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Creating Belonging for Everyone

Former CEO Rice Powell shares his thoughts on inclusion, diversity and more on our road ahead.

I was born in 1955 in a small town in the Mississippi Delta. That same year, locals murdered an African American minister who had come there to register black people to vote. The investigation never resolved, leaving the perpetrators to run free – and my childhood town lingering in its wake.

My professional life has taken me far from the Mississippi Delta, running a company that is active in over 150 countries. But I only need to turn on the news to see that injustices like the one that happened in my hometown continue to affect us.

In my work at Fresenius Medical Care, we look after patients who suffer from end-stage kidney disease, people who are very sick and vulnerable – and the honor of caring for them is a powerful experience that continues to change me.

Although we also produce and provide equipment to replace lost kidney function, our patients need more than technology. Every time they come to our clinics, our care team asks them how they are, when they last took their medication, if they exercised, and what they had to eat and drink. It’s a professional and medically necessary relationship – but also one that requires sympathy and trust.

2020 has presented a challenge to that trust. The healthcare community was faced with four crises at once: COVID-19, the economic crisis in its wake, climate change, and racial injustices like the killing of George Floyd, each with the potential to shatter that trust and drive a wedge between people.

It’s far too easy to despise others just because they look, live, or love in a manner different from our own, speak other languages, cherish other things, or pray to other gods. These fault lines can easily tear nations, neighbors, friends, and families apart – dividing us into groups with little common ground between them. Terrifying, isn’t it?

For us at Fresenius Medical Care, diversity is neither a luxury nor a trend, but the substance that great organizations are made of.

Rice Powell
Former CEO and Chairman of the Management Board

But it doesn’t have to be this way. Fresenius Medical Care is a company with the word “care” in its name – which tells us that we must be extra careful not to allow such ruptures to come between us. Exceptional healthcare is not administered along these divides. It tends to people for only one reason: They are sick and need help, sympathy, and warmth.

We at Fresenius Medical Care have always believed that good healthcare should be for everyone. Our Code of Ethics explicitly states that we do not tolerate discrimination and treat all patients with dignity and respect. We must create a sense of belonging for our employees and patients, no matter who they are or where they come from.

Our values are grounded in inclusion. We want our employees to identify with their work and improve it where they can; come to work as they are and feel respected.

The world is changing fast, and only the widest diversity of perspectives, skills, and ideas will increase our resilience. For us at Fresenius Medical Care, diversity is neither a luxury nor a trend, but the substance that great organizations are made of. This is why we take extensive measures to promote an environment of inclusivity.

Earlier this year, we shared our commitment to inclusion and diversity with our employees, and now we want to share these publicly as well because our values lead us to communicate openly, take ownership of results, do what we say, and continuously improve. Therefore, our efforts to create the most effective initiatives, and to understand best practices, will be focused on what fosters Inclusion.

  • We will create awareness about the importance of inclusion and diversity by inviting all our employees to contribute.
  • We will build commitment by improving our processes and policies.
  • We will make change by training the organization in unconscious bias, intercultural awareness and inclusive communication.
  • And we will celebrate inclusion and diversity, so everybody can experience its positive impact.

We will soon announce more initiatives to create a better future worth living for our patients and our employees. I believe our company can improve every day – and we will do just that; show up, reflect, and keep journeying forward. I am excited for the road ahead.