Bolstering Supplier Diversity Through The Gray Areas At Grady

The direct effect of a well-organized and well-operated supplier diversity program should also be about growth…

If you’re in or from Atlanta, then you know Grady Health System. Dating back all the way to 1892 with the opening of Grady Memorial Hospital, today, Grady is the fifth largest public/academic health system in the nation. Serving the city of Atlanta, Grady provides comprehensive medical and emergency coverage for the entire urban area, from ambulance services to one of the nation’s most renowned Level I trauma centers. In addition, Grady provides academic training and support for 100 percent of student residents for both Emory University and Morehouse College. Put simply, Grady is an institution in Atlanta.

As Grady’s Director of Supplier Diversity, Todd Gray sits at the heart of that institution ensuring that it is as diverse as the community it serves.

“My responsibility is to make sure that our supply chain mirrors and provides equity to our community,” explains Gray. “Through the purchases we make to run and operate the hospital, I look to maximize those dollars with minority-owned businesses, women-owned businesses, LGBT-owned businesses and small businesses. And I push that agenda every day, not just at Grady, but across the healthcare industry.”

Since his start in 2013, Gray has been very good at executing his agenda. He was able to increase supplier diversity from 3 percent to 32.6 percent in 2016—a remarkable feat. For Gray, the purpose behind this success is multifold.

“When it comes to supplier diversity, the moral imperative is obvious. No one debates that. But supplier diversity should be viewed from a bottom-line perspective, as well. The direct effect of a well-organized and well-operated supplier diversity program should also be about growth, and in particular growth in the underserved and underrepresented areas in your supply chain. Ultimately, though, the bottom line is the real impact it has on our neighborhoods. So, the stronger our diversity programs in underserved and underrepresented communities (the projects and contracts local businesses get), the more they are apt to hire from the community. There’s a direct line there. At Grady, we can often actually see the correlation. If we’re contracting with local, diverse community businesses, we see the effect that has on our patient population in terms of their health, insurance status, etc. So, this isn’t a theoretical or abstract exercise. We see the direct effect on people’s lives,” Gray stated.

As a 13-year supplier diversity veteran, Gray honed his skills in corporations like Wachovia, Wells Fargo and CVS Caremark. He credits an epiphany in 2005 to being “bitten by the diversity bug,” while working in corporate real estate. Having been on all sides of the corporate and supplier diversity table, Gray developed a “unique ability to craft innovative solutions and show capacity to scale for diverse suppliers and small business, creating outputs that are mutually beneficial for business and community.”

With such monumental success in his career, Gray has great plans for the future of Grady.

“We’ve been able to achieve some goals in the traditional healthcare areas, and we’ll continue those. However, there are areas where we can’t have a direct effect, but we can still provide some influence. For example, when you look at the heartbeat of any industry—with healthcare we’re talking about medical supplies and equipment and such—there may be very few small businesses in those spaces. Often, they’re filled only with large suppliers that are not particularly diverse. So, we look to get more diverse supplier inclusion in the heartbeat of the healthcare industry, creating diverse-owned kit providers or CAT scan machines or things of that nature. We’re really trying to grow that area. Given our size and scope, we can help lead in the industry in that regard,” Gray said.

If you are dealing with suppliers that are as diverse as the population you serve, there are great benefits to that.

He fully supports the inherent moral and bottom-line value of supplier diversity, and he feels that there are other equally important elements that often get short shrift in diversity circles. But for him, these elements are critical.

“If you are dealing with suppliers that are as diverse as the population you serve, there are great benefits to that. There is significant value in cultural diversity and sensitivity in terms of more effectively serving our patient population. That, too, is one of the key things I’ve focused on this year with my program. But there’s more. Another thing we’re tracking very closely is equity, and not just equity from a contract-awarding perspective, but also from a workforce perspective. Having leaders that represent the community at all levels of your organization is key to bringing out the best talent and to truly creating equity. To really make it look like the community, you’ve got to have diversity from a workforce perspective as well. Healthcare provides a great template as to where we can go with supplier diversity. My passion is to provide those opportunities through greater social and economic growth. That’s my focus and that’s what I’m doing at Grady,” said Gray.