Growing up in a low-income Hispanic community in Bayamon, Puerto Rico, Dr. Luis Torres, now a medical director for behavioral health at Evernorth (Cigna Corporation’s health services business), saw how his opportunities were not the same as those of a different race and socioeconomic background.
“I had to work twice as hard to go to college and then medical school,” he said in an exclusive interview with Cigna’s Newsroom staff.
Raised speaking and reading Spanish as his first language, Dr. Torres spent extra time studying so he could translate and understand the material. He worked nights as a busboy to earn enough money to buy his textbooks.
“These experiences shaped me into who I am today,” he said. “I’m passionate about standing up for and educating others about racial equality.”
And now, Dr. Torres has the opportunity to do just that, as he has been selected to represent Cigna by participating in the CEO Action for Racial Equity (CEOARE) fellowship — working alongside 200+ fellows representing 100+ of the world’s leading companies and business organizations to address racial injustice at national, state and local levels.
Cigna is a proud member of CEO Action for Diversity and Inclusion (CEO Action), the largest CEO-driven business commitment to advancing diversity and inclusion in the workplace. In these defining times, we stand together as a company to continually advance racial equity and equality, accelerating our efforts through our Building Equity and Equality Program and through important work with partner organizations, including CEO Action. The mission of the CEO Action fellowship is to identify, develop and promote scalable and sustainable public policies and corporate engagement to address societal systemic racism and social injustice, and improve societal well-being. Eric Palmer, CEO of Evernorth, will replace Tim Wentworth as the executive member of the CEO Action Governing Committee.
“I aspire to work hard and make a difference in the way individuals, communities and corporations talk and think about racial inequalities,” Dr. Torres said. “With 20 years of experience as a behavioral health physician, I bring a unique perspective of understanding the different layers of disparities my patients face.”
Even before his appointment as a fellow for the CEO Action program, Dr. Torres has been actively involved with helping further the conversation on diversity and inclusion at Cigna. He is part of the Juntos employee resource group (ERG) team, where he has been actively working towards improving processes to develop the Hispanic talent at Cigna. In addition, he has been leading lectures to increase awareness about the Loneliness Epidemic, and created a special program for the members of the Juntos ERG called Cafecito (Coffee) Hour. Cafecito Hour is a virtual coffee break that offers Juntos members a space to decompress, relax, take a break and network with other members of the Cigna family.
Previous CEO Action Work
Dr. Torres is Cigna’s second fellow for CEO Action. During the first year of Cigna’s participation in the program, over 375 ideas were generated in the fellowship to address gaps in four key areas of societal wellbeing: Economic empowerment, education, health care and public safety. After a rigorous selection process, a final portfolio of eight policies and three social contracts were selected by CEOARE for implementation.
The eight policies include:
- Advancing a national police misconducts registry.
- Building greater food equity.
- Decriminalizing poverty where the inability to pay fines, fees or bail in our justice system disproportionately punishes the poor and impacts Black Americans.
- Equity and access in early childhood education.
- Expanding access to telehealth.
- Expanding economic opportunity through community development financial institutions (CDFIs).
- Advancing public policies that declare racism as a public health crisis.
The three social contracts include:
- Advancing corporate and HBCU collaborations.
- Expanding beyond supplier diversity to a business diversity ecosystem to develop a robust ecosystem that will grow Black-owned businesses.
- Mobilizing untapped talent through training programs and hiring commitments to deliver careers to Black Americans who otherwise have been locked out of opportunity.
The Year Ahead
According to Dr. Torres, once a person reaches a place in their career, where they have a platform to combat, educate and inject knowledge, it’s an opportunity that is hard to pass up. He’s excited and passionate about the opportunities in the year ahead to effect change.
“The fact that I now have the opportunity to truly take a stand for something that I am passionate about makes me happy,” he said. “I want to be part of the change. I don’t want to just be a bystander. So, even though this next year will be a challenging and possibly a scary path for me, I am definitely ready for the challenge.”
“My goal is to touch the hearts of people, communities and organizations in the hopes of influencing them to make long-lasting changes. I want to live to see a color-neutral world — a place where opportunities are given equally, where children can grow up without noticing racial differences and where we are all the same: just human beings.”