Williams Named DEI Chief, VP for Community Initiatives

AKRON, Ohio – Bernett L. Williams has been named chief diversity, equity and inclusion officer and vice president for community initiatives at Akron Children’s Hospital.

Williams will report to Chris Gessner, president and CEO, and serve on the hospital’s executive leadership team.

She joined Akron Children’s in 2011 as vice president for external affairs. Prior to that, she was the president and CEO of the Akron Urban League for 15 years.

“In her newly-expanded role, Bernett will lead our effort to make DEI a key strength and differentiator across all aspects of our organization,” says Gessner. “We must expand our DEI efforts so they permeate throughout all aspects of who we are, what we do, and how we treat people both inside and outside of Akron Children’s.”

Gessner says Williams’ deep understanding of Akron Children’s and the communities the hospital serves and her pragmatic approach to solving complex problems position her well for her new role.

As vice president for external affairs, Williams has developed and coordinated relations with community and business leaders and groups. She has overseen community partnerships, programs and collaborations to ensure they further the hospital’s mission and has assisted in developing strategies to better serve the hospital’s diverse patient populations. She has also directed the hospital’s government relations initiatives and community benefit reporting.

Gessner emphasizes the importance of the work Williams will be heading up.

“Organizations that welcome and make people with diverse backgrounds feel safe and comfortable will evolve, adapt and thrive in face of the highly dynamic economic and social pressures we are currently facing,” he says. “Diversity builds strong teams. Strong teams create a world-class patient experience and deliver the very highest quality of care.”

Copyright 2022 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.