BRATTLEBORO — Gail Somers, owner of Yahso Jamaican Grille in Keene, has been hired as Brattleboro Memorial Hospital’s first director of diversity, equity and inclusion, the hospital recently announced.

Somers started in the role in July, working to further develop the hospital’s Council on Racial Equity — which includes Brattleboro Memorial employees and community members — and to continue its work providing barrier-free medical care to LGBTQ+ patients, according to a news release.

“It’s challenging work because it starts with a willingness to recognize the inequities and stigmas embedded deep within the societal systems we encounter every day — from schools, to business, housing, law enforcement, and healthcare,” Somers, a Keene resident, said in the release.

While LGBTQ+ individuals and people of color have many of the same health concerns as others, they often experience additional barriers to care, such as poor or stigmatized treatment from providers, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Somers plans to develop a mission statement to help give Brattleboro Memorial’s diversity and anti-stigma efforts “a public face,” the release from the hospital says. She will also help establish a hospital-wide diversity, equity and inclusion council.

Brattleboro Memorial has launched various initiatives in recent years to break down barriers in health care, such as training staff on gender-affirming health-care practices and using people’s preferred pronouns, the release says.

Somers will soon conduct an organization-wide assessment on Brattleboro Memorial’s culture to build a “path forward toward greater workforce diversity,” according to the release.

Before joining the hospital’s staff, Somers — who emigrated from Jamaica — worked for C&S Wholesale Grocers in Keene, where she held various management roles in finance, sales administration and customer development.

In addition to her work at Yahso in downtown Keene, she serves on a number of area and state boards, including as a member of Keene’s ad hoc Racial Justice and Community Safety Committee; steering committee member of the Business Association for People of Color New Hampshire; and chair of the Keene Family YMCA’s social justice committee, as well as its Person of Color Committee for the Monadnock Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging Coalition.

Olivia Belanger can be reached at 352-1234, extension 1439, or obelanger@keenesentinel.com. Follow her on Twitter @OBelangerKS.

Olivia Belanger is the health reporter for The Sentinel, covering issues from the opioid crisis and the COVID-19 pandemic to mental health services in the region. A N.H. native, she joined The Sentinel team in August 2019.