Joyce welcomes Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew
April 27, 2021 - 2:00pm to 3:00pm

Joyce welcomes Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew, Senior Vice President and Chief Clinical Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Officer at Allegheny Health Network to the show. Dr. Larkins-Pettigrew is known and respected nationally for her work to promote diversity in the workforce. Dr. Larkins-Pettigrew will share the organization’s commitment from the top down to diverse workforce that includes hiring people with disabilities.

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FINISHED FILE
APRIL 27, 2021
1:00 P.M. CST
BENDER CONSULTING SERVICES
Disability Matters with Joyce Bender

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>> Welcome to "Disability Matters" with your host Joyce Bender.  All comments, views and opinions expressed on the show are solely those of the host, guest and callers.  Now the host of "Disability Matters," here is Joyce Bender.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Hey, everyone, welcome to the show today, to everyone in the United States and around the world.  I have to say I am so impressed and appreciative that listeners in China are really taking off, and Australia.  We have listeners in about 17 countries, and they change.  But I always say, even if there is one person listening in Iceland, that one person can make a difference.  I want to urge all of you, keep telling people about this radio show.  Keep telling people about quality of life, because if you have a disability, you still are a person who should be respected and treated with dignity.  Thank you so much.

Now my special shout out goes to my State Department friends, also around the world, you know, Japan, which I've been to Japan through the State Department, to talk about the employment of people with disabilities.  And I first met, when I went to South Korea, I first met this wonderful man Richard Roberts who was with the State Department, and still is with the State Department.  If you go back and listen to my shows, a few months ago, we had a show live from Japan.  That Richard Roberts is working with me and we are going to have another one from Japan in June.  Richard, I just love you, think so highly of you.  Geon Hyeong Cho in South Korea, you are next to be on this radio show.  You are the first person I worked with in Asia, and you are so awesome.  Cheryl Harris in Tunisia, may I tell you, they were on the radio show, like a month ago.  You have got to go back, either go to Apple or Spotify, subscribe to my radio show,   "Disability Matters" with Joyce Bender, on VoiceAmerica.com.  Go to VoiceAmerica.com, go to my website, but you have got to hear those shows, so powerful, hearing what they have to say about living with disabilities in these countries.

And special shout out to Kazakhstan, they will be on also in the future.  Love all of you.  And of course I love all of my listeners, in the United States, hey, keep on subscribing to this radio show.  Remember, we all have values, we all count.  Disability rights are civil rights, always remember that.

Yoshiko Dart, you know that Yoshiko is the wife of the late Justin Dart Junior, a hero forever in the disability rights community.  I always mention her because I never want you to forget our own disability history.  Lead on, Yoshiko.  Special shout out to you, and guess who has been my lead sponsor, I have to thank for the past, what is it now, five years, and that would be Highmark.  How apropos with our guest today, that I always say, best company in America for people with disabilities, to gain employment, is Highmark.  Hands down.

That is why it's such an honor for me, a real honor to have Dr. Margaret Larkins‑Pettigrew, who is the senior vice‑president and chief clinical diversity equity and inclusion officer for Allegheny Health Network, a speaker and author and a great new leader.  Dr. Larkins‑Pettigrew, welcome to the show.

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: Thank you so much, Joyce, I'm so excited to be on today, and just to be with you.  You have become my best friend these last two months since I've been back in Pittsburgh.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Yes, you know what, it is amazing that you meet some people, and you immediately have this affinity of spirits, and that is how it was when I met Dr. Margaret Larkins‑Pettigrew.  That is how it was.  She is just a wonderful person, I felt the same way, and that is why it's so great to have you on the show.  Before I go on further, because I want to make sure we talk about this, I mentioned, you are a author.  What is the name of your book?

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: It's called The Colors of My Heart, Embracing Blackness with History, Family, Fear and Faith.  That was published in November of last year.

>> JOYCE BENDER: That would be under Dr. Margaret Larkins‑Pettigrew, one more time, the name of the book, one more time.

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: It's called The Colors of My Heart, Embracing my Blackness, with History, Family, Fear and Faith.  It is my memoir, it is the lived experience of a African‑American woman born and raised through the  '50s,  '60s,' 70s on and the challenges African‑Americans have faced and overcome, that we need to think about self affirmation.  It is my memoir and I hope people pick it up and enjoy it.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Can they get that at Amazon?  Is that where they go?

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: Yes.  They can get it on Amazon on‑line.

>> JOYCE BENDER: You know what, I have to say, wow.   '50s and  '60s, I'm sure that is riveting, what a time to grow up not that we still don't have issues, it's just they were very, well, guess what, I was going to say violent but what has changed, right?  We just had George Floyd, that was violent.  But I'm meaning through Dr. Martin Luther King Junior, wow, what a time.  I want you to know that Dr. Larkins‑Pettigrew is a medical doctor also, as when I talk about chief clinical diversity, you need to know that.  I thought for our friends in the U.S. and around the world, would you mind sharing with everyone your background growing up?  This would be a little from your memoir and what made you decide to go in the medical field?

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: That is great.  I love to tell my story, somebody interviewed me and said tell us about you, I said where should I start, start anywhere.  I should start at the beginning.  I can start, I was born outside of Union Town, Pennsylvania, to two wonderful parents, living in poverty.  My father was a coal miner.  I have three other siblings.  I can tell you that we never thought we had nothing, we thought we had everything.  Wonderful loving parents, who tried to make a difference as it relates to being in this country, being in the place where they knew that they were disenfranchised but we never knew that at all.  My mother worked at home, she only had a 8 grade education but read all the time and taught us about the world.  My father worked in the coal mines and moved to the steel mills, he was a steelworker and we moved into the projects.  Think about the projects today.  I was excited that we were moving into the projects and we didn't have to use a outhouse anymore.  Think about where I came from as far as those needs and a lot of people still live in those circumstances today and are challenged with not only how to live every day and be productive, but really to take care of their families, and especially those people with disabilities, and people who have, are in the space I call the other.  I went through life thinking about how I could take care of others.  My father and mother were about giving back, being servant leaders.  I worked as a candy striper in a hospital.  That was it.  I said this is where I need to be.  I need to take care of people who are ill, who want to be healthy.  That is where my medical career started as a nursing assistant, excuse me, as a candy striper they called them then, in the Mckeever hospital.  Fast forward I went to nursing school, graduate degree in nursing and realized how valuable nurses are and how they are the people who are the leaders in the real rock of all of the healthcare systems, they are 24/7.  They deserve to be recognized more than they are now and [inaudible] financially.  I'm still a nurse.  I still think the way nurses think as being empathetic, sympathetic, caring and want to make a difference in any way in the lives of our patients.

I fast forward and said, I need to be more, need to be advocate.  Through this whole experience, it was about diversity and inclusion.  I thought about not being included as a black woman, I was living the life of being disenfranchised and having microaggressions and macroaggressions.  I'm a living example of diversity.  My father passed at the age of 61 after having a massive heart attack, his second heart attack after being, having one, he was given baby aspirin to go home, he never had any cardiac cath or anything at that time.  He was a black man.  He passed very young.  Multiple family members, I've watched the healthcare system not take care of them well, because they were black, they were people living with disabilities, there were so many things that I've seen through my lifetime, but at the end of the day, I knew that diversity and inclusion was where I had to end up.  I needed to be a great physician, because that opened doors for me, allowed me to be advocate for diversity and inclusion, as well as equity and health equity.  I decided to go back to school because I had three children and I was married to a wonderful man whose name is Dennis who was a vice‑president at Tuskegee university, that I had to figure a way to pay for my schooling.  I decided I would go in the military, which I did.  I did my time in the military, and I had a great opportunity, I was a leader and it taught me a lot about strategic planning and also taught me a lot about culture, a lot about diversity, and a lot about our world and how we manage to be one of the power houses, used to be the most powerful country in the world, but from that point of view, understanding that I can use those skills, strategic skills to develop programs around diversity, equity and inclusion.

Here I am today, after finishing my medical career and working over 20 years in Ob‑Gyn, and continuing to work as a physician taking care of women who are high risk, take care of all women, but I take care of women who live with HIV, and that should tell everyone on your station a lot about making sure that people have wrap around care, that you meet people where they are, that people have lived with not only their challenges, medical care challenges but the stigma of being who they are and being infected with something like HIV.  This is a place I'm comfortable with as far as women and taking care of women, and making sure that they have healthy babies and programs dealing with everything from LGBT and everything, so I'm excited to be here and tell you about who I am.  That is a lot about who I am.  Thank you, Joyce, for letting me take up some of your time and share that about who I am.

>> JOYCE BENDER: My god, that is such a great story.  I'm over here thinking from the outhouse to the boardroom.  You really have done so much!  I can see now, like I have to run to the store and get this book, because hearing that snippet is just unbelievable, you are a person of great tenacity, determination.  We feel ya, to accomplish all of those things, which to many people against all odds, and I'm sorry to hear about your father, because I know that it's hard enough to be a coal miner, because my mother's family were coal miners.  But the healthcare disparities for someone who is Black, was greatly evidenced by you saying, they told him to take aspirins.  I mean that is just terrible.  Hopefully, we can continue to work on that today.

You decided to go from medicine to diversity and inclusion.  That is quite a move.  What made you do that, Dr. Larkins‑Pettigrew?

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: I saw so many challenges around people who were not treated with dignity and respect.  I had to look and see why that was happening.  People were coming from different lived experiences, and someone, people who were not educated and felt like their world was the world, and so when you think about healthcare, trying to meet people where they are and taking the pledge to be nonjudgmental and accepting, I felt that we needed to have a large infusion of diversity and inclusion and equity in the hospital system.  Specifically, inclusion, and inclusion as well as equity with intentional, with the intention of making challenge.  (Beep).

I have moved to make sure that people intentionally make sure that they dedicate dollars and workforce and all that they have in this space, because this is at the end of the day, makes a difference in everybody's lives.  People grow, who are in this space, and open their hearts, and organizations grow.  So I decided to move into diversity and inclusion exclusively six years ago, I believe, seven years ago, I was working all my life, I decided that I wanted to be a leader, because of what I've been seeing and how patients and even the communities have been taken care of.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Thank god you did that, because we are really lucky to have you.  For those of you listening, you know the best city in America is of course Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, which is where I am, and where Dr. Larkins‑Pettigrew is, and we are lucky to have you right here in Pittsburgh, although, I know with your position that covers many areas, people, again, in the United States and certainly throughout the world are not familiar with AHN, would you take a few minutes to talk about where you work and the size and the breadth, what is AHN?

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: Oh, I want to talk about Allegheny Health Network, AHN.  First, I moved back home from Cleveland, Ohio, and I've been given the opportunity to be the key diversity officer at Allegheny Health Network, which is one of the institutes of the Highmark.  Highmark has multiple, it's a large enterprise and is responsible and has dedicated themselves to take care of a lot of folks as far as insurance and those who are uninsured by giving them opportunities for as far as community benefits.  But one great thing that they did was, they own and they are affiliated with Allegheny Health Network.  Allegheny Health Network is the hospital system that is located here in Pittsburgh and all the way through Erie, into New York and to middle Pennsylvania.  It is huge, it has 22,000 employees, if you can imagine that.  I know we are almost 1700 physicians, and other associated physicians and folks that are all about wellness.

Allegheny Health Network asked me to come on to help them move the needle as they have been in the area of diversity and inclusion.  This is a great step, on the Allegheny Health Network they haven't had a diversity and inclusion officer who is physician oriented.  I'm the first, I bring three hats to them.  One, the corporate side, understanding Highmark, then the clinical side, understanding what happens at the bedside, what things that cannot happen at the bedside, making sure I'm in that space of equity of healthcare, and I bring the academic hat.  As a academic contributor, I'm a Professor from Drexel, I hold a position from Drexel University as well as Case Western, I just left there.  All those three entities at Allegheny Health Network will help them build not only diversity and inclusion space, but in all of those places, where we will look at how we are doing through a social justice lens.  I'm proud to be part of Allegheny Health Network.  They have been movers and shakers for a long time and continue to do that by taking care of people and meeting people where they are.

>> JOYCE BENDER: The daughter of Reverend Barber has been a guest of mine, she is a epidemiologist.  She got a huge grant on racial equity and other issues related to race.  She is a Professor there also, Cheryl.

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: Wonderful.  (overlapping speakers) make some contact.  Thank you.

>> JOYCE BENDER: You have a lot in common.  She is a fireball, let me tell you that.  Dr. Barber, I always tell her, Dr. Barber, you are my doctor.  She is a teacher but she is absolutely wonderful.

We are going to, well, by the way, AHN, Cindy has been CEO, big supporter of mine, and hiring people with disabilities, so I can see why such a great culture at AHN.  (overlapping speakers).

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: I want to add to Cindy, she is my boss, she is why I'm at AHN.  She is a genius, as far as how she really has brought AHN so far ahead, and making sure it is a place where people want to come and work.  But she has a heart of the person that you want to work for, the person who wants to make sure that she does the best for everybody, and as a President, CEO of that institution, she is wonderful, and loved by many.  I'm happy to be with her.

>> JOYCE BENDER: I'm one of them.  I do love her.  She is awesome.  You said you came there because of Cindy.  Many different people say to me, give me Veronica, Veronica is well‑known in the D.C. area, not just in the disability community, but in diversity and inclusion.  Known by people in congress, with me when secretary Perez was Secretary of Labor and she is well‑known, and guess what, we have a Latino with a disability and guess who she works for, Dr. Larkins‑Pettigrew.  Why I'm bringing that up is she is there because of you.  As you said, you are there because of Cindy.  She has told me, if you are wondering, how did they get her, that is how they got her.  She loves Dr. Larkins‑Pettigrew and tells me about her frequently.  That by the way shows your commitment to disability also.  I need to point that out.

Okay.  This is a very scary topic, COVID.  As a matter of fact, sadly, I just lost someone that I really loved, did not get the vaccination, she was a young 73, and she went into the hospital, and was gone in two weeks, because as you know, COVID can just ravage the body.  But I'm so happy to say that I get compliments after compliments about AHN and the vaccinations they have been giving.  How is that going?  How is the vaccine distribution moving?

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: I'm so very proud of what we have done at AHN around combating COVID, from the testing which I didn't know about until I got here, that was extensive and comprehensive, to moving into the vaccine distribution.  At this time, we are over 350,000 shots in arms, and we are continuing to move in that direction.  We had so many large events to try to cover so many people.  We are still doing that, and really contributing a lot of our time and efforts to make sure that we are covering underrepresented minorities as well.

I'm so proud of Allegheny Health Network.  They are, they put together a model that works, they are being recognized for that by the state and many other cities, because of what we have done around COVID.  I can tell those of you out there listening who have not had an injection, that no one has died from the vaccine.  So many people, 550,000 plus have died from the virus.  If you have not gotten the vaccine, please get the vaccine.  We all have to do our part.  It is important we all do our part.  That is a little part to do is get your vaccine so we can all get back to some normality.

>> JOYCE BENDER: That is true.  What you said is powerful.  People aren't dying from the vaccine, but almost 600,000 from COVID and sadly there are people that think this is either, A, dangerous, B, don't need it or C, that it is a hoax.  It is none of the above.  You do need it, it is safe and it is real.  You don't want to find out as I just told you happened to a very close friend of our family, and such a tragic way.

I know also, at AHN, you reached out to the African‑American community by going into the churches, I mean by making phone calls to people, they didn't have Internet or smart phone or whatever, and there is this myth that people who are Black do not want to be vaccinated, but that is not true, is it?  Didn't you vaccinate a lot of people?

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: Absolutely.  Veronica and I both worked for the African‑American Latino and people with disabilities communities, to make sure that they were included.  Allegheny Health Network dedicated every time they got a shipment of vaccine, they dedicated 10 percent of their, 15 percent, sorry, 15 percent of the shipment to the underrepresented minority communities.  Together, and you know how wonderful Veronica is and I'm glad that she is with me, we got to work, we have made several phone calls, got many people appointments.  We have been in the sites, we have gone to the churches in the communities centers, to be there on site to see what was going on, talking to folks who got their vaccines.  I can tell you the older folks who came in and many older Black folks and Latino folks who came in were so excited to be there.  I talked to a Latino young man who was 90 years old, who had not been out of the house since March of last year, 90.  He was there on that day to get his first injection of Pfizer.  We talked about what this meant to him.  He talked about how he's lived through pandemics before, he lived through times where young people don't understand, that this is what you do.  The pandemic comes and this is what you do as a country.  He is so proud to be there, I was proud he was there.  He served in the military also.  But every person of color, African‑American who came in told me the same thing.  They were not afraid of getting, of not getting the vaccine, they were very fearful of getting the virus because they saw many family members who actually were sick, were sick and died with polio and other things that happened in their lifetimes.  African‑Americans and Latinos want to get the vaccine.  The folks we are concerned about now are the younger generation.  We are seeing in our hospital systems 20, 40, 50‑year‑olds, who are very, on ventilators and who are dying, and so that is the message we will be sending, everybody needs to get one but now we are seeing more of our younger populations being admitted, and not making it out of the hospitals.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Oh, that's so sad.  Terrible.  Thank god we have AHN and Highmark and everything you are doing.  So here we go right now, on the half hour, is our weekly newsbreak, advocacy matters, with our newscaster, Peri Jude Radecic, CEO of disability rights P.A. and how are you today?

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Joyce, I'm fine.  I've been listening to the program, and really been following along and will do more on vaccines later on advocacy matters.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Good.  You I know know very well that black people with disabilities, because let's remember intersectionality, people with disabilities of all colors, races, gender, whatever it is, also experience healthcare disparity through this whole thing.  I know you know that very well.  Let's hear your news report for today, Peri.

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Sure, Joyce.  Thank you.  Congress is extremely busy right now, that's great news for the disability community.  They are in a very active work period, the senate is in session until May 3.  The U.S. House of Representatives will stay in session until Memorial Day.  They are holding hearings and votes on the implementation of the American rescue plan, President Biden's new infrastructure plan, COVID‑19 hate crimes voting rights, appropriations to fund federal agencies next year, so much going on for people with disabilities.

Let's take a look at three issues, hate crimes first.  The U.S. senate overwhelmingly passed senate bill 937, we have a link to the text of that senate bill on our website at disabilityrightspa.org, senate bill 937 is called the COVID‑19 hate crimes act and there is really multiple things in here.  One, it facilitates an expedited review of COVID‑19 hate crimes.  It provides guidance for law enforcement agencies to establish on‑line reporting of hate crimes or incidents that then would become equally effective in terms of communication for people with disabilities, and for persons in multiple languages.

Here is the government saying to state and local agencies, we want you to have on‑line reporting of hate crimes, and it has to be accessible to people with disabilities and persons in multiple languages.  It also does a lot of other things, go to our segment today at disabilityrightspa.org and check out the hate crimes action that is going on in the senate and over in the house judiciary committee.  They are considering the same legislation.

On voting, the senate committee on the judiciary held a hearing last week on Jim Crow 2021, the latest assault on the right to vote and among the panelists was the honorable Stacey Abrams from Atlanta.  As we discussed in previous advocacy matters segments, legislation has been introduced in most states across the country to change voting laws.  This hearing took a look at those threats to voting from state legislation.

The final issue we want to bring to everyone's attention is accessibility to national parks and lands.  Just this morning, the house committee on natural resources health an oversight and investigation hearing to look at the accessibility of national parks and lands for people with disabilities.  We have a link to that hearing, if you go to disabilityrightspa.org.  Joyce, so much is going on.  Congress is working hard to address a lot of issues facing people of color and people with disabilities.  We urge your listeners at advocacy matters to follow all of this and to do so by going to disabilityrightspa.org.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Thank you so much.  Listen, I really encourage you as Peri just said, so important to know what is going on, important to not get caught up when it's too far gone.  Make sure disabilityrightspa.org, go to advocacy matters, and all of this information will be there.  Peri, thank you so much, I look forward to talking to you next week.

>> PERI JUDE RADECIC: Thank you, Joyce.  Take care.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Wow.  There is a lot going on in congress right now.

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: Yes, I'm excited to hear all of the things that she reported.  I'm interested in the advocacy piece as it relates to making sure that there is equity for everybody.  I'm very excited about our new leaders and what they are trying to do.  It was a great report.  I thank her for that.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Thank you.  Dr. Larkins‑Pettigrew, I know that you are going to be doing a lot working on equity, diversity, equity and inclusion.  But even for people throughout the country, business people, listening, and people in general listening, how far do you think we have come when it comes to the anti‑racist culture?  I read that book, I was very impacted by that book.  How far do you think we have come?

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: I think that we are starting to awaken somewhat.  But I think we have a absolutely long way to go.  I think that it's going to, some difference it is going to make for us because we had multiple tipping points in our country, multiple opportunities to say, something is wrong, very wrong.  And it starts with racism, because that is the undercurrent of all of the other things that happened.  Racism is the other.  We can talk about the other, then incorporates everything from people with disabilities, veterans who come home who are disabled, it covers so, the LGBT population, so the other really is kind of lumped into what we consider to be those who have been disenfranchised.  However, we know that racism was specifically designed in this country to make sure that we had haves and have nots.  Many people don't want to believe that.  That is the problem, we don't want to understand how we got here.  Until we understand how we got here, we are never going to be able to move beyond it.

And understanding how we got here means that we all have to investigate in what has happened in the past, we have to intentionally read, intentionally understand that this didn't happen by a happenstance.  This happened, it was planned this way.  Understanding that, here we are, a racist country, we are, we have racist behaviors.  We do have racist folks who live and work amongst us all the time, and people who have racist behaviors who are not racist, but we all have those blind spots as we were raised in this country, and so the racist culture is, runs through our country like a fabric of who it is.  Until we embrace that, until we understand that, we will never be able to move into position where then we can understand diversity.  We take these things apart, we talk about diversity, inclusion, equity, social justice, all of those things come back to the issue of race in this country.

When we talk about race and we understand and acknowledge and embrace how we got here by understanding our history, that is the first big step.  Then we can then talk about what does it mean to be diverse.  Diverse also means that not until we have everyone at the table, but white folks must be at the table, and this is the fear that I see that when we talk about moving forward and giving everyone equity, then people who have had privilege think that they will lose their wealth, they think they are going to lose something.  Why can't it be that we all gain in this situation?  We cannot move into that situation unless we understand how we got here, we embrace everyone as part of this diverse very innovative and exciting and very productive country, and that we are all included, and that means that we look at how we have not been fair, and there has not been equity, in not only just health care but equity in business.  Look at our social determinants of health and how folks got to be in places where we have social determinants of health.  We have social determinants of health because we have had political determinants of health that has brought us to that place.  We have political determinants of every space that we work in, why do people have lack of transportation, food insecurity, all those things that should be in this country, this rich country, something that we should be enjoying.  We can't even get to the space in diversity until we do those things before that, and then move to equity, and then we talk about social justice.  We have to look at our social justice system again and again and again, and everything I talk about as it relation to being in a racist culture has stemmed from who we are.  We are a racist country, we have to face the fact that we are a racist country, because of what has been instilled in the country, the leaders, etcetera, etcetera.

We can't move from that, until we embrace all those things I said.  We can't talk about things like how do we police better, if we can't understand how we got there in the first place.  So how do we have people have healthier lives if they are not living healthy lives and how did we get there in the first place and why do we blame the folks that are the victims many times.  America has a long way to go.  We can't, we are not going to sugarcoat it.  I'm in that space where I will never sugarcoat it.  But I want to see us strategically face the fact that we are here, how we got here, and until we do that, we cannot move on in a strategic way to bring equity and social justice for everyone.  Long answer to your question.

>> JOYCE BENDER: No, no, I think that's, I think that is so true, because I too am worried.  I'm worried, right now in our group with Sharel and other people interested in civil rights of people with disabilities, and people who are Black and people of color, is right now, there is this huge movement across America, to hire people and bring in people who are Black and people of color, huge movement.  The question is, once people get hired, then what happens, and where do they get hired?  What is the strategic plan?  What is going to happen?  Are they all going to be at certain levels where you check a box?  Or why can't people in positions such as yours also move up, COO, CEO, whatever it is, why does someone have to be put in one position forever.  Of course, I hope I'm wrong.  I hope that this keeps moving.  But that thing you said about people feeling they are going to lose their privilege, I too am worried about that.  Let's face it, if you are White, you do have privilege.  So I hope you are wrong about that.  I look to someone like you because you and AHN, Highmark, you are such great people, that you will be the beacon of hope and light for other companies to look at.  That is my opinion.

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: I'm so excited, Joyce, that we are talking about this, because Allegheny Health Network, they have made a intentional commitment to not only increase the workforce and bring in more people of color, especially African‑Americans, but also people with disabilities, they have also, but the thing is, you can't have a check mark, it's not about the numbers that we bring in.  It is about the culture that we change, that says that you are going to be accepted here because we are an inclusive organization, that you will be given dignity, respect, and we are going to recognize your talents, because of who you are, not because of your disability, not because of your color.  We are going to recognize who you are and your expertise and your brilliance and actually give you an opportunity to grow within our institutions.  That is the promise that they have made to me as they said come and work with us at Allegheny Health Network.  It can never be about check boxes.  It can never be about just the number.  Absolutely it has to be about looking within the system to make sure that racism is not rearing its ugly head, that we are treating all people with dignity and respect.  That is what they are giving me the opportunity to do, to look within and say who are we, what is our brand?  We want to be better.  We are going to be better.  If we are better, as healthcare providers, then we are going to make everyone we take care of better.  We are going to make them much better.  That is the hope that I see, that is the promise that they have made and hopefully I'll help them do that.

Like I said before, Joyce, we can't do this without, I say you can't do it without white folks at the table, we can't do this without everybody at the table.  Everybody has to be at the table, people with disabilities, people of color, people who are LGBT population, everybody has got to be on this train, or this will never happen.  We cannot be afraid to speak out.  We cannot be afraid to embrace where we are now, we are in the most critical part of, one of the most critical parts of our existence today.  I believe we are going to move forward.

>> JOYCE BENDER: You know what, you are just so awesome.  Well, I know they will, with you.  I know they will.  I want to tell everyone, she means it what she is saying about everyone at the table, because when I met her, when I talked to her the first time, she said to me, you know what, Joyce, we don't want to just hire people who are black or people of color, we want to hire people with disabilities, everyone should be hired.  That is the difference with Highmark and AHN.  If you are living with a disability, know this.  She already spoke up for you.  As a woman living with epilepsy, and disability‑owned business enterprise owner of Bender Consulting, I can honestly say, this company top to bottom is the real deal.  I know, everyone watch her and buy that book, because you are going to see.  You are going to see her speaking nationally but even more.

I want to ask you, wow, you are so inspiring, Dr. Larkins‑Pettigrew, which tells me you had or have a role model that impacted you.  Who would that be?

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: I usually talk about my family all the time, because I had so many role models around me but it always comes back to the family member who believed in you and who showed you what it meant to take care of others, and I have to talk about my father, his name is Wilburly Larkins and he passed at the age of 52, but he worked in the coal mines and think about leaving your family every day, living in poverty, and going into the coal mines, going into the dark every single day, not knowing whether you were going to come back up, but you did it.  You did it because you cared about your family, you cared about the people who live in your community.  I watched this man do that, in addition, bring people home with him who could not, did not have a place to sleep or did not have a meal.  We shared our table with so many people we did not even know.  He was all about making sure that we thought we moved beyond ourselves, in order to take care of others.

I say this all the time, it was written by Malcolm X, when I becomes we, then illness becomes wellness.  That works in the healthcare system but it works everywhere.  Because when we get rid of the I, I, I, and we start concentrating on the we, then my father's dream of making sure that his great grandchildren will be, have the opportunities to live in a place where their color, where disabilities, where where they come from will be welcomed as their learned experience and their self affirmation that they are great, no matter who they are.  That is what he taught me.  He is my role model of the day.  I'd like to honor him by giving him this moment with you, Joyce.  Thank you.

>> JOYCE BENDER: That is so special.  That is so wonderful.  I know, listening above how much that means to him, but I know, just think how proud he would be, knowing from where you were, to where you are now.  A doctor!

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: Thank you.  (overlapping speakers).

>> JOYCE BENDER: Corporate America, think how proud he would be.  I'm sure the rest of your family is, because and you know what, I didn't thank you for serving our country.  I wanted to mention that also, that you have done so much, in that time period I talked to you, I didn't know you were a veteran.  I mean wow.  I don't know how you did all this.  You have done so much in your life already.  What branch were you in, in the service?

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: I was in the navy.  I enjoyed that experience immensely.  I think that our servicemen need to be recognized every single minute of the day, that they do so much for us, at home and abroad, and we can't forget about our veterans.  They are rock that has kept us safe and continue to keep us safe around the world.  I was very proud to be a vet, and Joyce, you say I've done so much in my short period of time but I'm still young, beautiful and attractive.

>> JOYCE BENDER: And you are and you still have a long way to go.  You are going to be the rock star doing what you talked about, right, where you said, it won't just be a number.  But it will be ‑‑

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: Absolutely.

>> JOYCE BENDER: You still, when you think about it, Dr. Larkins‑Pettigrew, you are in the moment in history right now.  You are in the moment.  But it's going to be people like you that have to be a role model for everyone else.  So you still have a long way to go.  But you can do a lot of things right now, as you move forward in your life, to really impact, I believe, of course, people with disabilities, people of color, African‑Americans, LGBTQ, but in addition, overall, corporate America, because of this example that you are going to give and I'm going to make sure this show is replayed, I want to tell everyone, remember, go to Apple or Spotify, you can hear this show, if you are listening right now, and you are thinking, oh, I wish I could share this with someone, you can.  Go to Apple or Spotify or VoiceAmerica.com, or Benderconsult.com and you can get this podcast.  I hope if you do, you will share it, because that is what we are going to do, because we are all in this together, as you said, with Malcolm X quote that you gave, which I think is so powerful.

Before we end the show, I want to say this first.  Thank you so much, I know how busy you are, but that you took time to be with us.

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: It has been a absolute pleasure, I feel like we are sitting next to one another having a cup of coffee or a glass of wine and chatting about what my vision and aspirations are for all of us.  It has been a absolute pleasure to be with you today.

>> JOYCE BENDER: The feeling is mutual.  When all of this is over, and we can go indoors and have a nice dinner, we will have the coffee and the wine.  How about that?

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: Thank you.  I'm going to look forward to it.

>> JOYCE BENDER: Dr. Larkins‑Pettigrew, what message do you have for our listeners today?

>> MARGARET LARKINS-PETTIGREW: My message is to please take care of yourselves, so that you can take care of others.  Everything you think about as far as your life is, should be about being your best, so you can make others and help others be their best.  Thank you again for having me.

>> JOYCE BENDER: My pleasure.  So, we end every show with a quote.  Today, it is, oh, there is a power, when those who have known rejection come together, said reverend Dr. William Barber.  This is Joyce Bender, America's voice, where   "Disability Matters" at VoiceAmerica.com.  Talk to you next week, with Tony Murphy.  See you then.

  (end of program at 1:58 p.m. CST)

 

 

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