A catalyst for change – Introducing Verlia Stephens, DEI Specialist at Sherbourne Health

Image of Verlia Stephens

At Sherbourne Health, we are committed to not just talking the talk when it comes to embedding anti-racism in our organization. From the board to the front lines, we are working to find new ways to honour our commitments to both our service users and our teams. That’s why we’ve taken a step to ensure we are continuing on the right track when it comes to addressing racism – the creation of a new position in our organization: Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Specialist.

Across the organization, we want to look at how unconscious bias plays out in the work that we do and to find innovative ways to acknowledge it and to do different.”

Verlia Stephens

The role has been filled by a familiar face at Sherbourne Health, Verlia Stephens. With 25 years of experience working in the gender-based violence sector, including continuing work at George Brown College as an instructor in the Assaulted Women’s and Children Advocate Program, Verlia has now been with Sherbourne Health for almost 10 years. After starting at Sherbourne as a student doing a practicum placement at Supporting Our Youth (SOY), she moved into a full-time role as the peer leadership coordinator before taking on her latest position here. “I’ve stayed at Sherbourne for all these years because we do incredible work supporting marginalized people. With this new job, I’m able to dedicate myself to ensuring that work continues,” says Verlia.

This new role will impact every area of Sherbourne, from our clinical practices to community programs to human resources and beyond. Verlia notes, “For me, this position is about doing self-reflexive work as an organization, while continuously supporting teams in that work. Across the organization, we want to look at how unconscious bias plays out in the work that we do and to find innovative ways to acknowledge it and to do different.”

Hazelle Palmer, President and Chief Executive Officer of Sherbourne Health, believes this newly introduced position will help usher in a new era. “We’ve always been committed to diversity, equity and inclusion, but having a permanent, full-time position devoted to ensuring we are acting on this commitment is something new,” says Hazelle. “We’re so glad to be working with Verlia to help us move this work forward, especially when it comes to countering anti-Indigenous and anti-Black racism.”

As far as the future for Verlia’s work at Sherbourne, she says, “I’m in the process of collaborating on a Diversity, Equity and Inclusion strategy for Sherbourne Health that will give us a roadmap for the future. It’s just the beginning of changes and adding a DEI lens to everything we do. I really believe in our team – it’s an exciting time for us here, and I’m honoured to be a part of it.”