Under the theme “Black Health and Wellness,” this year's Black History Month recognizes the contributions of those who have committed their lives to countering economic and health disparities that Black Americans often face in their communities. At AdventHealth, we pride ourselves in our team members' transformational stories and are excited to share them as our organization continues on its journey to address equity gaps in underserved communities.
Audrey Gregory, PhD, grew up in her homeland of Jamaica. Upon moving to the United States – a country with wider-ranging racial, geographic, and socioeconomic diversity – Dr. Gregory became more aware of the extent to which the way one looks and the place one lives could impact health and wellness.
Dr. Gregory’s observations are valid. Studies show America’s health disparities by race, geography, and income are among the greatest in the world. According to Dr. Gregory, these inequities have been further illuminated over the past two years. “I think the COVID-19 pandemic has really exposed all things that were subtle or in hiding, and it’s becoming clearer than ever that we have health care disparities in this country,” she said.
Before joining AdventHealth in 2021 as president and CEO of AdventHealth Central Florida Division – North Region, Dr. Gregory championed several health equity efforts in the state of Michigan. For example, she was appointed by the Michigan Governor to the Michigan Coronavirus Task Force on Racial Disparities, where she played an instrumental role in ensuring equitable access to health care for minority groups.
Her commitment to health equity extends beyond pandemic initiatives. Dr. Gregory has also been active in addressing maternal and infant mortality in the Black community, an area for which she has developed a deep passion. “If you’re a person of color in this country, your chances of death after giving birth, due to post pregnancy complications, increases,” she said. She was also appointed as the Co-Chair to the state of Michigan Governor’s Task force on Maternal and Infant Mortality.
Her outstanding efforts have not gone unnoticed. In 2020, Dr. Gregory was recognized by Modern Healthcare as one of the nation’s “Top 25 Minority Leaders in Healthcare”, as well as one of “70 African American leaders in health care to know” by Becker’s Hospital Review.
Being able to contribute to people’s lives when they are most vulnerable is what moves Dr. Gregory to do what she does every day. “"Health care inspires me. Getting the chance to make people better, introduce humans into the world and support end-of-life journeys are some of the best moments in life."
As a leader, she inspires herself daily with a frequent reminder that she is “simply a human being leading human beings who are taking care of human beings.”
At the top of her list of inspirational Black icons is Nanny of the Maroons, one of Jamaica’s National Heroes. Queen Nanny, as she’s affectionately called, is deeply admired for her advocacy on freedom. A woman from the 18th Century, Queen Nanny is praised as a phenomenal leader who didn’t allow her status as a slave to define her outcome in life.
Dr. Gregory is also a strong advocate for speaking up, and for this reason she admires Maya Angelou and what she represents to Black communities and especially women of color. She said she believes Angelou’s writings give voice to many of the traumatic experiences women in Black communities endure.
As she looks to the future of equity at AdventHealth, Dr. Gregory is optimistic about her contributions toward making health care more accessible for patients. “I’m very proud of the fact that AdventHealth is already very active in our communities. I think one of the priorities we must continue to consider is understanding the differences in patient populations and individualizing care,” Dr. Gregory said.
In addition to serving in health care, Dr. Gregory indicates that she finds great pride in being a mother of three and influencing the lives of others through mentorship, something she believes helps to stop the cycle of inequity within Black communities. “...it’s all about access and education and in many of my roles as a mentor, and sponsor, I am proud to have provided access and education to the younger generation," she said.
Being in Florida is more than just an exciting career leap for her. She is glad to be closer to her island home and looks forward to seeing her large Jamaican family more often. In her free time, she enjoys mentoring young people, reading, singing and traveling.