In honoring Black History Month, Kyruus Health is proud to amplify the voices within our vibrant community. This series, “Celebrating Diversity: Voices from our Kyruus Health Community,” unfolds a tapestry of stories that weave through the unique journeys of our Kyruunauts, Board of Directors, Patient Family and Advisory Council and customers.
By sharing these narratives, we aim to foster a deeper understanding of the rich mosaic of Black experiences, resilience, and contributions within Kyruus Health. As we navigate identity and care access, these insights serve as beacons, guiding us toward a more inclusive, equitable, accessible, and compassionate healthcare landscape.
Join us in celebrating the diverse voices that shape Kyruus Health, embodying the spirit of unity, strength, and shared humanity — starting with Denean Greene Rivers from our Patient and Family Advisory Council Member.
Denean Greene Rivers
Patient and Family Advisory Council Member at Kyruus Health
Tell us a bit about your background and the story of how you came to be connected to Kyruus Health?
I’ve been in healthcare all my life. I started volunteering at 13 years old with the Arthritis Foundation and Diabetes Association. At 16, I became a volunteer at the hospital where I was born and I presently serve on various committees and councils.
My introduction to health advocacy came from my grandmother, Mama Willie. As a child, I understood the importance of good health and learned quickly in Mama Willie’s journey that healthcare was not so caring to Black people. She taught me to make the world a better place, you must serve and to serve you must be well.
Professionally, I have over thirty years of experience as a medical social worker and patient advocate. My personal experience of navigating pediatric transplant for my son, DEI leadership with a national patient and family advisory council (PFAC) known as PFCCpartners, professional background, lived experience, and interest in health information technology led me to Kyruus Health. I call my connection to Kyruus Health professional kismet or destiny!
How would you identify yourself?
I am a brilliant, beautiful, black woman, rooted in human kindness with emphasis on kind. I am confident in my skin, culture, beliefs, and boundaries. The foundation of my identity is love.
How would you describe your experience with this identity?
There is a duality to my Black experience. One of pride and promise and one of sorrow and subjection.
My identity among family and peers is nurtured in honor and love for my skin, hair, lineage, spirituality, history, and community. My identity in some white spaces has been met with resistance and trepidation.
I often toggle between two worlds. My Black existence is openly accepted in Black spaces and in non-Black spaces having to shape shift. Imagine trying your hardest to fit in, blend in, shrink back, purposely strategize every word, meticulously plan every movement to make others comfortable. I’ve learned to read the room, walk gingerly, and wait for others to lean into my authentic voice.
What is something about you that you want others to know more about?
Storytelling is my superpower! I use the power of storytelling to connect, enlighten, empower, and move people to action.
Also, I find people-watching intriguing — reading emotions, gestures, and body language gives me a glimpse into who they really are behind closed doors. Oh, the things you see when people think you aren’t watching!
From your perspective, what does celebrating Black History Month mean to you?
Celebrating Black history month means intentionally sharing cultural stories, hymns, recipes, inventions, adversities, and triumphs of Black people. It gives way for inclusion of Black culture in spaces that aren’t so receptive. It ignites the fire in me to carry on the work of my ancestors.
How would you encourage your colleagues to honor and celebrate this month?
I invite my colleagues to create safe spaces for the Black community to share the past, honor the present, and celebrate the future.
To not just learn about Black culture but to hear Black voices — hear with your heart the tremble, the whisper, the crashing waves of emotions that come with living in Black skin.
Experience what Black joy looks like, let it soothe you, intoxicate you, envelop you, let it move you to change.
How do you perceive the role of care access in health for the Black community?
The role of care access in health for the Black community should be fluid, seamless with multiple intersections of care. The Black community needs better access to quality healthcare. It involves eliminating social determinants of health and improving health outcomes.
Opening more corporate spaces and engagement opportunities for Black voices to share what is truly needed in our communities. Care Access should include representation from Black patients and families to serve on boards, committees, and advisory councils.
What are the most significant gaps that must be addressed to achieve more equitable care?
Closing the gaping hole of health disparities is paramount. To achieve more equitable care, we must address all barriers. Health systems approach gaps, bottom up instead of top down. Healthcare has become more about business, less about the body. Overtime, it has minimized care and maximized cost. Equitable care looks inclusive and diverse with everyone having access to exceptional care.
Anything else you want to say?
Quality Healthcare is a right, not a privilege! Thank you Kyruus Health for making space for Black voices, for all voices.