Our culture and commitment to your belonging

Dear Colleagues,

Ask anybody what they like most about working at Columbia and you’re likely to hear about their coworkers. Not just their professionalism, civility, and dedication to their jobs, but the diversity of their backgrounds and experiences that help make Columbia such a vibrant community. 

Many institutions have embraced the idea of “diversity,” but there’s too often a gap between rhetoric and reality. I recently discussed this with Tonya Richards, chief diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) officer for our non-physician staff. Tonya has spearheaded many recent efforts to help us live our values and create meaningful programming around DEI. Her work (and the work of so many others) has helped bring us closer to realizing our goals in tangible, fruitful ways. 

Employee resource groups (ERGs), as one example, have provided a gathering space for a number of our communities here at CUIMC, and the initial feedback has been phenomenal. I encourage everyone to look into joining one of these groups, or even starting one of your own. To better understand the value of ERGs and to get to know a few of your inspiring colleagues, please take a look at the latest videos in our employee storytelling series.

Of course, ERGs are only part of these efforts. Tonya and I discussed where we might go from here, including expanding professional development, mentorship opportunities, community service efforts, and so much more. If you have the time today, I hope you can take a few minutes to listen in on our conversation. You will hear Tonya mention our inaugural summit on DEI called CUIMC EnERGize. It will take place on October 13, and I invite you to register.

The key takeaway from our chat is simple: Our priority is to create an authentic sense of belonging for every member of our medical campus team. As an employer, we want you to know that CUIMC not only welcomes but encourages you to bring your entire self to work every day. We embrace the diversity of your experiences and backgrounds not as an add-on to the contributions you make in your role, but as central to your value as an employee. If I have learned anything over the course of my career in medicine, it is that diverse perspectives allow us to conduct research, care for patients, and teach at the highest levels. Our commitment to embracing our differences—in identity, cultural experiences, and skillsets—has long been a hallmark of Columbia, and it remains indispensable to the excellence of our work and the power of our leadership.

Our people are our strength, and we have to let that principle guide us every day. For me, it is a fundamental tenet informing my decisions. That means ensuring that CUIMC is an anchor institution for the Northern Manhattan community, offering jobs, educational opportunities, and the most advanced medical care to those who were born and raised here. And it means that when someone contributes their hard work to this institution, we provide them with a career path allowing for professional growth. The fact this is not always an easy promise to keep makes honoring it no less important.

So, when you come to work, please don’t leave your true self back at home. More than there being room for you here, there’s an entire community of people who can benefit from the unique perspective only you can offer. I hope they are learning from you every day.

All my best,

Katrina Armstrong, MD 
Chief Executive Officer, Columbia University Irving Medical Center 
Dean of the Faculties of Health Sciences and the Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons