Diversity Management at Kaiser Permanente: This Female Muslim Entrepreneur Brings Sensitivity to Suppliers

Diversity management in supplier diversity at Kaiser Permanente benefits from Dr. Sally Saba's unique perspective of the world—she grew up in Egypt and successfully ran a small business in the United States.

Diversity management in supplier diversity at Kaiser Permanente (No. 3 in the 2012 DiversityInc Top 50) benefits from Dr. Sally Saba's unique perspective of the world—she grew up in Egypt and successfully ran a small business in the United States.

Dr. Saba, executive director of national supplier diversity for Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, knows what she's talking about firsthand when it comes to supplier diversity. As a woman who has owned a small business, she's familiar with the hardships that minority- and women-owned businesses face on a daily basis, such as problems with cash flow.

"I can recall many months when I couldn't make payroll, even though I had lots of money in receivables," she says. "When I speak about doing our part in supporting them, I speak from the heart with a passion."

Read: Supplier Diversity in the Health-Insurance Industry

Finding Value in Differences

This is why Saba approaches diversity management as "an eager student, continually observing, learning and adapting," she says. Saba's defining moment in dealing with diversity was when she moved to the United States as an adult. Saba was born into a Muslim family in Cairo and has lived between both countries since she was 2. As such, she's had the experience of interacting with different cultures her whole life.

For more on cultural diversity, watch our thought-provoking panel with two experts on Muslims and stereotypes: Muslims & Stereotypes: Do They Really Hate Us?

However, diversity in the United States is very different than in Egypt, where the main differentiator is a socioeconomic class system. "Otherwise we were all the same, Egyptians," she explains. "It doesn't really test your belief system as much as does moving to a diverse population like America."

What really opened her eyes, she says, was seeing in the media how momentous it was for Americans to elect a Black president. "These were conditions in America that I wasn't really considering at the time," she says.

Saba's worldly view and her being a member of a religious minority in the United States has helped her develop a particular sensitivity for cultural competence, which she believes is a knowledge that needs years of experience to fully develop. "You go through phases of realization, understanding and adapting until you learn to appreciate and foster the differences," she says.

The key to this, she explains, is found in abandoning our need "to be similar, to be comfortable in a diverse environment" and in finding joy in difference. Saba notes that what she most enjoys is the diversity in thought that stems from people's differing backgrounds and experiences.

Read: Lowe's Muslim Publicity Gaffe Serves as Case Study of What Not to Do

Sensitivity in Service

"I believe that every experience a person goes through, both professionally and personally, influences their approach to life and work," she says. "All of my life experiences contribute to the complexity of how I view the world and how I view people."

Her employer, Kaiser Permanente, has similar values in diversity management. The healthcare system/insurance company is committed to providing culturally competent medical care and service to its customers, and it emphasizes to its team members the value of understanding not only patients' health needs but their religious/spiritual needs as well. For example, Saba says the company has in-house chaplains on its interdisciplinary team to offer support to patients who want religion as a part of their care.

It is this integrated notion of equity in service through diversity management that has made a positive impression on Saba. While her Muslim faith has taught her that all people are equal, her experience living in a male-dominated culture inferred otherwise. "It's funny because our religion promotes the work of women side by side to men, yet the Arab culture gets in the way of achieving that," she says. "It is a very different environment in the United States, and especially here at Kaiser Permanente, where you are valued by the organization for your contributions without regard to your gender or other attributes."

Watch Bernard Tyson, president and chief operating officer, Kaiser Permanente, in the video below discuss what sets the company apart in diversity management.

Personalized Supplier Diversity

Kaiser Permanente's success, according to Saba, stems from two major factors: the "truly amazing" commitment of the organization's senior leadership and their ability to link diversity goals to performance metrics. Saba says that both are instrumental in helping the company realize profound changes.

In terms of supplier diversity, Saba notes a highly personal strategy in which they meet with suppliers regularly and frequently to provide support and hands-on training to compete for business. "We meet with suppliers almost weekly," she says. "We also meet them at the trade shows that we attend regularly. We make sure they are in the running."

Saba hopes to be able "to lead the company to its first billion" in supplier-diversity spend, which she says is just the beginning. Ultimately, her goal is "to continue to develop my cultural competence so that whatever I decide to do next is based on a foundation of diversity."

For innovation in supplier diversity and diversity management, watch AT&T's presentation on its Power Up! program at DiversityInc's Innovation Fest! event.

Kaiser Permanente Researchers Develop New Models for Predicting Suicide Risk

Approach may offer value to health systems and clinicians in targeting interventions to prevent suicide

Originally Published by Kaiser Permanente.

Combining data from electronic health records with results from standardized depression questionnaires better predicts suicide risk in the 90 days following either mental health specialty or primary care outpatient visits, reports a team from the Mental Health Research Network, led by Kaiser Permanente research scientists.

The study, "Predicting Suicide Attempts and Suicide Death Following Outpatient Visits Using Electronic Health Records," conducted in five Kaiser Permanente regions (Colorado, Hawaii, Oregon, California and Washington), the Henry Ford Health System in Detroit, and the HealthPartners Institute in Minneapolis, was published today in the American Journal of Psychiatry.

Combining a variety of information from the past five years of people's electronic health records and answers to questionnaires, the new models predicted suicide risk more accurately than before, according to the authors. The strongest predictors include prior suicide attempts, mental health and substance use diagnoses, medical diagnoses, psychiatric medications dispensed, inpatient or emergency room care, and scores on a standardized depression questionnaire.

Dr. Simon shares what inspired him to study mental health.

"We demonstrated that we can use electronic health record data in combination with other tools to accurately identify people at high risk for suicide attempt or suicide death," said first author Gregory E. Simon, MD, MPH, a Kaiser Permanente psychiatrist in Washington and a senior investigator at Kaiser Permanente Washington Health Research Institute.

In the 90 days following an office visit:

  • Suicide attempts and deaths among patients whose visits were in the highest 1 percent of predicted risk were 200 times more common than among those in the bottom half of predicted risk.
  • Patients with mental health specialty visits who had risk scores in the top 5 percent accounted for 43 percent of suicide attempts and 48 percent of suicide deaths.
  • Patients with primary care visits who had scores in the top 5 percent accounted for 48 percent of suicide attempts and 43 percent of suicide deaths.

This study builds on previous models in other health systems that used fewer potential predictors from patients' records. Using those models, people in the top 5 percent of risk accounted for only a quarter to a third of subsequent suicide attempts and deaths. More traditional suicide risk assessment, which relies on questionnaires or clinical interviews only, is even less accurate.

The new study involved seven large health systems serving a combined population of 8 million people in nine states. The research team examined almost 20 million visits by nearly 3 million people age 13 or older, including about 10.3 million mental health specialty visits and about 9.7 million primary care visits with mental health diagnoses. The researchers deleted information that could help identify individuals.

"It would be fair to say that the health systems in the Mental Health Research Network, which integrate care and coverage, are the best in the country for implementing suicide prevention programs," Dr. Simon said. "But we know we could do better. So several of our health systems, including Kaiser Permanente, are working to integrate prediction models into our existing processes for identifying and addressing suicide risk."

Suicide rates are increasing, with suicide accounting for nearly 45,000 deaths in the United States in 2016; 25 percent more than in 2000, according to the National Center for Health Statistics.

Other health systems can replicate this approach to risk stratification, according to Dr. Simon. Better prediction of suicide risk can inform decisions by health care providers and health systems. Such decisions include how often to follow up with patients, refer them for intensive treatment, reach out to them after missed or canceled appointments — and whether to help them create a personal safety plan and counsel them about reducing access to means of self-harm.

Nurse Posts on Facebook Stephon Clark Deserved to Die, Fired by Kaiser Permanente

The company said Faith Linthicum's comments "do not in any way reflect Kaiser Permanente's views or actions."


Kaiser Permanente (No. 2 on the DiversityInc Top 50 Companies list) has dismissed a nurse at its Roseville Medical Center in California for her Facebook comments about Stephon Clark, an unarmed Black man killed March 18 by police in his grandparents' backyard in Sacramento.

Faith Linthicum of Sacramento, a nurse in labor and delivery, said on Facebook that Clark, 22, "deserved" to get shot by police:

"Yeah but he was running from the police jumping over fences and breaking in peoples houses... why run? He deserved it for being stupid."

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EY, Kaiser Permanente, Novartis, PwC and Sodexo have been inducted into DiversityInc's Top 50 Hall of Fame. The companies inducted into the Hall of Fame have demonstrated exceptional human capital management accomplishments and superior corporate values and culture.

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