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For Immediate Release

For more information, contact:
Gloria O'Connell, 612-863-4801


Allina leaders selected for national leadership program to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health care

MINNEAPOLIS 05/10/2011--Penny Wheeler, MD, chief clinical officer of Allina Hospitals & Clinics and Pamela Jo Johnson, MPH, PhD of Allina's Center for Healthcare Innovation have been selected to participate in a year-long executive leadership program designed to tackle racial and ethnic disparities in health care.

"We are committed to not having geography, ethnicity, gender, or poverty determine the health care one receives. Through this program, we will help ensure that our mission of exceptional care applies equitably to all," Dr. Wheeler said.

Disparities Leadership Program

The Disparities Leadership Program is the first program of its kind in the nation for health care leaders and is led by the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

Disparities Solutions Center

doctor meets with diverse patientThe Disparities Solutions Center is dedicated to the development and im plementation of strategies that advance policy and practice to eliminate racial and ethnic disparities in health care. To learn more, go to

"Research will be an important component to identify gaps in care for specific patient groups, understand why gaps exist, and then, evaluate new ideas that address them. This is a valuable opportunity to create research-based innovations in care delivery that will improve the health of all the patients Allina serves," Dr. Johnson said.

Drs. Wheeler and Johnson are two of only 34 individuals from 16 health care organizations from around the United States to be selected for the Disparities Leadership Program 2011-2012. They will join a cohort of 74 other organizations who have participated in the Disparities Leadership Program from 2007 to 2012.

The goal of the Disparities Leadership Program is to create a cadre of health care leaders who have:

  • in-depth knowledge of the research and causes of health care disparities;
  • cutting-edge, quality improvement strategies and skills to address disparities; and
  • leadership skills to implement solutions to help transform their organizations.

"This program is about developing new leaders and taking action. It is about helping individuals and their health care organizations understand the critical connection between improving quality and eliminating disparities in care through a concerted, coordinated effort to change our health care system," said Joseph R. Betancourt, MD, MPH, Director of the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, and a member of the Institute of Medicine Committee, which produced the 2002 landmark report Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Health Care.

This report revealed striking disparities in the quality of health care services delivered to minority and white patients -- even for patients of the same socioeconomic background and access to care. "These health care organizations are clearly distinguishing themselves as national leaders by taking action to identify and address disparities," Dr. Betancourt said.

About Allina Hospitals & Clinics

Allina Hospitals & Clinics is a not-for-profit system of hospitals, clinics and other health care services, providing care throughout Minnesota and western Wisconsin. Allina owns and operates 11 hospitals, more than 90 clinics and specialty care centers, and specialty medical services that provide hospice care, oxygen and home medical equipment, pharmacies, and emergency medical transportation services.

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