Southeast Louisiana Veterans Health Care System (SLVHCS) Director Fernando O. Rivera has accepted the seventh annual VA Secretary’s Diversity and Inclusion Excellence Award. This honor is awarded to individuals and teams who grow a diverse, high-performing workforce that reflects all segments of our society and values all aspects of our human diversity; cultivate an inclusive work environment and create an engaged organization that leverages diversity and empowers all contributors; and facilitate outstanding, responsive public service.
Putting our Veterans at the center of everything we do at SLVHCS is how we provide the world-class health care that our Veterans have earned and deserve. Mr. Rivera’s team consists of a hard-working group of senior executives, Minority Veterans Program, LGBTQ and Women’s Health Program Directors, Diversity & Inclusion Office team members and Special Emphasis Program Managers (SEPM) who support trust and open communication to foster a diverse workforce and an inclusive environment for employees and Veterans. As health care professionals, it is essential that we are sensitive, aware and understand the unique health care needs of all our Veterans. We believe that by being an inclusive health care environment, our Veterans will have trust and confidence in us, and increased satisfaction with their health care.
Mr. Rivera demonstrates a 24/7, 100 percent commitment to diversity and inclusion, resulting in the creation of Cultural Competency training for staff. Due to the demand and popularity of this training by managers, it became a part of the facility’s supervisor curricula. This training supports engagement and provides supervisors the tools to mentor employees who communicate, operate, and reflect an environment that encourages diversity and inclusion.
Our SEPMs and the Diversity and Inclusion staff play an integral role in creating an inclusive work environment through continued ethnic, cultural and special observances planned and executed at the New Orleans Veterans medical center. These observances promote learning and foster an environment that highlights cultural diversity and inclusion throughout the health care system, to include our geographically separated community-based outpatient clinics. Each year they research new and creative ways to educate our staff, Veterans and their families.
Our LGBTQ Special Emphasis Program Sub-Committee also participates in the New Orleans PRIDE Parades and provides outreach materials, such as brochures on health care benefits and services, from a decorated VA vehicle and a new float that roll in the parade. Additionally, through their efforts, the health care system was designated as a leader in the LGBTQ Healthcare Equality Index (HEI) for the last two years. The HEI is a national LGBTQ benchmarking tool that evaluates health care facilities’ policies and practices related to the equity and inclusion of LGBTQ patients, visitors and employees.
Under Mr. Rivera’s leadership, we have worked together to make tremendous impacts on the quality of life of our Veterans, no matter their race, color, national origin, age, disability, religion, sexual orientation or gender identity. Because our staff believe in a diverse and inclusive workforce that understands and appreciates the differences between people, we will continue to make great strides in meeting the needs of the diverse population we proudly serve.