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Parkinson Town Hall on Racism

Message originally sent June 8, 2020

Dear Parkinson Family: 

Thank you for taking the time to openly share your thoughts, concerns, and ideas at our Town Hall earlier this week. To echo one faculty member: I appreciated the incredible poise with which students articulated their concerns and discussed potential ways forward. And I am encouraged that faculty and students are continuing to turn ideas into action.

Racism is an ongoing public health crisis that needs our attention now.  We support the Black Lives Matter movement’s fight for freedom, liberation, and justice. We stand with the American Public Health Association (APHA) and other health professional societies in condemning institutionalized racism and violent methods by law enforcement against peaceful protesters. We endorse the APHA’s 2018 policy statement outlining policies to address law enforcement violence.

I know that the Parkinson Family – students, faculty, and staff – remains committed to doing our part to create a more just and equitable society. Below is a summary of the voices (and feelings), emerging themes, potential actions, and resources raised during our conversation this week.

We all know one conversation does not hold all of the answers. It is just a beginning. As I mentioned at the close of the Town Hall, I would outline some immediate next steps which follow:

  • Make public our position on racism on the Parkinson website and social media channels.
  • Institute a review of our school-wide curriculum to evaluate how issues of racism, health equity, and social determinants of health are currently addressed in our courses and identify areas where we can further strengthen this discourse and/or address gaps.
  • Institute a review of our hiring processes to ensure we are using best practices to minimize the effects of implicit bias or any institutionalized forms of discrimination.
  • Convene a standing Parkinson School Advisory Board to the Dean on issues of health equity, racism, and institutionalized discrimination comprised of community members, students, faculty, and staff. 

The short-term deliverable will be to identify meaningful learning and convening opportunities for the upcoming school year – such as invited speakers, book clubs, and implicit bias training. I also will involve our board in the development and review of the Parkinson Strategic Plan over the coming academic year.  My goal is to lay out a roadmap and action items for promoting greater health equity over the next several years.

As an academic institution, our programs and people have a longstanding commitment to social justice.  We will continue to steward the many initiatives already underway that address racism and promote heath equity in our most vulnerable communities. These include: the Veggie Rx program, Loyola Stands Against Gun Violence, Family Lifestyle Program (FLiP), Stop the Bleed Training, Social Enterprise Building in Maywood, and Loyola Community Grand Rounds.

One of those newer initiatives is the COVID Equity Response Collaborative: Loyola (CERCL).  It is a team of public health, medicine, nursing, law, and social work students and professionals working in partnership with community leaders and public health officials to minimize the harm from COVID to at-risk populations in the Chicago area. We are all proud to launch this initiative, which will help train contact tracers in the fight against COVID-19.  Learn more about the program.

I want to also let you know that the University is actively developing several cross-institutional initiatives to address institutionalized racism.  More to follow as specifics unfold.

Our school plays a pivotal role at the intersection of social justice, population health, and healthcare.  Thank you for joining me as we advocate for positive change on an individual, school, community, and systems-wide level.  Please continue to share your thoughts and concerns either with faculty or with me.

By choosing our respective fields, we demonstrate our commitment to ensuring a more just society for all.  While the change we seek may not be immediate, we are in this together for the long haul.  Let’s roll up our sleeves and continue our vital work.

With gratitude, 

Elaine Morrato, DrPH, MPH, CPH
Founding Dean
Parkinson School of Health Sciences and Public Health