HDA Dialogue Explores DE&I Efforts In the Distribution Sector

May 27, 2021
Discussions surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I) are critically important to the healthcare distribution industry as this work ultimately strengthens the industry’s ability to deliver safe, affordable and efficient healthcare to patients across the nation. Earlier this month, HDA hosted a virtual discussion with four industry leaders who are fostering belonging within their organizations.

Setting up the day’s dialogue, Value Drug Company’s Greg Drew, RPh, former HDA chairman, current Executive Committee member and Chair of HDA’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee noted, “[T]he issues associated with DE&I are very important to the association and its membership, as evidenced by the [establishment of a] board-level DE&I Committee, which I am honored to chair.”

While this was HDA’s inaugural event on this vital subject, several member companies have been deeply engaged on these issues. The session featured perspectives from:
  • Jesse Cortez, Vice President, Executive Talent and Interim Vice President, Diversity, Equity & Inclusion, McKesson;
  • Dr. Lonie Haynes, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer, AmerisourceBergen;
  • Devray Kirkland, Vice President, Diversity and Inclusion and Chief Diversity Officer, Cardinal Health; and,
  • Jackie Kunzler, PhD, Senior Vice President, Chief Quality Officer, Baxter Healthcare, who moderated the discussion.
Below are a few takeaways from the discussion:

1. Building and enhancing DE&I within your workplace is a long-term effort.

Throughout the event, panelists emphasized that building successful programs is more than just “ticking off a box.” Whether it be through new company policies or changes to corporate governance, reinforcing your organization’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion takes time.

“It’s always a journey — but know that that journey always starts with that first step,” said McKesson’s Jesse Cortez. “Leverage your network to share advice and lessons learned along the way. It certainly takes a village to affect the right outcomes.”

Further, incorporating diversity, equity and inclusion into the fabric of your organization is a learning experience. “Everyone should understand that there will be a level of discomfort,” emphasized Cardinal Health’s Devray Kirkland. “This is my day job and I still make mistakes — so relax.”


2. The success of DE&I efforts depends on an honest dialogue between employees and managers.

Creating a framework for open and honest two-way dialogue is essential to building a diverse and inclusive workplace. “It’s listening to your employees, but also looking to your stars,” according to AmerisourceBergen’s Dr. Lonie Haynes. “What are the strengths that they have, and what are the opportunities that they had that others did not have?”


3. Your people are your strongest asset.

As an organization, your workforce is a vital asset in the mission to advance, cultivate and preserve a culture of diversity, inclusion and equity.

“There are different perspectives throughout each level of the organization,” stressed Devray Kirkland. “I think the focus has been not only around what is it that the organization can do, but what is it that you can do as an individual?”


4. Don’t lose sight of the return on investment.

While prioritizing these programs is inarguably the right thing to do, the success of DE&I programs can hinge on making the business case. “It’s a constant misconception that it’s just altruistic,” said Dr. Lonie Haynes. “For me, that’s the hardest sell, because if you don’t tie it to the business, then people dismiss it as maybe a nice thing to do, but not a business imperative.”

When it comes to individual tactics for moving DE&I forward and tracking return on investment in your organization, Dr. Haynes recommends emphasizing “people, purchasing [and] philanthropy.”

HDA was proud to provide a forum for dialogue, engagement — and, ultimately, action — on the part of our industry as it relates to DE&I efforts. Earlier in the year, HDA, along with AmerisourceBergen, co-sponsored The 19th’s virtual summit on health equity and the COVID-19 response. We look forward to continuing the conversation through future initiatives.

View the full event recording here. To learn more key insights, check out our new video.