Statement and Plan for Combating Racism and its Public Health Impacts
The founding ideals of our nation are equality, liberty, and justice for all. However, our nation has actively denied these fundamental rights and freedoms to communities of color. Legacies of systemic racism and discrimination undermine the fabric of our nation and our value system. The recent killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, and the past killing of Antwon Rose by East Pittsburgh Police, have awakened our nation to the hypocrisy of our ideals and have galvanized the nation, including our IDM students, postdocs, staff, and faculty, into action. Racism is a public health crisis, and as a department within the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health, we are committed to the core public health values of equity, social justice, and anti-racism. While IDM has a history of addressing health disparities in marginalized groups, mainly through HIV research and advancing the HIV care continuum in communities, we recognize this is short of addressing numerous other health disparities marginalized communities experience. Drawing on these past and ongoing endeavors, IDM will intensify its efforts in addressing health disparities in infectious diseases that disproportionately affect communities of color. We will support students, trainees, staff, and faculty of color and create an inclusive environment in which all members are respected and valued. We will incorporate this charge into the three domains of our department’s mission, namely, to advance training/education, research, and service.
Training/Education: We will actively recruit students and postdocs from historically underrepresented groups to diversify the public health enterprise and serve as advocates and vanguards in addressing the health disparities in infectious diseases affecting communities of color. We will expand our recruitment efforts to historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) and other minority-serving institutions (MSIs), and we will foster relationships with local and national minority student organizations. We will reduce unnecessary barriers (i.e., graduate record exam) and facilitate financial support (i.e., training grants) for students from historically underrepresented groups through federal funding mechanisms. We will support minority students, facilitate collegial interactions among students, and create a sense of community in the student body through IDM’s Inclusion and Diversity Committee representative. Importantly, we will strengthen the mentoring and retention of underrepresented students and postdocs, and we will equip these scholars with the tools and resources needed for success. We will incorporate training on cross-cultural competency and implicit bias against racial/ethnic minorities and other marginalized groups, as well as the impact of these biases on health, in our courses, seminars, and faculty/staff meetings. We will work to incorporate literature and research from scholars of color into our core curriculum to ensure that their contributions to public health are recognized. Overarching these principles, we will serve as advocates in creating a just and inclusive educational, working, and living environment, where students, postdocs, staff, and faculty from any marginalized community feel welcome and respected in the Graduate School of Public Health, the University of Pittsburgh, and the City of Pittsburgh.
Research: We will expand our research to include new initiatives on investigating comorbidities that disproportionally affect people of color and the impact of these conditions on COVID-19 and other infectious diseases. We will integrate established federal and non-federal funding avenues to financially support historically underrepresented students in their research on infectious diseases, including but not limited to diseases that disproportionally affect minority and marginalized communities.
Service: We will adopt an integrative approach for addressing health disparities by strengthening our community engagement with local minority and marginalized communities through our ongoing work with HIV/AIDS prevention and care. We will expand our efforts to include new partnerships and student service in community health centers related to the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious diseases in communities of color in Pittsburgh.
Finally, to look beyond our principal focus on infectious diseases, the department will strive to be a more forceful advocate in conversations and reparative actions in the Graduate School of Public Health and the University. IDM faculty, students, postdocs, and staff will be encouraged and supported to participate in broader university governance to advocate for additional systemic change that supports marginalized students, postdocs, faculty, and staff, as well as university actions and outreach fostering external community developments.
The students, staff, postdoctoral associates, and faculty members of the IDM Plan for Action Against Racial Disparities (IDM PAARD) Committee developed and approved this statement on 20 July 2020.