Executive Director of Talent Development, Engagement and Diversity and InclusionFollow this author
By Kim Perez
Think how far you could take your career if you had an advocate paving the way – not just to get hired, but then to grow your talent and guide your trajectory as you make your way up.
That’s what people get in Mark Wedell – the advocacy of someone who wants people to be able to be themselves, and someone who has experienced first-hand the way even slight or unintentional biases can shape expectations.
Wedell is executive director of Talent Development, Engagement, and Diversity and Inclusion at City of Hope – a world leader in the research and treatment of cancer, diabetes, and other life-threatening diseases.
He’s been in healthcare since his teens, working as a certified nursing assistant at age 17 in a nursing home, while attending school to become a Registered Nurse (RN). Once an RN, Wedell worked as floor nurse more than 12 years, caring for patients in the emergency room and in the cardiac unit.
He was one of only two males in his nursing class, and he noticed the gender assumptions from the start.
“I would walk in to a patient’s room with a female physician, and I would consistently be referred to as the doctor,” said Wedell. “For me, there was no blame in a sense of where those assumptions came from. But it started to drive a fire. I wanted to know how to help educate others in understanding who we are as individuals and that gender doesn’t necessarily dictate the role.”
He’s always wanted to be an advocate. His mother passed away from cancer when Wedell was 19. “We were in and out of healthcare a lot, and I just knew that I needed to be in the healthcare industry to be an advocate, to drive and hopefully reach positive outcomes for our patients and our families.”
After 12 years as a floor nurse, Wedell had an opportunity to shift into nursing education, ultimately moving into roles in leadership and organizational development where he could influence an organization as a whole.
He has merged his focus on inclusion and advocacy into a leadership role at City of Hope, supporting the organization’s commitment to culture that celebrates learning and diversity.
“I love being able to give people the ability to develop their skills and their careers,” he said. “And to make sure that as an organization we enhance our diversity.”
Wedell leads the team that helps City of Hope employees develop their talent, hone their leadership capabilities and shape their careers.
Once someone has been hired at City of Hope, they encounter Wedell’s team on day one – through the welcome and onboarding process. He also partners with those who recruit and hire for City of Hope, to develop intentional methods for attracting a diverse slate of candidates for job openings.
“We plan for hiring needs in the future and educate leaders on unconscious bias, so people can better understand and appreciate others’ perspectives,” said Wedell.
He explained that it’s easy to hire someone who shares your background and life experiences. But unconscious biases can work against creating a truly diverse and inclusive workplace. His team trains leaders throughout the organization to be aware of their biases and to actively work to counteract them.
He also oversees diversity resource groups – groups that give employees a place to connect with others and celebrate and learn about each other.
“The diversity resource groups are focused on camaraderie with a purpose,” he said. “For example, our Latinos for Hope group put together Thanksgiving baskets for cancer patients and their families who spend the holiday in the hospital. We also just hosted a big event honoring veterans who work at City of Hope, as well as those who have lost family members who have served.”
That event is just one part of a larger goal to build connections and make career opportunities at City of Hope known within the veteran community.
“It can be tough to transition from military life to civilian life,” said Wedell. “We want to create a connection with veterans so they automatically think about City of Hope as a place to look for opportunity.”
“We want to be reflective of the community we serve, to understand our patients and families. That takes a diverse workforce. So we have a plan in place – a roadmap – to create and maintain a workforce that is diverse and inclusive.”
It helps to have support from the top: “Our leadership is championing and sponsoring all of us to think bigger and broader to create an inclusive culture where everyone is welcome and can most authentically contribute.”