Growing up in South Carolina, Stephen Graves found an extended family at Mt. Moriah Church.
But he noticed something that didn’t seem quite right: a nearby church with a similar name had an all-white congregation. He asked his mother: why are we separate if we worship the same God?
It’s a question that captures the tumult of generations, and one that ended up bringing Stephen to the UVM Medical Center to manage our Equity, Diversity and Inclusion program.
As Stephen began thinking about college and a career, his father, who was principal of a local vocational school, nudged him towards health care. At first, he considered sports medicine and physical therapy, but he wasn’t sure he had the stomach for hands-on clinical care.
Through his college years, certain individuals made an impression: a former vice president at a local hospital spoke about the importance of serving humanity; during an internship at a disabilities and special needs facility, he learned about the importance of team morale. Finally, a professor showed a chart outlining the disparities in patients with diabetes: black patients are three times as likely to have an amputation.
“Our professor said, ‘it’s our job to fix these disparities.’”
These experiences provided the foundation for Stephen’s sense of purpose. “My hope is for all of us to draw strength in recognizing and appreciating our differences as a means to improve health, and ultimately, rise to our full potential.” As program manager, he will work with the EDI team to ensure that the programs are robust, outcomes are being improved, and that we are recruiting and retaining a diverse community of employees.
“I feel like this job is the manifestation of my life experience,” he says. “It’s what I’m supposed to be doing.”