Laura Leonard has spent many years working on various Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) initiatives. As a member of our DEI Steering Committee, she hopes that we can continue to learn more about our community’s diverse populations and understand what groups are not seeking our care services and how we can best serve them. “My hope is we can keep better track in employee and patient data that helps us identify who is here – who is being served and is not being served appropriately, so we can put in place what we need,” she said.
President of Our Hospice, Laura grew up in Mexico, but moved to Columbus in the 1970s. At that time, she said, there was “almost no one of a different language or culture.”
Healthy Communities formed in the 1990s, and Laura was part of a small team, including former Healthy Communities Director Beth Morris, that formed the Healthy Communities Proyecto Salud (project health) Action Team to address the needs of Spanish-speaking individuals, many of whom had moved to Columbus for job opportunities at the local factories. She was seeing unfair treatment to individuals who didn’t speak English. “That called to my sense of helper nature to organize the community to learn and understand what these populations were about, so our community could appreciate their challenges and their contributions,” she said.
At the time, Laura was a registered nurse in the hospital, working on 6 Tower B. She was one of only a few workforce members who spoke Spanish fluently, so she spent time every shift in various hospital locations to help clinical staff communicate with Spanish-speaking patients. After advocating for a more dedicated position to help better serve this population, Laura was named Diversity Advisor. In the role, she helped the hospital serve this population by translating materials in the Emergency Department from English to Spanish and preparing and offering training to staff on cultural awareness. Through Proyecto Salud, Laura and the other Action Team volunteers conducted community outreach. An additional shift was opened at Volunteers in Medicine one evening a week for the Spanish-speaking population. Many people volunteered to provide care, including physicians offering in-kind services.
Later, Laura became Director of Diversity Strategy – changing career directions from working as a nurse to serving in an administrative role. At that time – the early 2000s – other populations were moving to Columbus, so the need to appropriately serve other races, languages, gender identities, was becoming increasingly important.
Laura assumed the role of Director of Volunteer Services, holding both roles, until, feeling that the Spanish-speaking population was being appropriately served in the hospital, she transitioned out of the Diversity Strategy Director role. The Volunteer Services leadership role, Laura focused on reorganizing the department and expanding services to more hospital departments. They also renovated the gift shop to better meet the needs of the workforce.
Laura has served as President of Our Hospice since 2013. During the past nine years, she has been instrumental in many initiatives, including growing the number of patients served annually, as well as increasing the number of staff members; expanding bereavement care service to include children’s groups and outreach; and launching palliative care as a new medical specialty.
Outside of leading Our Hospice, Laura likes to read, travel, and spend time with her family and friends. Since moving to Columbus nearly five decades ago, Laura has seen great progress made as a community to support diverse populations. “We have made it a priority to be a welcoming community, and I hope we continue to work together to support all people who choose to live, work, and receive care here,” she said.