For Immediate Release February 08, 2023


Tyler Waldman:

Oyin Handmade shampoo and conditioners on the floor of R Adams Cowley Shock Trauma Center

Following a pilot program at three of its hospitals, the University of Maryland Medical System will stock personal care products for patients with highly-textured hair. This initiative focuses on addressing issues of diversity, equality and inclusivity for patients across the System, which provides care in urban, suburban and rural communities across the state.

The System is working with Oyin Handmade, a Black-owned business in the Greenmount West neighborhood of Baltimore, to provide patients with Honey Wash Shampoo, Honey Hemp Conditioner and Hair Dew Leave-In Conditioner. The products were piloted at the University of Maryland Medical Center's Downtown and Midtown campuses, and at the University of Maryland Rehabilitation & Orthopedic Institute, all located in Baltimore City. The products, along with combs, brushes and hair picks, have been made available to all 11 member hospitals.

Nurse leader DoRhonja Nichols, DNP, RN, Director of Critical Care & Behavioral Health Services at University of Maryland St. Joseph Medical Center, is spearheading this effort. She said conversations with System nursing leaders identified a need for hair products like these. At some UMMS member organizations, as many as 70% of patients are Black, Dr. Nichols said, which made the need clearer to nursing leaders.

"Diversity is really about honoring our differences, and so we were very strategic in calling out the fact that there was a deficit in being able to meet the hair care needs for patients of color," Dr. Nichols said. "I hope that when patients use these products that they will know how much we care for them and that they matter, and that we as an organization are committed to ensuring we provide the best care to the total person, and how much doing so means to us."

Nichols said leaders have identified similar needs for skin care and other products that could be introduced in the near future. She led a workgroup that explored products available from local minority-owned vendors and, after trying some of the top products for themselves and soliciting feedback from patients and staff, they settled on Oyin. In response to a survey conducted during the pilot, one patient said Oyin's products made their hair soft and comb-able. Another patient said the products "did work better because it was for Black girls with textured hair."

"I hope that this initiative encourages health care organizations to not only have good ideas but to implement them," Dr. Nichols said. "I hope that we continue to view our patient's needs through an Equity, Diversity and Inclusion lens, and that we are committed to going the extra mile to ensure we provide care to the total person."

Roderick King, MD, MPH, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer for UMMS, said the initiative is good for equity inside and outside hospital walls.

"Offering products to patients that are unique to their unique background is a critical element of addressing cultural diversity," Dr. King said. "Our investment in this initiative ties to our commitment of improving the patient experience and supporting external partners as a way to improve the wellbeing of the communities that we serve."

Jamyla Bennu, who founded Oyin Handmade in 2003, said she hopes patients who need products like hers will feel at home.

"They are going to feel cared for and seen in a way that I promise you they were not expecting," she said. "We've always had it as our mission to fill a gap in the marketplace for people with hair like this, so it's a real beautiful full-circle motion that large institutions are looking to fill the same gap."

People with natural or textured hair need to add moisture that otherwise wouldn't get down into their hair. Oyin's products use ingredients like shea butter, avocado oil and honey to help users retain moisture and prevent breakage. Bennu said people with highly-textured hair often need to bring their own products when away from home.

More details about the System's Equitable Hair Care Initiative, including comments from Dr. Nichols, are in this video:

Diversity is an ongoing focus for UMMS, including ensuring diversity among its suppliers and vendors. Oyin is one of several minority/women-owned business enterprises with whom the System partners; it also purchases office furniture from Edwards & Hill Office Furniture, based in Annapolis Junction, and floristry services from Baltimore-based Fleur d'Ave.