An important week for diversity and health disparities

I’ll be writing more about diversity

Over the next few months, I’ll be writing more about diversity as we develop new approaches to increase our School’s diversity. Diversity and excellence are interwoven. Someone said to me a few weeks ago, “Aren’t you worried that if you become more diverse that your rankings will fall?” No. I am not. With public health’s imperative to solve some of the world’s greatest challenges, like getting safe water to those who need it, reversing the obesity epidemic, providing access to health care to those who lack it and reducing the AIDS epidemic, we must eliminate the huge disparities that persist between minorities and non-minorities, those with more vs. less education and the haves vs. the have nots. We won’t succeed unless some among us have come from those situations and understand them. Does increasing diversity mean that everyone will have the same background? It doesn’t. We need to take more account of all the experiences and skills people bring to us whether they are student applicants, staff or faculty.  This is really important to me, and I want part of my own legacy as dean to be the increased diversity of the School. Don’t misunderstand me. We look really good compared to many other schools. As one of our students said, “We are an exceptional school.” We can do even better.

I am reading an interesting book, Making Gumbo in the University, by Rupert W. Nacoste. It’s about his attempt, as Vice-Provost for Diversity, to make North Carolina State University more diverse. He began with optimism and resigned in disappointment. More to come and lots to learn.

New fellows program begins

The brainchild of Assistant Dean for Students Felicia Mebane, PhD, we kicked off a new public health fellows program this week.

UNC Summer Public Health Fellowship Program is an eight week introduction to public health. I really enjoyed talking with the students yesterday morning. They’re from many different US states and territories including Puerto Rico. Most of the students are undergraduates; a few already have graduated. Our goal is to increase diversity of the health professions, especially public health, and to increase our School’s diversity. It’s an impressive step. I am awed by the varied backgrounds of these young people and the number of them doing dual degree programs. This is an exceptionally accomplished group of students.

**Photo Credit: Linda Kastleman**

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16th Annual Summer Public Health Research Videoconference on Minority Health: What Will Health Care Reform Mean for Health Disparities?

Vic Schoenbach, PhD, Associate Professor, Epidemiology, is a man whose passionate commitment to overcome health disparities enables him to do a lot with modest resources. With the aid of videoconference technology, more than 1,000 people participated at multiple sites, with a full auditorium at UNC-Chapel Hill.  The webcast is posted on our site.

Chancellor Holden Thorp opened the conference, saying that health disparities are one of the great problems facing our nation and world. I’m proud of the role our school plays in this important event. Soon, you can watch the video online.

**Photo Credit: Dr. Vic Schoenbach, Che Smith, and Josmell Perez**

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