Lab Matters Spring 2021 | Page 11

Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health ( ASPPH ) Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Committee . Different schools fulfill the requirements in different ways . Students at the University of Maryland School of Medicine tour neighborhoods near campus and elsewhere in Baltimore , talking with community leaders and public health agencies about how the city ’ s history and policies have led to social and health disparities .
In 2019 , under the leadership of President and CEO Laura Magaña , PhD , ASPPH adopted a zero tolerance policy against discrimination and harassment . Then “ in the summer of 2020 , the whole world woke up and sort of recommitted a focus on civil rights and racial justice ,” said Linda Alexander , EdD , a senior associate dean at the West Virginia University School of Public Health , who co-led the ASPPH task force that developed the new policy . It became clear , she said , that “ we needed to add racism to that and have some intentional work around identifying and dismantling enablers of structural racism in academic public health .”
As chair of ASPPH ’ s Diversity and Inclusion Section , Alexander is also coordinating with members from other schools and programs who contributed to the task force on efforts to develop a framework to operationalize actions against discrimination , with a focus on education , research and practice . For example , schools might consider whether case studies used in classes reflect diverse perspectives and populations and what communities are included in research projects . Other practices could promote recruitment and retention of students and faculty of color and create reward structures that encourage diversity activities for faculty and staff .
A Welcoming Environment
Training and education lay an important foundation in DEI competency for the public health workforce , but they are most effective when workers enter an environment that supports the same ideals , APHA ’ s Fine said . “ The learning and
Workforces can only become stronger when there ’ s diversity — not only diversity in terms of the way we look or the way we live our lives , but diversity in thought , diversity in perspective .
Chenelle Norman , MPH
improvement have to be continual . DEI is more than hitting a benchmark or ticking a checkbox . It should be institutionalized within the fabric of who we are and how we operate within the workplace .”
To do this , laboratory leaders should commit to establishing a framework that integrates DEI into every level of the organizational structure , identify benchmarks and conduct internal audits of policies , practices and behaviors in the laboratory , and build in ongoing assessments to sustain efforts and provide accountability . “ We evaluate and assess the work that we do . So why can ’ t we evaluate and assess ourselves and our commitment to this issue ?” he said .
There are many paths to inclusivity , but they share some characteristics . An organization committed to upholding DEI principles should have diverse leadership and staff , a recognition of varied talents , the expectation that unconscious biases are sought out and countered and intolerance of microaggressions . Individuals must feel able to ask questions and share their needs , and managers should proactively check in with staff to make sure everyone is comfortable , not just quiet .
And importantly , workplaces should establish safe , judgment-free spaces for open conversations . The ELP cohort ’ s resources include best practices and exercises for holding respectful dialogue on challenging topics . Bringing in a trained facilitator or moderator can also help , they found in their own discussions . Being open to hearing others ’ experiences , such as those highlighted in the podcast , is a good place to start .
“ One of the things that was really wonderful about our group is that we all sort of let down our own guard and those things that you might feel a little embarrassed about , and just kind of approached this project from a very honest and authentic and safe place ,” Griffin said . “ These are tough things to talk about . And so it was kind of giving each other that courtesy and place to have some difficult conversations and ask some difficult questions .”
It can be hard and a bit scary at first , she added , especially the fear of making mistakes . Culture shifts can take time as people build new habits and unlearn old ones , such as biases and misconceptions . But the most important thing is to start — commit to doing something and keep trying until things get better .
“ Workforces can only become stronger when there ’ s diversity — not only diversity in terms of the way we look or the way we live our lives , but diversity in thought , diversity in perspective ,” Norman said . “ And when we ’ re hearing those diverse thoughts and perspectives at the table , then it enables us as public health laboratories to better serve our diverse communities and our diverse public .” n
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