Cancer doesn’t discriminate, and cancer care shouldn’t either.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center recognizes that a diverse and inclusive workforce is essential for understanding and addressing the complexities of the disease and the communities it affects. By fostering an environment where all voices are heard and valued and embracing the diverse backgrounds of employees, the MSK team is able to approach cancer research and treatment from multiple angles, ultimately leading to more effective, personalized patient care — and a work environment where employees feel camaraderie and a sense of belonging.
The journeys that led MSK employees to their current roles vary widely — from starting in an entry-level position at MSK right out of high school to changing careers after supporting a loved one through treatment at the cancer center — but a single shared mission is at the heart of the work for every person on the team: Ending cancer for life.
MSK’S CORE VALUES
- Respect for the individual
- Excellence through inclusion
- Innovation with lasting impact
- One MSK
Inclusion at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center goes far beyond ensuring equity in hiring. “One MSK” includes all MSK employees and it means that every employee is valued for their contribution to the institution’s mission. According to members of MSK’s environmental services team, the value placed in the EVS team’s work ensures that each facility is clean, safe and inviting for every patient.
And MSK’s values are on display in how the 600 members of the EVS team gets their work done — 24 hours a day, every day of the year.
“Teamwork, collaboration and mutual respect is a cornerstone to success in any environment, but is especially critical in our environment,” said Senior Director of Environmental Services Christopher Choudhry. “We’re the first line of defense against the spread of infection, and the intervention of our team saves lives. There is nothing more important.”
With responsibilities including turning over patient beds and disinfecting operating rooms, the EVS team is at the heart of caring for each patient at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.
“I work to turn a patient’s room from dirty to clean as fast as possible, which in turn lowers the waiting time for patients in urgent care and gets them the help they need,” said Environmental Services Lead Gabriel Castillo.
For Castillo, an 18-year career at MSK has made the reason for his work clear: “If we don’t provide a disinfected area, then we aren’t saving lives, which is why we all do the work that we do.”
Castillo isn’t the only member of the EVS team with a long tenure. His fellow environmental services lead Yobanny Villa first joined MSK 13 years ago. The value the organization places on the work each individual contributes to the mission helps keep Villa focused on what he offers to patients each day.
“I know my job is just as important as that of the doctors and nurses at MSK,” he said. “We’re the first ones in and the last ones out. Without our team, MSK doesn’t run.”
“I know my job is just as important as that of the doctors and nurses at MSK.”
Beyond his long tenure, Villa has also seen significant advancement in his career during his time at MSK. “You don’t see growth like that anywhere else — the sky’s the limit,” he said.
“I’ll stay here until I retire,” Castillo said — and those sentiments are echoed across Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s dedicated staff.
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center offers numerous ways for colleagues to connect outside the labs, clinics and offices, as well.
MSK’s seven employee resource networks provide an avenue for diverse voices and experiences to be elevated across the organization.
“We aim to celebrate the differences among our employees and shine a light on the diverse culture that contributes to the success of our organization,” said Vanessa Rodriguez, associate director of integrated marketing, communications and employee engagement and co-lead of BLAM, MSK’s Black, Latino, Asian and Multiracial employee resource network.
One way MSK highlights those cultural differences is by celebrating each heritage month, hosted by ERNs in collaboration with the equality, diversity and inclusion and marketing and communications teams.
Rodriguez also sees the ERNs as a way for employees to engage in organization-wide activities and to build relationships across teams and develop new skills.
“BLAM’s programs also help create platforms that allow employees’ voices to be heard and amplify the power of diverse thinking to influence and define our workplace culture,” Rodriguez said. “BLAM’s ERN programs enable us to help bring unique thinking and different points of view and perspectives to the table from various employees across the organization.”
EMPLOYEE RESOURCE NETWORKS AT MSK
Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s employee resource networks are a key tool in supporting inclusive work environments. Each ERN offers opportunities to network, share information and connect with colleagues — all of whom are welcome to join each group regardless of background.
- ABLE: Abolishing Barriers and Limitations for Everyone
- BLAM: Black, Latino, Asian and Multiracial
- BLAM FFA: BLAM Faculty and Fellows Alliance
- MWM: MSK Women on the Move
- MSK LGBTQ+ Pride
- VETERaN: Veterans Engaged Toward Employee Resources and Networking
- Working Parents at MSK
At the forefront of changing the way the world treats cancer, Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center’s investment in diversity shows that inclusive teams can change patient lives and shape the future of cancer care.
“When I meet someone who says, ‘I’m alive and here today because MSK saved my life,’ it brings it all home,” Rodriguez said. “I’m proud of the work we are doing and the positive impact that we’re making in the lives of our patients.”