Rather than just posting a message on email or the intranet, holding an event forces people to think about it, pay attention, and engage more actively in the topic. During Black History Month I also think it would be great for ASCs and healthcare organizations to highlight the contributions of Black physicians and researchers and how they have helped to advance medicine.
What do you hope people will think about during Black History Month?
I would like people to think about Black health and wellness for 2023’s Black History month. Let’s focus more on getting people healthy. That means educating and increasing awareness on the things that we eat, what we do, how we live, and the impact of industrial activities around us. We need to be bringing vans into communities – making healthcare resources and healthcare education a priority. There are too many communities that don’t have grocery stores, just liquor stores and convenience shops – we need to improve access to healthy foods, and schools need to work on education about nutrition and how the body works and the power of healthy foods.