Eugene A. Woods

News | one year ago

Whatever Affects One of Us, Affects All of Us: A Message from Atrium Health President and CEO Eugene A. Woods

In the wake of George Floyd’s death, Atrium Health president and CEO, Eugene A. Woods, writes a letter reflecting upon his own personal experiences and encouraging others to come together as a community and embrace thoughts of inclusiveness, compassion and caring.

Editor's Note: Following the death of George Floyd, the latest in a growing list of similar tragedies, and the ensuing demonstrations across the country, Eugene A. Woods, president and CEO of Atrium Health wrote a letter to teammates, reflecting upon his own experiences and urging others to use these recent events as a time to come together with renewed appreciation for our mission to improve health, elevate hope and advance healing – FOR ALL. 

Like so many of you who have reached out to me directly, I have battled with some very deep emotions many times over this past week as I reflect upon the senseless death of George Floyd on the streets of Minneapolis. I am heartbroken and distressed after watching another use of excessive force that ended a life prematurely.  

We should be better than this as a country. We must be better than this.

Countless years of intolerance and injustice have boiled over and have led to turmoil across our nation and in our own backyards. Personally, it has evoked painful memories from discriminatory events that I have experienced as a person of color. And it is why I selected healthcare as a career – to help create solutions that reduce health disparities and structural injustice.

I am reminded of when Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was jailed in Birmingham, Alabama, for peacefully protesting the inequality taking place nearly 50 years ago. While there, he wrote: 

“Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly.”  

These powerful words ring as true today as they did decades ago – whatever affects one of us, affects all of us. From the countless notes I am receiving and the conversations I’ve had with teammates, it is clear that so many across our system are hurting – and not just our teammates of color, but teammates from all walks of life who feel outraged and want to work together peacefully to create a better world. So, while the most recent, completely senseless death took place in Minneapolis, I see how deeply we feel the impact in Atrium Health and in our very own communities here.

As such, regardless of your role at Atrium Health, I’m asking for your renewed personal commitment to our FOR ALL mission. Let’s continue to model what it means to care for one another and our patients – regardless of color, background or beliefs. We have the power to overshadow fear with HOPE and serve as a beacon of light with HEALING during some of the darkest moments in our nation’s history. Let this be the defining moment in which we collectively embrace the humanity we share and banish the hatred and attitudes that have led to acts of racial intolerance. I truly believe that the strength of our collective voice as Atrium Health in standing against injustice is more powerful than any evil that exists.

In this regard, as an organization, we have so much to be proud of, including our commitments to affordable housing, the $2 billion we invest in community benefit every year as the largest safety net provider in the state, the hungry children we feed, the disparities in COVID-19 testing we recently eliminated, and the investments we are making in challenged high schools to give students a pathway to jobs – just to name a few. And we will continue to do more.

But for today, I am just asking you to take some time to check in on a fellow teammate, to engage in a dialogue about how we can continue to build bridges among each other – and across racial and ethnic lines – as we demonstrate who we are at our best. Little acts of kindness and love can go a long way in helping all of us heal.  

So, to each of you I say, thank you for your commitment to our mission of improving health, elevating hope and advancing healing – FOR ALL. Embodying our mission daily and authentically has never been more important than in these times.  

Warm Regards,

 Gene signature

Eugene A. Woods 
President & Chief Executive Officer