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To get to the heart of who Orson Mason is, ask him two very simple questions.
What makes you angry? “Unjust acts taken for selfish gains,” he says.
What makes you happy? “Open minds and hearts, kindness, nature, fast cars and popcorn,” Mason says, “and Colts and Pacers victories.”
After nearly 20 years with IU Health, Mason took the reins as chief diversity and inclusion officer earlier this year. He previously was vice president of human resources. In his new role, he will develop and lead a strategic plan for diversity and inclusion throughout the IU Health system.
Mason believes those values are as important today as they have been “for all of human existence.”
“We are social beings,” says the 59-year-old father of two daughters and a son. “And I believe we come closest to reaching our full potential when we align, integrate and leverage all of our voices and talents.”
Explain the importance of diversity and inclusion at IU Health.
“In healthcare, especially, we have to make sure we’re empowering a highly skilled team that reflects the diverse communities we serve,” he says. “Our communities and organizations thrive when every person from all walks of life has a chance to harness their abilities and contribute to the larger picture.”
You’ve mentored many young professionals. Who is your mentor?
“Actually, my most profound mentor was Charles Wilson, the former senior vice president of human resources for IU Health,” he says. “I was impressed with his uncanny ability to stay balanced in the midst of an organization steeped in change and growth. Charles was an exceptional role model who quietly led from the front.”
Who is a leader you admire?
“As a Tuskegee University graduate, I continue to admire Booker T. Washington and W.E.B. Du Bois,” he says. “They were tremendous servant leaders, taking high personal risks carving out new paths for all mankind to follow.”
Two decades at IU Health. What made you stay?
“IU Health has been a wonderful place to engage in systemic caring for individuals and the broader community at a high level,” Mason says. “The physicians, nurses, HR professionals and team members I’ve encountered in all of our ‘houses of healing’ provide high-quality excellence for the mind, body and spirit.”
It’s not always easy is it?
“It is an incredibly challenging endeavor, particularly when the recipients are as diverse and nuanced as our patients,” he says. “But it’s a remarkably fun and satisfying experience meeting that challenge.”
Did you ever imagine 20 years ago you’d be in this position?
“No, not at all,” Mason says. “My plan was to be with the organization for two years then return to a for-profit environment in corporate America.”
What then led you to this role?
“After joining IU Health, my passion for service and ‘the greater good’ that had led me toward professional training in social work and 10 years of service in the U.S. Army rekindled,” he says. “I felt early on that I was part of a relationship-centered organization and a community jewel that should be preserved for future generations.”