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Area workforce becoming more diverse

By Greg Gelpi

Not only does her educational background enable her to assist patients, Ketty Jean-Louis' background as a native of Haiti enables her to care for the special needs of Haitian patients.

With the increasing diversity of Clayton County, area businesses are evolving to the meet needs of county residents.

Moving to the country at the age of 9, Jean-Louis, 42 now, tends to her patients with special care because of her Haitian background and culture. She works as a licensed practical nurse at Southern Regional Medical Center.

Although she received extensive training in the medical field in Dallas, no medical training could teach her how to handle a patient who refuses to take medicine for religious reasons, she said. Some of her Haitian patients believe that they get sick because of something they did wrong. They refuse to take medicine, feeling they are serving a penance for their wrongdoing.

With her background, she crosses cultures and cares for them physically while considering their backgrounds culturally.

"If you look at the county, you find that over 50 different dialects are spoken in the school system," John Hursch, the hospital's vice president of human resources, said. "It's good business" to have a diverse staff.

He explained that the hospital hires employees based on their qualifications and not specifically for their nationality, but the hospital has benefited from this diversity.

"When I think of diversity, I don't think in terms of laws and requirements," he said, adding "We are all the better for (our diversity)."

Southern Regional Medical Center was recognized by the Clayton County Chamber of Commerce for its diverse work force. The chamber recently awarded the hospital its international employer of the year award for this diversity.

"I think it's extremely important because we have such an international population in Clayton County," said Grant Wainscott, the vice president of community development for the chamber. "We really think that the growth of our county resides in international employees."

The chamber not only recognizes the international flavor of county business, but is making efforts to expand the international aspect of county business, he said.

The chamber of commerce sent a delegation to the Czech Republic to attract business and is working on plans for a geo-political center to host international conferences, Wainscott said.

"The people of Clayton County need something to rally around," he said. "This is the next logical step."