Nneka Sederstrom has been hired to be the first chief health equity officer at Hennepin Healthcare, the health care system announced Monday.

Her appointment comes at a time when there is a growing understanding in health care that systemic racism within institutions contributes to health disparities for people of color and Black and Indigenous communities.

"We feel strongly that to change the trajectory of our community, we need to change how healthcare is delivered from the ground up," Hennepin Healthcare CEO Jennifer DeCubellis said in a statement.

Most recently, Sederstrom was director of the clinical ethics department at Children's Minnesota. She also was director of the Center for Ethics at MedStar Washington Hospital Center in Washington, D.C., and she was the creator and executive director of the Journal of Hospital Ethics.

As part of Hennepin Healthcare's executive leadership team, her role will be to create "a patient care environment where disparities are eliminated and all patients can achieve optimal health outcomes," the organization said.

Sederstrom began the new role last month. She launched a pilot COVID-19 vaccination clinic at a north Minneapolis church two weeks ago and hopes to do more to reach communities that have been hit hard by the pandemic.

"We at Hennepin have done a lot of work in bringing equity back," Sederstrom said. "Our communities are these people that have the greatest need ... and we need to make sure that we respect their needs first."

Glenn Howatt • 612-673-7192

Twitter: @GlennHowatt