Smartest action Dr. Seun Ross has done? Develop a strategy that impacts the 8.1 million lives the Independence Blue Cross covers

Seun Ross, PhD, RN, is the executive director of health equity of Philadelphia-based Independence Blue Cross. 

Dr. Ross will serve on the panel "Elevating Health Equity: Best Ideas and Strategies" at Becker's Payer Issues Roundtable. As part of an ongoing series, Becker's is talking to healthcare leaders who plan to speak at the conference on Nov. 7-8 in Chicago. 

To learn more and register, click here.

Becker's Healthcare aims to foster peer-to-peer conversation between healthcare's brightest leaders and thinkers. In that vein, responses to our Speaker Series are published straight from interviewees. Here is what our speaker had to say.

Question: What is the smartest thing you've done in the last year to set your system up for success?

Dr. Seun Ross: My role is about a year old. Independence Health Group launched Equitable whole person health, and I was hired to develop and implement a strategy to ensure equity in the care of our members. As a result, the smartest thing I've done in the past year is developing a health equity strategy that includes interventions for maternal health, behavioral health, and the elimination of race-based medicine. This will positively impact the 8.1 million lives we cover regardless of what they look like and how they identify.

Q: What are you most excited about right now and what makes you nervous?

SR: It has been refreshing to see a national reawakening of society's consciousness of the inequities that exist in society. What I'm most afraid of is that our attention spans can be short, and the progress that we've made in the past two years (for example, the creation of roles focused on dismantling structural racism and closing the gaps in healthcare) is going to wane.

Q: How are you thinking about growth and investments for the next year or two?

SR: For growth and investment, we, as payers, are in a unique position to be the drivers of the outcomes we want to see in healthcare. We have the ability to pay for the closure of disparities. We must improve the quality of care by dismantling the old payment models that may contribute to structural inequities and embedding new value-based payment programs to ensure everyone has an equal chance at health. I think that's how we grow and invest in the future. 

Q: What will healthcare executives need to be effective leaders for the next five years? How are you building resilient and diverse teams?

SR: I think for an executive to be an effective leader, you have to build a diverse and resilient team, a team that understands the community and the environments where they live. At Independence, it was imperative that our team had that level of diversity because we needed varying perspectives.

We have people with Latin, Black/African American, White, and immigrant backgrounds, representing the Baby boomer, Gen X and Millennial generations and having diverse gender and sexualities. So I think having all these perspectives, especially in a city like Philadelphia, the poorest big city in the nation, we needed a team that understands what it means to be all of those things and their intersectionalities. This is our superpower- this is what leaders need to be mindful and cognizant of if they want to be successful now and twenty years from now.

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