Diversity and Inclusion Fuels HHS Office of Inspector General's Fraud-Fighting Success
In the challenging fight against health care fraud, the stakes are high to safeguard taxpayer money and patient well-being. However, law enforcement professionals don't always have the same approach for addressing fraud. That can be a good thing: diversity of thinking and perspective is key for fraud-fighting efforts, according to Special Agent in Charge Derrick L. Jackson, who heads investigations in the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General's Atlanta region.
"Bringing together different backgrounds, ideas, and experiences is a recipe for success for the Office of Inspector General, for our investigations in particular. For example, when we're investigating a Russian crime ring, it's smart to have an agent from that community who can speak Russian on the case," said Jackson, an African American, second-generation investigator who has worked for the Federal Government for 22 years, with 18 years at HHS OIG.
Diversity and inclusion efforts to recruit and maintain a diverse workforce is essential to OIG's mission to safeguard HHS programs and protect patients and others served by those programs, said Jackson, who also serves as the National Diversity Recruitment Coordinator for OIG's Office of Investigations.
"We know in our everyday tasks a diverse workforce drives progress and research backs this up: Ethnically diverse companies are 35 percent more likely to outperform their competitors and gender diverse companies are 15 percent more likely to do the same," Jackson said.
Jackson has had an awareness of the importance of diversity and inclusion in the workplace since childhood. His mother was the minority recruiter for OI's Philadelphia Regional Office, and as one of OIG's trailblazers, she was instrumental in the office becoming more diversified in their hiring.
From L to R, Carolyn Jackson, then HHS IG June Gibbs Brown, Derrick Jackson, and then Deputy IG for Investigations Jack Hartwig participate in a badge ceremony in Washington, D.C. The Jacksons became HHS OIG's first parent-child Special Agents.
"My mother, Carolyn R. Jackson, became the first African American as well as the first female Assistant Special Agent in Charge in the Philadelphia region. Also, when I graduated from the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center, my mother and I became the HHS OIG's first parent-child Special Agents," Jackson said. "OIG had my 'swearing in' badge ceremony in Washington, D.C., to celebrate this historic event."
Still, the path to Federal law enforcement was not direct. After graduating from Temple University, Jackson had a brief stint with the Philadelphia Phillies baseball organization. A few years later, he joined the Federal Government working in the Department of Justice, Bureau of Prisons, running the recreation department and programs for the inmates at a prison in Pennsylvania. The positive experience with DOJ, combined with exposure to his mother's passion and commitment to her job, enticed him to pursue law enforcement as a career.
During Jackson's encounters, potential hires often cite the opportunity to serve their country by protecting patients and health care programs as a draw to this investigations work.
"It's interesting work to safeguard these bedrock health care programs. Plus, these aren't victimless crimes, so it's an incredible feeling of accomplishment to protect vulnerable patients that could be anyone from our grandparents to a niece or nephew from abuse or financial harm," Jackson said. "Young people get it: serving your community in this face-to-face work is a great feeling."
Jackson makes most tasks look easy. However, diversity outreach is, like fraud investigations, hard work.
"Diversity is being invited to the party, inclusion is being asked to dance," he said. Jackson is passionate about growing OIG's team of professionals just as his mother did for more than a decade.
As part of OIG's diversity and inclusion efforts, Derrick and regional coordinators visit colleges and high schools - 20 schools and 3,000 students in 2016 - to inform students about OIG, its mission, and potential internships and investigations jobs. He and his team work with the National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, Women in Federal Law Enforcement, Hispanic American Police Command Officers, and National Asian Peace Officers Association.
"I have a responsibility to reach the next generation and leave OIG a better place than when I entered," Jackson said. "With contributions to our investigative ranks from all parts of this country, our agency will continue to thrive."