Southcoast Health launches Black Lives Matter Coalition

Southcoast Health has launched a new employee resource group: The Southcoast Health Black Lives Matter Coalition. The coalition works under the umbrella of Southcoast’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council.

“The Black Lives Matter Coalition is an opportunity for Black employees and allies to join a conversation about positive change at Southcoast Health,” says Barbara Schmidt, Director of Organizational Culture and Engagement and Chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council.

“We can create a culture of zero-tolerance for racism in support of our staff members,” says Michael Mendes, Emergency Department Clinical Technician. “We have faced racism both personally and professionally. Our coalition is creating a safe space to be heard and understood.”

Samantha Erskine-Joseph, RN, ER and Transfer Center Bed Flow Facilitator, agrees.

“The coalition will provide an environment to our Black employees to verbalize all the internal experiences of racism that they have encountered and know they are not alone, and to new employees, the organization is committed to ensuring racism will not be tolerated in any form, either from other employees and patients,” she says.

The BLM Coalition’s overall mission is to achieve a supportive, equal and more inclusive environment at St. Luke’s Hospital – and eventually throughout Southcoast Health. 

“This signifies that the issue of racism is a health concern and admitting that we have a problem by initiating this group is the first step to making change and promote a diverse work environment for Black employees where we all have the support and can make a change within the organization defying racism,” Samantha says.

“I joined the coalition to promote a more inclusive, supportive environment for our Black employees and to ensure that our voices are heard,” Michael says.

Discussions on education, policies, forums and advancement opportunities have begun during the first few meetings. Two workgroups are forming on policies and mentoring.

“We can push for more Black employees in leadership positions to help make decisions reflecting our thoughts and feelings and who understand what it’s like to be Black in healthcare. We are pushing for more education and training for all employees, regardless of race, so racism is not uncomfortable to deal with,” Michael says.

“This group is diverse and all its members presently are committed to making change for the better. I encourage you to be part of the change, but to first make change, identify the bias that we all have within ourselves and start from there. To my Black colleagues, I am not here to be just a face to this issue, but I am part of this group because I have faced some form of racism both professionally and personally. If you want to help solve the problem; be part of the change, we need you,” Samantha says.

“It’s an important time to have this dialogue about positive change,” adds Barb.

Eventually, it is hoped that other employee resource groups will be formed such as an LGBTQ, Hispanic, Asian, Military, and Women’s groups, also working together under the Southcoast Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council to push the boundaries of change.

“We hope other groups and coalitions will arise in light of our group so that we can collectively create an equal and supportive environment,” says Michael.

To learn more, please contact Barbara Schmidt, Director of Organizational Culture and Engagement and Chair of the Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Council at