HMH’s Garrett challenges other leaders to maintain — and increase — their commitment to DEI

CEO recently honored by African American Chamber for his efforts

Bob Garrett’s stance on diversity, equity & inclusion is strong. More importantly, his commitment is solid.

“It is clear that advancing these important strategies enhances a company’s success and team member engagement,” he wrote in a recent piece in Modern Healthcare. “As staffing remains a major challenge, it’s extremely important to create a strong culture. Research from Great Place to Work found that team members in diverse and inclusive work environments are more than five times as likely to want to stay on the job. My advice? Stand firm in your commitment to DEI and invest even more in these efforts.”

Garrett, the CEO of Hackensack Meridian Health, was known as a champion for DEI before it became fashionable to do so.

He remains a champion while others are backing away.

It is for those reasons and more that Garrett was presented with the President’s Award at the recent Business Leadership Conference presented by the African American Chamber of Commerce of New Jersey.

John Harmon, the CEO of the AACCNJ, told the crowd at the event that Garrett’s commitment has never wavered.

“When others are starting to retreat, be tepid and back away from their commitments — notwithstanding they made them publicly — Bob Garrett said that he and HMH are doubling down on their commitments,” he said.

Harmon referenced a quote from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.: “The ultimate measure of a man is not where he stands in moments of convenience and comfort, but where he stands at times of challenge and controversy.”

Harmon, who sits on the board at HMH, said he has seen Garrett’s efforts up close.


Hackensack Meridian Health CEO Bob Garrett on some of things HMH is doing to show its commitment to diversity, equity & inclusion.

We have come very far in a short period of time. Our advances in DEI include creating an Executive Diversity Council co-chaired by the CEO and the chief diversity officer, who reports directly to the CEO. The council meets quarterly. The network has identified four pillars of focus to advance DEI and drive business, including: patient care and outcomes, community, workforce and supplier diversity.

“The network launched a yearlong program to build a stronger pipeline of diverse leaders and increased its annual supplier diversity spend by 32% this year. For these efforts and more, Fair360, formerly DiversityInc, ranked Hackensack Meridian Health No. 1 among health systems in the U.S. this year.”

“You can either lead or you can pretend to lead,” he said. “I have witnessed, firsthand, Bob Garrett’s leadership — his commitment to excellence, innovation and quality care for every patient, notwithstanding their socioeconomic situation.

“He exemplifies patience, courage, empathy, perseverance, unselfishness, servant leadership and an unwavering determination to make a transformational impact.”

Garrett said he was humbled by the award.

“I am overwhelmed,” he said. “It is very moving for me to receive this honor from this organization.”

Garrett said he hopes others will speak up for DEI.

“If you look at the stats over the last few months, since the affirmative action decision by the Supreme Court, I think 18% of business leaders across America are backing off their DEI programs to one extent or another, which is just really sad,” he said. “I think the message for all of us is we need DEI more than ever before.

“That’s our commitment at Hackensack Meridian Health, and I challenge all business leaders here in New Jersey and across the country to do the same because it’s the right thing to do for the right reasons.”