116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Daniel Joiner has been named as the chief diversity officer at UnityPoint Health, a new position established to focus on diversity, equity and inclusion initiatives.
In this first of its kind role at the West Des Moines-based health care system, Joiner will set the strategy and lead a systemwide effort to elevate equity and inclusion initiatives as an employer and as a community partner.
Before being named to the position, Joiner was the diversity and community impact officer for UnityPoint Health-Trinity in the Quad Cities starting in March 2020.
Joiner’s role expanded less than a year later. The high profile deaths of Black Americans in 2020, including George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, launched a national movement that prompted many employers to look more closely at diversity, equity and inclusion.
“It was truly a catalyst for starting to have the conversation on why these topics are important,” he said.
As the system underwent that effort, Joiner was named as the interim DEI consultant for all of UnityPoint Health beginning in July 2021. In that role, he lead the systemwide diversity, equity and inclusion committee and helped implement other programs that will be publicly announced in the near future, he said.
Before becoming a diversity officer, Joiner joined UnityPoint Health in 2015 as a community engagement manager at UnityPoint Health-Trinity, and later became the director of community engagement. In that role, he worked to identify community needs and form partnerships aimed at addressing barriers faced by patients.
For example, Joiner helped establish a partnership with River Bend Food Bank in Davenport to understand how to better meet the needs of patients who are food insecure, all while addressing their health care needs.
Joiner officially started his new role as chief diversity officer in late February.
Michelle Niermann, president and CEO of UnityPoint Health-Cedar Rapids, said Joiner will help elevate and expand on DEI efforts already in progression in the region and across the system.
Over the past two years, she said much of that effort at the Cedar Rapids system has focused on educating staff on providing culturally competent care to patients.
Officials have also worked to improve the workplace for its employees, Niermann said. Cedar Rapids recently launched employee resources groups for people of color and for those who identify as LGBTQ to help employees connect with others in their community.
“We have really wanted to start to strengthen our framework for thinking about diversity, equity and inclusion, and how we’re organized and how we foster that sense of belonging,” she said.
Joiner said DEI initiatives within the system are a “grassroots effort,” with an emphasis on a broad range of team members who are engaged in the effort.
UnityPoint Health has not announced any initiatives it plans to take on yet. Joiner said the DEI committee still is collecting data to decide on best steps when forming its strategy and priorities moving forward. That includes seeking staff input on where challenges exist.
“Our goal as an organization is to provide high quality care, and to do so we have to look at where those inequities lay,” Joiner said. “That’s why I think data is extremely important in helping us understand what the current problem is, and then putting some action steps in place to address that.”
Health care systems across the country grappling with major inequities for certain patients that are rooted outside a single hospital. For example, Niermann said some studies are showing certain tests recommended for certain diseases may not detect those conditions in Black patients as well as white patients.
“In some ways, it just comes back to you have to make it a priority, and so much of a priority that it's not something that just gets done by the steering committee. It gets done everywhere,” Niermann said.
There are industrywide challenges facing health care systems across the country, Joiner said, but as a provider UnityPoint must work to advance equity in health care for its patients.
"You’ve got to start somewhere,“ Joiner said. ”You can’t allow the problem to scare you away from addressing the issue.“
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