Using the Past to Shape our Present and Inspire Our Future – A Tribute to Black History Month.

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Using the Past to Shape our Present and Inspire Our Future – A Tribute to Black History Month.

Friday, February 14, 2020


Featuring guest Blogger: Pleasant R., Jr.

When we look at the important people and events that influenced our history, it is important to recognize how those histories lead us to where we are today and will continue to inspire where we will be in the future. 

1. Tell us a little bit about your journey to UnitedHealth Group. 

I embarked on a non-traditional journey to UnitedHealth Group.  I started working in nonprofit management and community health as a Peace Corps community health volunteer in Nicaragua. Later, I advocated for pregnant and parenting youth rights in Chicago Public Schools.  Finally, I worked with the University of Chicago Medicine’s Urban Health Initiative to help implement a CMS Health Care Innovation Award to improve health outcomes for Chicago’s South Side communities. During my journey, the intersection between health care and business became evident – healthy communities are good for business.  However, I didn’t have the business knowledge to convince business stakeholders to invest in low-income, itinerant populations.  Eventually, I decided to move from Chicago to Minneapolis to attend business school and learn more about Minneapolis’s health ecosystem. After business school, I accepted a position in Optum Consulting as a consultant. Since joining the company, I have leveraged my nonprofit background and business education to better understand, empathize and meet the needs of the communities that we serve.  

2. What historical figure has inspired you the most and why? 

Lucy Diggs Slowe is an underappreciated historical figure. She was a talented tennis player who influenced many famous African-American tennis players like Althea Gibson, Arthur Ashe and the Williams sisters, but more importantly, she was also a progressive educator, a visionary and a tireless advocate for gender equality.  She inspires me because she was tough and resilient. She overcame innumerable challenges to found a sorority (Alpha Kappa Alpha), become the first Dean of Women at Howard University and the first African-American woman to win a major sports title at the American Tennis Association in 1917. Her civic engagement and leadership enhanced the quality and status of all Americans.    

3. From a diversity perspective, what sets UnitedHealth Group’s culture apart?

UnitedHealth Group’s culture is distinct because the company supports grassroots efforts to strengthen our commitment to diversity and inclusion. For example, at UnitedHealthcare, there are groups like the Leadership Mentoring Circle, the Legal, Compliance and Regulatory Affairs (LCRA) Diversity Council and Uniquely United that work to embed diversity and inclusion into the company. At Optum, and more specifically Optum Consulting, I co-lead an associate resource community called Optum Consulting Inclusion (OCI), whose mission is to foster a culture of inclusivity that better positions our organization to succeed with an increasingly diverse client base in an evolving health care system. Working with a company that recognizes that diverse perspectives are essential to fulfill our health care mission is promising.   

4. What is it about our company culture that inspires you the most when looking ahead to the next 5-10 years? 

It is inspiring to see CEO Steve Hemsley actively support the work of the Culture Ambassador community. He believes that it is important to create a healthy, sustainable company culture that allows us to achieve our full potential. As the company grows and health care becomes more challenging, putting our company values into action becomes more crucial so that we can help people live healthier lives across the globe.  

5. In your own words, why is diversity important in the workplace?

At UnitedHealth Group, diversity is important because it allows us to fulfill our corporate mission to help people live healthier lives and make the health care system work better for everyone. The only way to achieve this mission is to have people from across the globe identify challenges and create relevant products and solutions that meet the linguistic, cultural and social needs of all populations at the right time and right cost.  

6. In honor of Black History Month, how do you personally use the past to inspire your future?

History matters to me. It is a record of who I am and where I come from. It is also a map of successes and failures that can be used to draw a blueprint for a stronger future.  I honor my past by learning about the many accomplishments and contributions African-Americans have made to improve the well-being of people across the world. I then share that knowledge with friends and family to increase awareness of the rich African-American legacy. 

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