As healthcare is projected to account for a third of new employment in the next decade, we have the opportunity to build health into our society with new models of care and access; address the social determinants of health head-on; and revolutionize chronic disease and mental health.
Accomplishing all of this, however, calls for inclusion of varied viewpoints and lived experiences in problem solving and decision-making. This is how Onboard Health views sustainable health innovation — through the inclusion of change-makers from historically underrepresented backgrounds.
Onboard Health’s The Sustainable Future blog is dedicated to giving a voice to these talented individuals hard at work creating lasting change in our society. This post, featuring Félix Manuel Chinea, is the fourth of a Q&A series — “How I’m Building” — highlighting members of the diverse Onboard Health community.
You were a founding member of — and spokesperson for — BIPOC@Dox, which aims to amplify the voices of employees and users of color at Doximity. Tell us about this project and your role within it.
I’m so glad you asked about BIPOC@Dox! This was Doximity’s first official employee resource group (ERG) that we started in September 2020. It was led by a group of 8–10 of us that really wanted to build towards a more equitable world for historically marginalized folks inside and outside Doximity.
Much of our work focused on building a community for Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC) employees to improve our sense of belonging, but we also organized events open to everyone at the company that fostered courageous conversations about active allyship and antiracism in medicine. Serving as spokesperson for this group provided me the opportunity to center BIPOC experiences for our colleagues as well as the members on our network.
When ERGs are empowered to have these types of conversations, organizations can really benefit through shared learning and growth that can ultimately impact product development and decision-making.
And in May of 2021 you transitioned full time to Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging Manager. How does this job differ from your previous roles?
When I first joined Doximity, my role was on the Editorial team which is under the News umbrella of the company. My work focused on medical content strategy and involved curating and creating relevant content for our members. What made this role unique was the ability to combine both my clinical knowledge and data-driven insights to inform our content strategy.
About 9 months ago, I transitioned to a full-time role leading our Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging efforts. In a lot of ways, it’s completely different. This is the first DEI-focused role at Doximity and it has definitely pushed me to learn new competencies related to human resources and recruitment. In other ways, this role feels like a deepening of my commitment to work I was previously doing as the BIPOC@Dox spokesperson.
With the support of senior leadership, we are able to apply a DEI lens to everything we do as an organization. In our role as the leading medical network and telemedicine platform, that means ensuring we are supporting and learning from anti-racism initiatives in medicine as well as developing equitable product design processes to help address existing inequities for historically marginalized communities.
What does Onboard Health’s mission — “building an inclusive health workforce” — mean to you.
‘Building an inclusive workforce’ means everything to me.
During medical school, I served in leadership roles that focused on improving Black and Latine representation so that healthcare providers could better reflect the communities they serve. Through that experience and developing my systems-thinking competency, I have come to reflect on the fact that our communities are not inherently or simply underrepresented, they are historically excluded.
So when we say ‘building an inclusive health workforce,’ that tells me it starts with the understanding that the current system is both exclusionary and unjust.
So as we build this better system, that means developing a critical lens to unlearn practices and change policies that do not serve or center the most marginalized. It also means that we must be radically inclusive by intentionally investing in communities that have historically seen underinvestment. I’m excited to use my current role to build relationships with organizations that have long been doing that work.
How have you seen the field of health equity shift in recent years?
In recent years, I feel like there’s been a huge shift in health equity. Most of this change can be seen in the language and focus of where organizations are investing.
Instead of solely measuring health disparities, we’re seeing institutions commit to becoming anti-racist and share reflections on their own past actions.
Much of this shift is a result of several factors: the tireless work of long-standing health equity leaders, the social unrest after the murder of George Floyd, and the functional application of social justice theory to health justice.
I think this shift in language and focus is what we need and allows us to better understand upstream causes of health inequities. By improving our understanding of historical and social contexts across communities, we can improve how we approach everything from data collection to solutions development.
What pivots has your work seen throughout the pandemic?
During the pandemic, the biggest change for me has been my professional relationship with social media. Previously, I never really put myself out there publicly by sharing my thoughts and perspectives online.
After taking on this role, I knew that I needed to connect with other professionals doing the work and share the things we’re doing so that folks can know if Doximity is a place where they can have a sense of belonging.
It’s been the best decision that I made last year. It’s connected me with so many great people and potential collaborators. I’ve greatly benefitted from gaining a community of folks across Twitter, Instagram and Slack workspaces.
Where are you drawing inspiration from lately?
Honestly, I continuously draw inspiration from so many DEI and health equity leaders. When it comes to functionally applying social justice concepts to impact organizational change, I’m most inspired by Michelle Mijung Kim’s The Wake Up. She offers such thoughtful insight and grounded perspective on how to approach equity work. When I’m thinking about equitable product design for digital health, I often think about a recent report from RockHealth.org and the product inclusion work done by Annie Jean-Baptiste.
Then as we talk about anti-racism in medicine and digital health equity, I am always learning from the American Medical Association (AMA) Center for Health Equity, led by Dr. Aletha Maybank. Their work provides a thoughtful and grounded roadmap for all health equity advocates.
What hopes do you have for health equity in the coming year?
My hope for health equity in the coming year is for this to be a movement, not a moment. I would love to see the progress translate into long-lasting, sustainable change.
Where can the Onboard Health Community connect with you online?
I’m always looking to connect with like-minded folks in health tech so please feel free to connect with me @felixmchinea on Twitter or Instagram! If social media isn’t your thing, feel free to email me at email@example.com.
Félix is a Puerto Rican military brat raised in the South and currently growing roots in Durham, North Carolina with his amazing wife, Raha, and lovable dog, Âbi (aw-bee), which means blue in Farsi.
He’s a medical doctor by training with expertise in health disparities, health equity, and clinical research. Through this work, he highlighted the need for disaggregated data within the Latine community to address disparities in prostate cancer outcomes. Similar to many BIPOC physicians, he felt that academic medicine was not aligned with him thriving and impacting healthcare in the way he wanted.
Seeing the tech industry as a potential solution, he made his way into digital health. Félix’s experience with Black and Latine medical student organizations and health equity work has allowed him to transfer his knowledge and skills to make a positive impact in private industry and digital health.
Whether it’s courageous conversations with senior leaders, organizing employee resource groups, or discussing equitable product design, he has always been a persistent and thoughtful advocate for diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Taking on a more formal DEI role in health tech represents over 10 years of learning, organizing, outreach, and strategy.
You can connect with Félix on Instagram and Twitter @felixmchinea