CLEVELAND — News 5's Danita Harris sat down and got acquainted with the new CEO of MetroHealth Systems, Dr. Airica Steed.
Steed's response to the warm welcome she's received since she's been in the "Land"?
"I can honestly say that Cleveland knows how to roll out the red carpet," she said.
Steed is making history at MetroHealth Systems as the first woman, the first person of color and the first nurse to hold the position of CEO at the hospital.
"Honestly, it still flutters my heart. It demonstrates that yes we're shattering that perpetual glass ceiling and it actually encourages more women, more Black people, to live with courage and start to push through those barriers as well," Steed said.
Considering the controversial exit of her predecessor, and MetroHealth's board's claims of his unauthorized incentive pay, her warm feelings toward the city of Cleveland and MetroHealth are a positive move in the right direction for the hospital.
"You have to look at everything and evaluate everything and ask all of the right questions and really get to a point where — let's put the right structure in place to ensure that we don't repeat the sins of the past. And that's what we're concentrating on. So I really believe the board made the right call," Steed said in regard to the hospital's decision to terminate Dr. Akram Boutros.
Steed has met with and is impressed by the staff at MetroHealth, saying, "people are just open, willing, hungry for knowledge, hungry to have a seat at the table, to have their voice be heard. And that's what I'm passionate about doing, is really listening. Leaning in and then opening up the space for those people to really shine."
The pain of losing several loved ones has fueled the new CEO's passion to eradicate health disparities in communities of color, "both of my grandmothers passed away from breast cancer, late diagnosis, my own mother passed away from a rare form of leukemia, misdiagnosed. My baby sister died after being rejected for healthcare access."
Steed hopes to make MetroHealth a national model for what health equity looks like.
"What was painful for me to actually see is in the city of Cleveland, Black women are ranked the poorest in terms of the most livable city, including health care access."
She might have lots of eyes watching to see what she will accomplish, but to her, the most important opinions belong to her children.
"It really means something to me for my children to look up at me and say, 'Oh my gosh, she did it,'" Steed said. "So my children are my biggest fans and I get really choked up when I think about that."
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