Dean’s Message on Racial Equity in Action

Presented by Dean Greer Glazer during the June 8 Virtual Town Hall Meeting:

I am excited that we have 101 alums and friends joining us this evening. First, I want to thank Shelley Johnson, our Director of Alumni Relations, for her leadership and planning this webinar. The original plan for tonight was to discuss how the University and College of Nursing has been impacted by COVID-19. We will still address that, but I want to provide an update on other issues and will leave the details of the college response to Dr. Angela Clark, Dr. Christine Colella and hear from our alum, Lindsay Mueller.

I planned to share the inextricable link between structural racism, health and healthcare disparities with substantial increased rates of COVID occurrence and increased death rates for Black and Brown people across the nation. Then May 25 occurred. A date that most will never forget, the senseless death of George Floyd who was killed by a Minneapolis police officer who held Floyd in a chokehold with his knee for nearly 9 minutes while three other police officers watched and did nothing. So I want to start by saying a few words about this.

I am sick about the unacceptable situation for all Black and Brown people in the U.S. Beyond the major issues of structural racism, police brutality, unequal treatment of Blacks and Browns in the criminal justice system, healthcare system and educational system, we must acknowledge the deep economic inequalities that Black and Brown people face. The gap between the finances of Blacks and Whites is as wide in 2020 as it was in 1968. Historical data reveals there has been no progress in reducing income and wealth inequities between Black and White households over the past 70 years. In 2018, median income adjusted for inflation fell to $41,361 for Blacks while Whites rose to $70,642. Today, during the COVID epidemic, fewer than half of Black adults are employed. Even though higher education has been seen as the way to the middle class, this is not true for Black Americans. The typical Black household headed by someone with an advanced degree has less wealth than a White household with only a high school diploma. Today, more than a fifth of Black families report they often or sometimes don’t have enough food, more than 3 times the rate for White families.

Every day I read or hear of another story about racism. In Cleveland, there was a 19 year old black man from an eastern suburb sentenced to 3 days in jail on charges of possession of an ‘incendiary device’ after he purchased nail polish remover to remove graffiti that had been painted on his car that was parked in downtown Cleveland. I think about other stories I’ve heard from my Black friends who are moms of teens/young adult boys. They tell me that each time their son leaves their house, they are afraid they will never return. They grill them on how to stay safe and not aggravate a bad situation since they are often targets for doing the same things that White teenage young adult boys are doing. I ask that you pause and reflect on the stories you have heard as well.

I want to share my enduring support for everyone who is protesting peacefully across the United States, demanding an end to police violence and justice for George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Michael Brown, Philandro Castile, Breonna Taylor, and countless other victims, most of whose names we will never know. I recognize that the culture of white supremacy and systemic racism that leads to police violence and mass incarceration infects all parts of our society, including health care and the clinical learning environments where nurses work and learn. The majority of people in nursing are White and have benefitted from White privilege.

Black and Brown patients experience the effects of longstanding social structures leading to health inequities and harmful bias in clinical care, causing dramatic differences in life expectancy, maternal and infant mortality, chronic illnesses and more. Future nurses are also vulnerable. Black and Brown students with the intelligence, passion, and resilience to gain admission to nursing school routinely encounter systemic barriers that reduce school and career satisfaction, limit advancement, and lead to psychological exhaustion and burnout.

The College of Nursing has a history of supporting initiatives focused on the Black and Brown community including providing financial, social, educational and emotional support for Leadership 2.0 and Health Pathways Program students, admitting students with a holistic admissions process, establishing an endowment to always have a summer bridge program for students between grade 12 and first year of college and working with the Cincinnati Public Schools to help develop a pipeline for health professions students. The College of Nursing is committed to ensuring that equity, diversity, and belonging are at the center of nursing education. We revised our strategic plan last academic year that reflect commitment to these initiatives:

  • Our strategic priorities now includes “Build a culture of health focused on social determinants” as our first priority
  • Goal III: “Eliminate health care disparities in our community”
  • Strategy I.IV:  “Strengthen student, faculty and staff success by enhancing recruitment, selection, orientation, advising, mentoring and retaining a diverse college population”
  • Strategy I.V: “Integrate CoN into the Academic Health Center, University and external community to increase diverse pipelines, interprofessional collaboration and education to address social determinants of health”
  • Strategy II.I: “Expand research portfolio that improves population health, well-being and equity”
  • Strategy III.I: “Co-create with community partners more equitable and healthier communities”
  • Strategy III.IV: “Increase the number of students, faculty and staff engaged in local to global experiences that focus on population health, well-being and equity”
  • Strategy III.V: “Leverage and increase faculty and staff presence in providing service and support to community/professional organizations that promote community well-being and equity”
  • Strategy V.II: “Enhance a culture of inclusive excellence”

I know that rectifying a system of structural racism will take more than words. It takes action. As part of our commitment moving forward, we will take an honest look at ourselves and ensure that our programs, funding, systems, and practices align with our commitment to racial equity:

  • We will work harder to learn from Black and Brown people in our college and clinical learning environments.
  • We will ensure that the commitments expressed today and in our strategic plan are reflected in our policies and operational decisions.
  • We will use the upcoming Macy report on Bias and Discrimination in the Health Professions to inform our thinking
  • We will also use the Future of Nursing 2020-2030 report statement of tasks which addresses equity, diversity and belonging:
    • ‘The role of nurses in improving the health of individuals, families, and communities by addressing social determinants of health and providing effective, efficient, equitable, and accessible care for all across the care continuum, as well identifying the system facilitators and barriers to achieving this goal.
    • System facilitators and barriers to achieving a workforce that is diverse, including gender, race, and ethnicity, across all levels of nursing education.
    • The role of the nursing profession in assuring that the voice of individuals, families and communities are incorporated into design and operations of clinical and community health systems.
    • The training and competency-development skills needed to prepare nurses, including advanced practice nurses, to work outside of acute care settings and to lead efforts to build a culture of health and health equity, and the extent to which current curricula meets these needs.
    • The ability of nurses to serve as change agents in creating systems that bridge the delivery of health care and social needs care in the community.
    • The research needed to identify or develop effective nursing practices for eliminating gaps and disparities in health care.
    • The importance of nurse well-being and resilience in ensuring the delivery of high quality care and improving community health.’

I will engage our Committee for Equity and Inclusive Excellence (CEIE) to make this our top priority. We will hold ourselves accountable and report to our stakeholders on how we are making progress toward equity for all.

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