Championing Diversity: UC San Diego Health’s VIBRANT-IT
By Jackie Brown. The UC tech news team recently sat down with Leiyah Shan, Director of UC San Diego Health Population Health Services Organization – Practice Affiliations and Epic Community Connect Program, to discuss the innovative Employee Resource Group (ERG), VIBRANT-IT, focused on supporting women of color in the technology sector.
Leiyah is a trailblazer in the healthcare IT industry, leading initiatives to promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), within the Information Systems department and beyond. By creating VIBRANT-IT, an ERG dedicated to serving the needs of women of color in technology, Leiyah is making a significant impact on the healthcare IT and diversity landscape.
A Movement for Inclusion and Change
In recognizing the dearth of representation of women of color in senior technology leadership positions and noting challenges they face in voicing their opinions, Leiyah and a small group of women of color, founded the VIBRANT-IT ERG aimed at addressing these systemic barriers. This ERG, inspired by UC San Diego Health’s Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion (JEDI) program, was established as a sanctuary for women of color in healthcare IT—a place for them to voice their ideas, share experiences, and foster confidence.
Armed with a combination of two engineering degrees and an MBA, Leiyah has a successful professional trajectory that spans leading technology and healthcare institutions. Her roles have included serving as a Software Quality Assurance Engineer at Microsoft, Product Design Specialist in the telecom and scientific research industries, Program Manager for Clinical Applications Development and Implementation at both OhioHealth and UW Medicine, and Program Manager for IT Strategic Integration at UCLA. As the Director of the Epic Community Connect program at UC San Diego Health, Leiyah has not only demonstrated her prowess in the information technology realm but has also been a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion at UC San Diego Health. Recognizing the underrepresentation and challenges faced by women of color in senior leadership roles, Leiyah felt a compelling duty to help cultivate cultural change from her vantage point in management.
“As a current technology director at UC San Diego Health Information Services, and one of the few women of color to reach this position, I recognize the responsibility that comes with it. And I’m committed to shaping a culture where my colleagues and other women of color feel valued and eager to grow their careers with us.”
The Birth of a Brave Space
VIBRANT-IT isn’t just an ERG; it’s a transformative movement for the Information Services department. Leiyah labeled a “brave space” versus a “safe space”, which encourages empowerment and mutual respect. By providing a platform for open dialogue, VIBRANT-IT facilitates genuine human connections and values the authentic narratives of its members. Over time, this group has evolved into a sanctuary where members comfortably share struggles and triumphs, bolstered by workshops, guest speakers, and shared firsthand experiences. In honoring the stories and narratives of the under-represented employees, Leiyah believes the group members are forming a powerful bond that comes from walking alongside each other.
Challenges and Growth
Establishing VIBRANT-IT wasn’t without its roadblocks, primarily due to the challenges in identifying and recruiting women of color within the department. However, under the dedicated leadership of volunteer facilitators like Leiyah Shan, Marlow McCray, Robin Nathan, Andrea Cerda and Florgin Dela Luna, the group witnessed significant growth, expanding from eight to 40 people from both the IT department and the UCSD Health system, within just 10 months. This remarkable increase also saw the inclusion of male allies, aimed at promoting cohesive working strategies and understanding biases.
Recognition and Support
The vision and determination of VIBRANT-IT’s founding members garnered the attention and support of several key figures at UC San Diego Health, including its Chief Information Officer, Joshua Glandorf and Associate Chief Medical Officer for Health Equity, Crystal Cene, MD. Their endorsements have not only recognized the value of the initiative, but also reaffirmed the institution’s commitment to diversity and inclusion.
Pathways to Progress: The Next Steps
The momentum generated by VIBRANT-IT has sparked ambitious goals for the future. The group envisions a roadmap for DEI in tech, offers input on recruitment and training processes, and aspires to create a fertile ground for diversity to flourish. Leiyah plans to connect with other DEI leaders across the UC system to collaborate and share insights in October. Upcoming initiatives include partnering with other UCs to develop a playbook for creating and fostering ERGs, and outreach to local educational institutions, aiming to bolster the diversity of future talent at UC San Diego Health.
UC San Diego Health continues its journey in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion, with VIBRANT-IT standing as a testament to what dedicated individuals can achieve when they come together for a cause.
Opportunities to connect with Leiya and her team supporting Women in Technology at UC San Diego Health
This November 16, Leiya and her team invites UC Tech community members to join them in an important conversation to support Women of Color in tech. They will feature Uma Karmarkar, MD, associate professor of marketing and innovation at the UC San Diego School of Global Policy and Strategy.
“Ask Me Anything (AMA)” session with Uma Karmarkar, PhD on communicating polished professionalism
Thursday, November 16, 2023, 11 am – 12 pm
Host: UC San Diego Health
Contact: Leiya Shan: email@example.com
Program Director: Practice Affiliations and Epic Community Connect
Population Health Services Organization
UC San Diego Health
Marketing & Communications Intern
UC Office of the President