With race, language and culture underscoring the healthcare inequities that have impacted underserved communities for decades, cultural competency has become ever more relevant and critical in the healthcare environment today. We serve a broad range of patients at Astellas Pharma, and we’re focused on creating culturally competent health solutions that engage our communities and turn our innovative science into value for patients — because true understanding is necessary to create equity for all patients
As a part of our series about women who are shaking things up in their industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Eloiza Domingo.
Eloiza Domingo is the Executive Director and Global Head of Engagement, Diversity & Inclusion of Astellas Pharma US. She assumed this role in 2018 with responsibility for developing and implementing a sustainable Diversity and Inclusion strategy that reflects and enhances Astellas’ culture and work environment.
In her previous role as Senior Director and Deputy Chief Diversity Officer at Johns Hopkins Medicine and The Johns Hopkins Health System Corporation, Eloiza led diversity leadership programs across all of the health system’s medical facilities and the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In this role, she led Johns Hopkins Medicine to Forbes Top 100 Places to Work list as well as earning a Diversity Innovation award for the inception of the Center for Transgender Care, a comprehensive health center for transgender patients. Formerly, she was a consultant and department lead for diversity and inclusion at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.
Eloiza has been recognized as one of the 100 Most Influential Filipina Women in the World by the Filipina Women’s Network, received the 2017 Senior Executive award from the National Association of Healthcare Executives, and was featured on the Maryland Daily Record’s Very Important Professionals Success by 40 list.
Eloiza holds an M.S. in Higher Education and Student Affairs with a minor in Counseling and concentration in Diversity Education, and a B.A. in Psychology and Sociology with a minor in Spanish from Indiana University in Bloomington, IN. She is currently earning her doctorate in literacy, language and culture from the University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Before we dig in, our readers would like to get to know you a bit more. Can you tell us a bit about your “backstory”? What led you to this particular career path?
My parents — both physicians — emigrated from the Philippines in the 1970s in pursuit of the American dream. It was inspiring to understand that they left their families, moved to an area where they didn’t know anyone and established their healthcare careers in a completely different country and culture. I learned how to love being Filipino, but that didn’t happen overnight! When I was little, I stood out, I didn’t speak English well and I didn’t like it — I would wonder, “Why do I speak differently than everyone else, look different, wear different clothes?” But through time and many experiences, I have come to realize that these differences have made me who I am today.
It was this combination of experiencing being different and having parents in medicine that led me to join the healthcare industry with a focus in diversity. Living in the same house with two physicians, I had a level of comfort around doctors and hospitals, which provided me with a deeper understanding of the healthcare system. Coupled with my passion for healthcare engagement/health equity and my robust studies of patient/provider concordance, I’ve had the opportunity to have a front row seat to the evolution of Diversity and Inclusion through my career and now as the global head and executive director of diversity and inclusion at Astellas Pharma, which is a Tokyo-based pharmaceutical company dedicated to improving the health of people around the world with a focus on oncology, urology, cardiology, immunology and transplant. I work in the U.S. division, which is located just outside Chicago.
Can you tell our readers what it is about the work you’re doing that’s disruptive?
With race, language and culture underscoring the healthcare inequities that have impacted underserved communities for decades, cultural competency has become ever more relevant and critical in the healthcare environment today. We serve a broad range of patients at Astellas Pharma, and we’re focused on creating culturally competent health solutions that engage our communities and turn our innovative science into value for patients — because true understanding is necessary to create equity for all patients.
We know that disruptive innovation must come from both outside our walls and outside of medicine, so each year at Astellas, we search for the best ideas to tackle challenges that face people impacted by cancer. The Astellas Oncology C3 (Changing Cancer Care) Prize program is a global competition that awards $200,000 in grants and resources to the best ideas beyond medicine that can ease the cancer journey for people living with cancer, their caregivers and families. We are currently looking for ideas to change cancer care, particularly ideas that can help address health disparities stemming from health inequalities, including systematic differences in the health of communities that have unequal positions in society.
Now more than ever, we take our role seriously in bringing different voices to the table through our judges and moving non-treatment ideas forward by connecting C3 Prize recipients to resources and support.
We all need a little help along the journey. Who have been some of your mentors? Can you share a story about how they made an impact?
I’ve had many significant mentors throughout my career, but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention my family who has always been such an inspiring and supportive part of my journey.
From a young age, I was taught to be proud of who we were. With my parents both being doctors and immigrants from the Philippines, I watched my parents come from nothing — they had five dollars and a radio when they came to America to pursue their careers in medicine. In time, they grew to run a number of cancer centers — it was the American dream and it inspires me every day. Everything about my family drove me to this career and made me confident in my work.
My parents also taught me about the importance of putting patients first. My father worked in oncology and geriatrics and impressed upon me that while many of his patients would pass away, his responsibility was great: to ease suffering and ensure understanding of the situation for the patient and their loved ones. I’ll never forget that childhood lesson that medicine is about putting the person first, which is what drew me to Astellas because here we put the patient first in everything that do.
In today’s parlance, being disruptive is usually a positive adjective. But is disrupting always good? When do we say the converse, that a system or structure has ‘withstood the test of time’? Can you articulate to our readers when disrupting an industry is positive, and when disrupting an industry is ‘not so positive’? Can you share some examples of what you mean?
Healthy disruption makes an incredibly positive impact on systems, structures and organizations of all types. This type of disruption — or as I prefer to call it, bold, innovative change — must be strategic and aligned with the identity of the institution. It must come through an educated, caring lens. On the other hand, disruption just to “stir the pot” at best fails to create meaningful change, and at worst, can be very destructive.
In a previous role, I served as the deputy chief diversity officer and senior director of diversity at a leading health care system and we disrupted the status quo for how people in the transgender community were able to receive quality, respectful care. We developed a medicine center for transgender health at a time when few such health centers existed on the East Coast, and it was a bold, innovative change that also aligned closely with the organization’s identity, ability and vision. Our vision of reducing health care disparities and improving the overall health of the transgender community was at its core consistent with the organization’s goals, supporting the health of patients and the business of operating a large health system.
Disruption in an organization must be aligned with a deeper identity, or it becomes destructive. I’ve seen this in action for organizations that don’t have a clear identity around diversity and inclusion; because leaders have not established values and vision around what diversity and inclusion mean for the organization, they have no roadmap to return to when the topic arises. With no strategy to guide change, anyone can disrupt, complain, shape identity for any reason — creating chaos instead of understanding and growth. Bold, innovative change takes thoughtfulness and education and in the end, it’s always worth the effort.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges faced by ‘women disruptors’ that aren’t typically faced by their male counterparts?
I’m proud of my willingness to fight for what’s right. Even my name comes from a word for “warrior”; however, I believe there is a critical need to change our collective thinking about how we refer to women with bold ideas. We need to question whether we are perpetuating stereotypes, so that our next generation of women and men can focus on solving the world’s biggest problems on an equal playing field.
There are three core challenges that are being faced by women disruptors that aren’t typically faced by males. First, being taken seriously is a huge problem. Men are typically seen as having greater dominance than women. Additionally, balancing work and family life is complicated — being a working mother or father makes it harder for people to advance in their careers, and women are much more likely than men to express this. Lastly, women disruptors have to preserve through unfathomable criticism. According to research from the Yale School of Management published in the Harvard Business Review, women in generally male-dominated occupations face much higher criticism after making mistakes than men.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a light on long-standing healthcare inequities and has reinforced the role that race, language and culture play in social determinants of health and health outcomes. The movement that I am most passionate about has been highlighted by this pandemic: it has become even more important to not only address the inequities we are witnessing today, but imperative that we help turn the tide when it comes to research issues, namely, diversity in clinical trials.
Blacks, Latinos, Asians among others are significantly underrepresented in clinical research in the U.S. despite the disproportionate number of people in these communities being impacted by many chronic and life-threatening diseases. Of course, many factors play a role in this issue, but we are taking action to make an impact — from expanding our Patient Centricity offerings to including investigative sites in diverse communities.
Certainly, not everyone has the chance to make an impact in clinical trials, but all of us have the ability to take a stand for equity in our areas of influence. For example, last year’s C3 Prize Grand Prize winner Audrey Guth, a breast cancer survivor, started her organization in response to the impact of socioeconomic disparities for moms with cancer. She saw how many moms had to decide between providing childcare for their children or going to get their cancer treatments — so she created the Nanny Angel Network to provide free, specialized childcare for moms going through cancer. This has an impact on the health of moms and kids.
A more equitable world is a healthier world, and more than ever, we can all appreciate the value in being part of that movement.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
Mark Twain said, “The two most important days of your life are the day you’re born and the day you find out why.”
Once I realized I was supposed to help in the medical field because of the exposure from my family and I was supposed to help in the field of diversity because of my background, that’s when I got really good at what I was doing. When you’re working for your purpose, not to get recognition, that’s when you’re doing something good.
How can our readers follow you online?
I can be followed on LinkedIn at Eloiza Domingo and I encourage people to follow @AstellasUS on Twitter, Facebook and LinkedIn to stay up to date on things happening at Astellas. The Astellas Oncology C3 Prize winners will be announced in March, so please also visit www.C3Prize.com to find out about the disruptors selected by our panel of judges for their work to change cancer care.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for joining us!