Colleen Holmes: "DEI is woven into our system-wide goals and strategy"

Originally posted in the August 2022 issue of Baystate Health DEI Briefing.

Colleen Holmes is the President and CEO of Viability, Inc. and has served on the Baystate Health Board since 2017, including her membership on the Quality Committee, Human Resources Committee and Governance Committee. Let’s learn more about her!

Tell us about your current role and background.

Viability provides services in five states from our headquarters here in Springfield with a vision of making inclusion and access of people with disabilities or disadvantages a way for people, businesses, and communities to succeed together. Fun fact – I started my human services career with a legacy organization of Viability. Returning as CEO was a major full-circle moment! Previously, I served as President and CEO of 18 Degrees, providing child and family well-being services, foster care and adoption, childcare, and youth development services.


What inspired you to join the Baystate Health Board of Trustees?

In the weeks I spent at BMC as my mother battled a rare condition, we experienced amazing care and skill from nurses, surgeons, and James, a greeter at the front desk – but also painful misses. I wanted to help advance what was amazing and what needed to change. Secondly, as a Black female who lives in Springfield, and had experience in organizational development, cultural change, quality, social determinants of health, and human services, I hoped to contribute my unique skills and perspective to the board, knowing the significance for people who seldom have a voice at that level. Learning from other experts around the table was also a big draw.

What excites you about Baystate Health’s DEI strategy and goals and how will you contribute to them?

That we are increasingly acting more and more like we know and believe the data showing DEI is inherent to the definition of patient care and quality, underpins recruitment and retention of our workforce, bolsters marketing and achieves our mission, is a promising paradigm shift-in-progress. I see it in the variety of voices talking DEI in the board room; the way DEI is woven into our system-wide goals and strategy rather than orphaned; the lens and measures established for DEI accountability; and the burgeoning changes in our systems, culture, and ways of treating patients and engaging staff. What I can contribute is being a clear-eyed ally, advocate for people and resources in the work, and a source of accountability, calling out issues and calling in course-correction in service to patients and staff, and uplifting progress on the DEI journey.

What is some of the best advice you ever received?

My father told me if you must choose between being respected and being liked, choose respect. When you do things that aren’t you just so people will like you, you trade off self-respect. With self-respect, you can better withstand disrespect and find the people who don’t need you to shrink to fit in.

What is one item from your bucket list?

To one day be a healthy, active senior citizen spoiling my grandchildren, traveling, dancing, and volunteering with no need for an Outlook follow up folder and task manager.