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Upholding our social contract

A statement from Fairview Health Services President and CEO James Hereford and University of Minnesota Medical School Dean Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD, regarding the murder of George Floyd and our community commitment.

Dear M Health Fairview community, 

The murder of George Floyd, yet another in a long series of injustices done to our communities of color, has reignited questions about the social contract that we have with our society and with each other.

Society works only with a commonly recognized set of agreements, both written and not. When these agreements are violated, like the murder of a man already in handcuffs by those whose role is to provide protection to all members of the community, then the entirety of those agreements comes into question. Can we really blame those that break norms and agreements if they feel that there is no longer a viable social contract?

As a not-for-profit healthcare organization, we also play a critical function for our society, and are accountable for upholding a part of the social contract with the people and communities that we serve. First, we must provide care that is free from bias and that recognizes each person for the worthy individual that they are, no matter their circumstances.

Secondly, we are uniquely positioned as an anchor institution in Minnesota with a vested interest in our surrounding communities. We know our actions and investments can directly impact the health and wellbeing of our communities; that we have the power to address the social risk factors and economic determinants of health for our residents; and that our institutional voice can promote policy and systems change to address the structural racism that exists throughout our society.

Thirdly, as one of the state’s largest employers, we are also responsible for upholding a social contract with our employees that is more than an exchange of their time for a salary.  Every employee deserves to have a work environment that is free of bias and respects individuals. That work environment should support your ability to successfully contribute to fulfilling our mission.

To that end, we are in the process of convening a group of our M Health Fairview community to collaboratively design a plan that helps define our commitments to the community and to our employees, with actions that will show these commitments and their impact clearly. We will do so in partnership with outside experts, who can help us hold a mirror to ourselves and ensure we are reflecting our values within our organization and to our community. In doing so, we will help reinforce the social fabric of our society.

We will share these commitments with you, so that we may all hold each other – and ourselves – accountable. These steps will be rooted in our values – dignity, integrity, service, compassion and innovation. Know that these efforts will have our full support and commitment, along with that of our executive team and Board.  Together, we will build a stronger, more resilient organization.

We encourage you to continue to share your experiences and feedback as we continue this conversation. Your input is immensely valuable as we continue this work.  We are grateful for your commitment to M Health Fairview and to the individuals and communities we serve.

In gratitude,

James Hereford
President and CEO, Fairview Health Services

Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD
Dean of the Medical School and M Physicians Board Chair