Focusing on Health Equity and Anti-Racism

After a summer of reflection, the Center for IPE and U-M health science schools start a semester like no other with a commitment to what’s important now.

At the July 2020 Michigan Center for Interprofessional Education (IPE) annual faculty retreat, facilitator Tazin Daniels challenged participants with a series of exercises to jump-start anti-racism pedagogy and practices across the health science schools. Daniels, a U-M Center for Research on Learning and Teaching (CRLT) assistant director and lead for IPE, began by sharing the work of Matthew Kincaid, the New Orleans founder of “Overcoming Racism.” Kincaid reminds people (especially white people) that “racism is a structure, not a personal trait.” He says that because we work within institutions, catalyzing people to move forward is needed for changes in policy and inequitable treatment within health care. “We need all the people we can get to move this work forward,” being “willing to learn, willing to listen, and willing to work.”

Also during the summer, Michigan Medicine held an anti-racism town hall “in response to the injustice, racial discrimination and social unrest in America.” It has instituted an Anti-Racism Oversight Committee, comprised of leadership, faculty, staff and medical students, “with the charge to implement sustainable measures that address the five priorities of the committee: show solidarity, provide opportunities and safe spaces for conversation, increase education and training, create a more diversified workforce, and increase partnerships with the communities we serve.” 

In August, the School of Kinesiology produced two timely webinars, still available for viewing:  Race, Sport, & Restorative Justice: Implications for Higher Education and Health & Fitness + COVID-19: Serving Vulnerable Populations. Public Health Dean F. DuBois Bowman introduced the latest issue of the school’s Findings magazine with reiteration of the school’s commitment “to pull out the vile roots of racism and its broad impacts on health, equity, and overall well-being.” And the School of Dentistry is in the midst of a series of schoolwide open dialogues on racial injustice. Its online Listening Session on Race, Anti-Racism and Racial Healing over the summer drew more than 230 people (the word cloud illustration at the top of this page reflects how people were feeling at the start). 

Meanwhile, students across the health sciences are making progress in keeping important but difficult conversations going:

  • Social Work PhD student Joyce Lee co-authored a children’s book on fighting anti-Asian racism during COVID-19; it is free and provides an educational resource to help generate meaningful discussions.
  • U-M School of Nursing and School of Social Work graduate students Rebecca Abaddi and Erin Horne worked together to create a new U-M student organization, the Future Black Healthcare Professionals. The organization’s membership includes students from across the sciences and humanities who will focus on projects to end social and systemic injustice in health care.
  • A group of Medical School students put together an impressive  ”Caring for Communities of Color” early-semester virtual conference. Former U-M Interprofessional Leadership Fellow Erin Khang reflected on the conference enthusiastically after its first day via Twitter: “Amazing job centering and uplifting BIPOC students and practitioners on the first conference day! So impressed with the work our U-M medical students are doing!”
  • The Multicultural Pharmacy Student Organization together with the MLK Health Science Committee invited grad students to join Abdul El-Sayed, MD, discussing “COVID-19 & the Racial Health Gap” in early September.

Along with the U-M health science schools from Ann Arbor to Flint to Dearborn, the Michigan Center for Interprofessional Education is committed to work in health equity and social justice. We will continue to share related communications and information; please send updates to us at IPEcenter@umich.edu

Additional Resources: