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Introducing the Dr. Rhae-Ann Booker Award for Inclusive Excellence

Today, the Grand Rapids Chamber and University of Michigan Health-West announced the establishment of the Dr. Rhae-Ann Booker Award for Inclusive Excellence, a new recognition that honors individuals who have demonstrated exceptional leadership and commitment to diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in West Michigan.

The award is named after the Dr. Rhae-Ann Booker, former vice president of DEI at UM Health-West, who passed away Feb. 3. Her career contributions have left an enduring mark on the hospital, medical group, and the greater Grand Rapids community.

Dr. Rhae-Ann Booker’s leadership included transformative initiatives that significantly improved UM Health-West’s culture for patients and employees. Under her guidance, the hospital established a DEI Council that developed programs and policies aimed at enhancing the work environment and providing greater opportunities for underrepresented groups. She also initiated monthly “Third Thursday” interactive workshops, fostering an environment where colleagues could learn about serving diverse patient and employee populations.

UM Health-West also implemented comprehensive training in LGBTQIA+ patient-centered care, provided equal benefits for same-sex spouses, expanded the definition of family for equal visitation policies, and publicly posted resources for LGBTQIA+ patients. Sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI) data are now included as part of the confidential patient intake process to ensure appropriate delivery of services. The health system also displays window decals based on the Progress Pride and Transgender Pride flags with the message, “You belong here.”

Prior to joining UM Health-West, Dr. Booker left a mark in higher education, serving as executive director of DEI at Davenport University from 2011 to 2019, where she also acted as chief diversity officer. At Calvin University, she served as an evaluator and assistant dean of academic multicultural affairs from 2005 to 2010.

“Dr. Booker’s contributions to our team members and hospital have been invaluable, and this award is a fitting tribute to her legacy,” said Dr. Ronald Grifka, president of UM Health-West. “We are proud to honor those who carry on her mission.”

Greg Meyer, UM Health-West executive vice president and chief community officer added, “The Dr. Rhae-Ann Booker Award for Inclusive Excellence will be an inspiration in West Michigan, encouraging us all to strive for a more inclusive and equitable future.”

The Dr. Rhae-Ann Booker Award for Inclusive Excellence aims to recognize and celebrate individuals who have continued her legacy by promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion at UM Health-West. It will be presented annually at the Chamber’s Diversity & Talent Summit to employees who have gone above and beyond to foster a culture of inclusivity, just as Dr. Rhae-Ann Booker did.

Under her leadership, UM Health-West received national recognition for its DEI program and Employee Resource Groups. In October 2023, Talent Dimensions and the Global ERG Network named the healthcare system’s DEI Steering Committee as the No. 1 Enterprise-Wide Employee Resource Group, with the Makabila ERG securing the No. 4 spot among the Top 25 ERG Award recipients. The organization also earned national recognition in 2022 for its commitment to equity and inclusion for LGBTQ+ patients, families, and employees. With a score of 90 out of 100 points in the Human Rights Campaign’s Healthcare Equality Index, UM Health-West was recognized as the highest-scoring system in the Grand Rapids region and earned the designation as an LGBTQ+ Healthcare Equality Top Performer.

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