Black History Month caregiver spotlight: Iris Mireau

Every week during Black History Month, we'll spotlight one of our Swedish caregivers who will share with us what Black history means to them. 

Young Black girls need to have a loving relationship with their hair; that realization came to Iris Mireau a few years ago, when a friend’s granddaughter expressed insecurity about her naturally curly hair, comparing it to straightened and naturally straight hair.

This Black History Month, Iris, a senior patient financial counseling manager at Providence Swedish, wants to educate young Black women and remind them that their natural hair is beautiful and belongs in the workplace or any other professional setting. 

Providence Swedish Patient Financial Counseling Manager Irish Mireau, second from left, with co-workers. 

“For me, that’s who I was, so I think it’s important that I set an example for the young ladies in my personal and professional life. I’m very focused on people being able to be authentic. I spent 12 months doing no heat on my hair and learned so much through that,” Iris says. “It's important that young girls know they’re beautiful just the way they are, so I live that myself.”

To help educate others, Iris recommends educational books about the topic: “Black Girl Magic: A Book About Loving Yourself Just the way You Are,” “Hair Love” and “I Am Enough.” She also recommends the docuseries, “The Hair Tales,” a celebration of Black women’s identity, culture and humanity, uniquely expressed through stories about their hair.

“I think when considering my Blackness, about what I want to put out into the world, I’m really focused on the young ladies I come across,” she says. “We’re just as powerful as anyone else, and we don’t have to be anyone but who we are.”

With her work at Providence Swedish, Iris helps provide financial assistance to our most vulnerable patients. In the summer of 2001, Iris began working in a billing office that supported Providence. Though there were some internal changes to that organization, Iris was called by the mission of Providence even though another position was closer to home.

“When you get up every day, you need to really feel that the company you’re working for represents you and represents your community,” Iris says. “I ended up sticking with the hour-and-a-half commute from Tacoma to Seattle [for Providence].”  

Eventually, she gravitated to the financial assistance office, which helps uninsured and underinsured patients resolve their bills. As a senior financial counseling manager, Iris focuses on the most complicated cases and navigates the complexities of healthcare to find solutions that ease patients’ ways.

“Knowing they are going to have coverage that enables them to get the follow-up care they need, as well as preventative care that may keep them from needing hospitalization in the future, feels great,” Iris says. “The patient financial counselors at Providence Swedish are in our hospitals working so hard every day to reduce financial burdens for our patients. I feel very proud to be a member of such an amazing group of caregivers.”

Additional resources

The Northwest African American Museum

MOHAI — History Café: Paying Tribute to Seattle’s Black Landmarks and their Namesakes

U.S. National Park Service Black History Month Celebrations

BUILD Black History Month Events 


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