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Dennis Mullins’ career has been geared toward a year like 2020. His military logistics experience, focus on innovation, and can-do attitude gave him a solid foundation for responding to the supply-chain challenges presented by COVID-19.
And his experiences as a Black professional positioned him to provide perspective on the nation’s struggle with racial justice.
Mullins, IU Health VP of supply chain, launched his career after high school by joining the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve and later signing with the U.S. Air Force. Throughout his time in the military, he spent 10 years as a medical materials specialist. Complementing his experience with academic degrees and hospital supply-chain leadership roles in Tennessee, Florida and Texas, Mullins arrived at IU Health in 2015, just in time to plan the Integrated Service Center, a 300,000-square-foot robotics-based facility serving all 16 IU Health hospitals and associated facilities.
Opened in 2018, the Plainfield operation was humming at full strength when the pandemic hit. Mullins praises the “stellar” job his team did meeting the pandemic supply-chain challenges.
Of course, the pandemic was not the only event shaping 2020. Like many Americans, Mullins was disgusted by the murder of George Floyd, but he adds that, as a Black man, he wasn’t surprised. “I don’t think any Black person was shocked,” he said.
Mullins has not been shielded from racism. He’s been pulled over by police for no reason, for example, and he feels that, as a professional, his ideas are scrutinized more than those of white peers. Even at IU Health, Mullins said, he has encountered race-related barriers, and he is keenly aware of the dearth of leaders of color: Of 2,500 people in leadership roles at IU Health, he said, only 93 are not white.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do, a lot of things we need to improve, but at the core, we’ve got people who have their hearts in the right place,” Mullins said. “I’m still proud to work for this organization.”
Mullins is encouraged by IU Health’s efforts to address issues of race. After George Floyd’s death, IU Health President and CEO Dennis Murphy asked Mullins to participate with him in a series of listening sessions about race at IU Health. Mullins appreciates the independent reviews of racial disparities Murphy plans to undertake, including a plan to address internal systemic racism and partner with organizations externally to address community issues.
Applauding the opportunities presented by IU Health Foundation’s Racial Equity in Healthcare Fund, he said he hopes it will be used as a resource to support and connect with organizations like the Indianapolis Urban League, where he serves as a board member.
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