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In Response to Shootings in Kenosha, WI

August 26, 2020

Dear YSPH Community Members,

As we embark on a unique academic year, our society continues to struggle with the dual public health crises of COVID-19 and police violence. Once again, this past Sunday, a Black man – Mr. Jacob Blake – was shot in the back multiple times by police in Wisconsin, with ensuing gun violence claiming two more lives. The Yale School of Public Health condemns this violence and anti-Black racism.

YSPH is committed to advancing social justice and health equity through our scholarship, teaching, and community engagement and advocacy. Led by the Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences (SBS), a faculty search is underway for an outstanding scholar and teacher in the area of racism and health. The individual selected for this position will have expertise in how racism is embedded in our institutions and systems and the deleterious effects this has on health. In addition, this fall, we are launching our new U.S. Health and Justice Concentration, led by Associate Professor Danya Keene. The planning for this new concentration by a school-wide committee of faculty and students began in early 2019, well before the recent murders of Mr. George Floyd and countless other unarmed Black individuals at the hands of police or racist vigilantes. The concentration will prepare students to analyze and address systems and processes that perpetuate health injustice in the United States. A cornerstone of the concentration is a new course on Public Health Advocacy and Activism, which will be taught by Dr. Tekisha Everette, who is an Adjunct Assistant Professor in SBS and Executive Director of Health Equity Solutions.

This summer, YSPH’s Office of Public Health Practice, with initial funding from SBS, created the Health Equity Fellowship program to advance the school’s mission of engaging in equitable community partnerships and to help support local community-based organizations that have been financially hurt during the pandemic. Seven rising 2nd-year MPH students were awarded Health Equity Fellowships to work with a diverse set of agencies that explicitly take an anti-racist approach to their work with communities of color. They worked on a range of projects – from conducting a needs and assets survey in Black and Brown communities in New Haven to addressing food insecurity exacerbated by the financial crisis in the wake of COVID-19, and from formulating a communication strategy for communities of color disproportionately affected by COVID-19 to developing guidelines and webinars for the safe reopening of home-based child care providers largely serving families of color.

This year, we will also be engaged in several activities – some of which are highlighted below – to further enhance diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at YSPH. Chief among these is updating our strategic plan for DEI, with input from students, faculty, staff, and alumni. Increasing diversity in our community continues to be a top priority. We will identify, implement, and evaluate novel approaches to recruit and retain students, faculty, and staff from diverse backgrounds. The YSPH Office of Academic Affairs is helping faculty members review the syllabus and design of their courses, with an eye toward more inclusive teaching and equitable representation in the curriculum. We are also in the planning phase of a school-wide survey to better understand YSPH culture as it relates to DEI. The results of the study will help us to identify and prioritize efforts to improve the experience of everyone in the school, but most especially those from historically underrepresented and marginalized groups. We will support our student Diversity Ambassadors and affinity groups as they work to foster a genuine sense of community and belonging, which will be even more challenging with face masking, physical distancing, and having a sizeable proportion of students being entirely online. We look forward to reporting on these and other activities as the year goes on.

We know that as a school and as individuals, we all must take personal responsibility to end systemic racism, anti-Blackness, and White supremacy. Our commitment to this work must focus both externally and internally. We are committed to working together to ensure social justice and health for all.

Mayur M. Desai, MPH ’94, PhD ‘97
Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

Sten H. Vermund, MD, PhD
Anna M.R. Lauder Professor and Dean