By Grace Austin
Recently completing five years of active duty in the Army, David Rabb returned to the Veteran Health Administration (VHA) as the Director of Diversity and Inclusion Office. He will lead efforts to promote and advance diversity, cultural competency, and inclusion in order to support the VHA undersecretary of Health’s vision to create a patientcentric healthcare system.
“My hope is that I will energize VHA employees to reach for diversity and inclusion as a mindset and tool to carry out VHA’s vital mission into the twenty-first century. Diversity and inclusion has to become ubiquitous and embedded in every aspect of what we do to care for veterans and their families,” says Rabb.
Of the 23.4 million veterans in the country, roughly eight million are enrolled in the VA for healthcare. More than 5.5 million veterans receive care at 1,100 locations, including inpatient hospitals, healthcare centers, and community-based outpatient clinics.
As a colonel in the Army Reserve, Rabb served thirty years in the military and twenty-seven in the VA. He commanded a combat stress control unit in both Iraq (2004–2005) and Afghanistan (2011–2012). Rabb is also a recipient of two Bronze Stars—one from the U.S. Army and one from the U.S. Marines.
“Because of my dual identity and role in the military and the VA, I’m more aware of the challenges that veterans face at war and when they return home. Being in the military and VA has [also] shaped my leadership philosophy,” he says.
A graduate of Illinois State and the University of Chicago, Rabb began his career in the VA as a social work intern at the Jesse Brown VA Medical Center in 1985. Over the years, he has held both clinical and administrative positions in the VHA in Chicago, Minneapolis, and Washington, D.C.
“My internship created an open window for me to really appreciate the mission of the VA—healthcare, education, research, and contingency support for the Department of Defense during times of war. I was hooked after witnessing my intern preceptors’ and supervisors’ commitment; I knew I wanted to be part of the team and a catalyst in making a difference,” relates Rabb.
Rabb plans to work with VHA’s stakeholders and partners to develop new strategies, education and training, and accountability systems that make diversity and inclusion a high priority in leading change and promoting cultural intelligence.
“Warriors and veterans heal better and quicker when they are in communities that understand them and respect them. Resiliency and recovery are nested in community. I also know the importance and value of creating a vision, strategic plans, and teamwork.”