During the special breakfast session that kicks off the second day of RISE West 2022 in Los Angeles, a panel featuring four Black women in health care leadership positions will discuss their career paths and what needs to change in the industry to further promote women across all sectors.

It struck Osato F. Chitou immediately when she joined a preliminary video call last week with the three other women scheduled to join a panel discussion at the upcoming RISE West 2022 that this would indeed be a special session: it would be the first time that an all-Black woman panel would speak at the annual conference.

For Chitou, principal consultant, Esq., MPH, of Compli by Osato, it is a move in the right direction as she has noted that at RISE and other industry conferences, when Black women are invited to participate, they are asked to join as speakers related to conversations about diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). But for Black women to be viewed as experts in their field, it is important that they are afforded opportunities to showcase their expertise, which expands beyond DEI.

“This panel of all Black women is a rarity but let me add a caveat—notice we’re not on a panel about risk adjustment or data validation. So, we need to take note that when women of color are called in, we’re often called in to speak on social issues,” she said.

Chitou, who will moderate the panel discussion at RISE West 2022, said the women scheduled to join the conversation on empowering women in health care are highly educated, incredibly accomplished, and subject matter experts about the U.S. health care system.

The panel will include:

DeAnna L. Minus-Vincent, MPA, chief social justice and accountability officer at RWJBarnabas Health

Tracey Veal, DrPHA, MBA, senior advisory consultant, LA County Public Health Department

Melanie A. Prince, MSN, BSN, RN, NE-BC, CCM, FAAN, former president, Case Management Society of America, and retired military colonel, U.S. Airforce

The session, which is open to all attendees but does require separate registration, begins at 7:45 a.m. Friday, Sept. 2 for breakfast and networking, followed by the panel discussion at 8:10 a.m., which will include time for questions from the audience.

The conversation will include personal stories from all the panelists, lessons learned, and their thoughts on what the industry can do to use the experiences of women more constructively, both inside and outside of the health care system, to improve the health care system.

“It was very eye-opening for me on the call when we shared our stories,” she said. “These women have reached the pinnacles of their industry and have all these credentials. I think there were 12 advanced degrees on the call. So clearly, we are capable to hold these seats, yet we have to jump through hoops.”

Chitou said the conversation about their experiences is critical for all attendees—white women, women of color, white men, and men of color, because the populations that their health plans serve look like the women who will be on the stage. In many cases, she said, the people who make decisions about policies at the health care organization have truly little insight on the impact of what those decisions mean to their patients or members. And, she noted, it’s important to have people of color in the room when discussing risk adjustment because the sickest patients or members are often people of color.

She recommends that attendees do a self-assessment after the session to determine who has a seat at their tables and whether they need to make room for women, particularly Black women. “Everyone in leadership has to do their own internal evaluation that incorporates both a professional and personal review and how it relates to where their organizations are right now,” she said.

RISE West 2022 will take place September 1-2, with preconference workshops on August 31, at the InterContinental Los Angeles Downtown. The special breakfast session will begin at 7:45 a.m. Friday, Sept. 2. The session is open to all attendees but does require separate registration. Proof of a negative COVID-19 test, or proof of vaccination is required to attend the live event. Click here to learn more.