A health equity podcast by students, faculty and staff of Public Health and Health Professions.
Season one co-hosts Tia Palermo, Schuyler Lawson and Jessica Kruger take a deeper look at racism and health. Experts from Buffalo and around the U.S. talk about how racism negatively impacts health, groups working to address this problem, and how to make our classes and campus more inclusive for all students.
Adia Harvey Wingfield is the Mary Tileston Hemenway Professor of Arts & Sciences and Associate Dean for Faculty Development at Washington University in St. Louis. Her research examines how and why racial and gender inequality persists in professional occupations. April 15, 2021
Hello and welcome to Buffalo Health Cast. A podcast by students, faculty and staff of the university at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, we are your co-hosts, Tim Palermo. Jessica Kruger. And in this podcast, we cover topics later, the health equity here in Buffalo around the U.S. and globally. And this first semester of the podcast, we're taking a deeper look at racism and health. We'll be talking to experts around the U.S. as well as individuals here on campus and in the Buffalo community who are working to remove inequities to improve population, health and well-being. You'll hear from practitioners, researchers, students and faculty from other universities who have made positive changes to improve health, equity and inclusion.
Tia Palermo: OK, Hello and welcome to our SPHHP podcast. I'm here with Adia Harvey Wingfield, Associate Dean for Faculty Development and Professor of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis. Adia, I'm delighted to be speaking with you today.
Adia Harvey Wingfield: Thank you for having me. I'm happy to be here.
Tia Palermo: This year we've launched a new podcast for the university at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions, or SPHHP. In the first year of the podcast, we are broadly focusing on the topic of racism and health. And today I want to talk to you about one aspect of racism in academia. The hiring of faculty.
You were recently involved in hiring several faculty members for a new Department of Sociology at Washington University in St. Louis, an effort that you detailed in your article in the Harvard Business Review, which was entitled ‘We built a Diverse Academic Department in five years, here’s how’ can you tell me a little about these efforts?
Adia Harvey Wingfield: Sure. So I should say that when I came to Washington University in 2015, I was actually hired as part of a small cohort that was tasked with building the sociology department from the ground up. The university did not have a department prior to my arrival with my two senior colleagues, and our job primarily was to change that pretty much and to built to do the work of making sure that the department grew into a top sociology department.
And one of our shared goals early on in those stages was that we really wanted to be indicative of the fact that departments can be really strong academically. They can do a great job focusing on research and teaching, but they also can do so in a way that prioritizes both excellence and racial diversity. And that contrary to what some might think, it's not impossible at all to meet both of those goals and to set those standards.
So our focus was on making sure that we certainly built an outstanding department, but that we did so with an eye towards what it would mean to be a racially diverse department in the university and in the discipline. And that's driven a lot of our focal points on hiring and outreach and building over the last five years.
Tia Palermo: That's great. Thank you. So how did your own research background examining how and why racial and gender inequality persist in professional occupations inform these efforts in building this Department of sociology?
Adia Harvey Wingfield: That's a great question. I would certainly say that my own research gave me some insights into the types of pitfalls and challenges that many workers of color encounter when they are in spaces where they're in the racial and or gender minority. I know a lot about that experience from the work that I've done in identifying what those challenges look like and some of the processes that workplaces and organizations engage in that can be unwelcoming or hostile to communities of color.
But I have to say that it wasn't really so much an issue of building from my own research as much as it was working collaboratively with my departmental colleagues and university administration, all of whom were very supportive and enthusiastic and shared this goal of wanting to make sure that we did have a racially diverse department. It was very much a team effort at a variety of levels, which is really critical and important for being able to achieve these goals.
Tia Palermo: When you and colleagues decided that you wanted the new hires to be racially diverse, did you face any pushback? So you talked about how you had support at multiple levels, but was there pushback from any corners and how did you overcome this?
Adia Harvey Wingfield: Again, luckily we all were of the same mindset and the fact that we believe that racial diversity and really working to achieve it was important. So there were not issues internally around why this mattered or if we could do it or if it was something that we really wanted to focus on, or, again, this false dichotomy between diversity and quality. None of that was an issue at a department level, and certainly it was not an issue at the administrative level either. We were really very fortunate and supportive of that. Excuse me, we're really very fortunate that we were very clearly supported in this goal by the administration and the workers that we dealt with that level, the dean, the provost, the chancellor at the time, we're all very much on board with this being an important factor for us, which is part of why I write in the article that for these types of initiatives to succeed, I believe it's really critical to have support from multiple levels of leadership.
I think it would have been a lot more difficult for us to achieve the diversity that we did. If I were alone with making this argument in a department with colleagues who did not share this principle, similarly, I think it would have been very difficult for us to achieve the outcomes that we did if as a department, we had to face a lot of headwind from the administration, if we were working with leaders who did not share our commitment to these values and see this as important. I think that my experience shows that the synergy along those lines indicates that change certainly is enabled when it comes from the top, but that that change also has to have Buy-In at what you might think of as middle management levels as well. But when you do have those synergies lining up, that's it really opens up a lot of potential doors and opportunities for what you're able to build and accomplish.
Tia Palermo: Thank you. When you were going through the hiring process, what efforts did you make for the candidate when they were visiting? Both so that they would feel that Washington University in St. Louis was a welcoming environment for them, and then once you hired candidates, how did you make them feel? Welcome and supported once they arrived on campus as new hires?
Adia Harvey Wingfield: Yeah, that's a great question. So when going through the interview process, I think it's really critical to make sure that people get a feel for what their experience on that campus will be like should they decide to join the department. So you have to make sure that people see that there are opportunities for them that relate to the things that they want to pursue.
If you have a candidate who might, for instance, be interested in studying issues related to immigration, it's important to let that candidate know that not only rebuilding that in our department, but there are other people on campus that you might want to connect with who are doing this kind of work. We're talking about attracting faculty of color. It's critical for faculty of color to see that they won't be alone, isolated or excluded in everyday campus interactions and deliberations.
So I think it's really key to make sure that when you are trying to recruit underrepresented minority faculty, it's important to make sure that they see other people on the faculty and that they have a chance to talk openly and candidly and privately with them about what their experience has been like, rather than having simply people tell them this is a great place for scholars of color and people are really happy or that doesn't carry as much weight unless you hear it from the scholars of color in question who can tell you again in a private setting where they can speak honestly whether or not that's that's actually true. So when we were recruiting candidates, we made sure to try to show them that there were links between their personal and professional identities that the university recognized, respected and wanted to support so that if they accept an offer and they joined us in the university community, they would have a view from their interview with that with that experience would look like for them up front.
When it comes to people actually being here, I think if you want to build on the groundwork that you've laid through the interview process to make sure that once people have accepted the offer, you can't then pull a bait and switch and have them in an environment where they and their work are not supportive and are not respected or treated equitably and fairly. So we obviously have a pretty robust system.
Obviously, we have a pretty robust mentoring program in our department to make sure that everyone has access to mentors and support and people who can guide their careers, particularly for assistant professors who are going through the tenure process.
But we also make sure that assistant professors, particularly underrepresented minority faculty, continue to remain aware of and feel connected to the life of the university, whether, again, those are through initiatives and groups that speak to their personal identification and or things that speak to their professional research interests.
Tia Palermo: So it sounds like you had a lot of support systems built in in this department from the beginning. Do you have any examples of cross campus initiatives that help support those incoming candidates?
Adia Harvey Wingfield: Sure. Well, so our pro vice president provost for diversity and equity and inclusion actually runs a number of initiatives that are designed to reach out to all areas of the university and provide those kinds of supports. There are informal activities. There are more formal activities. There are monthly lunches for women. At the university to make sure there's a sense of camaraderie in cohort building.
There are also leadership development seminars for faculty of color who may be interested in pursuing those types of initiatives there. So this isn't just one office. So there are a number of programs on campus that are in place to draw attention to the fact that if WashU is going to be a place that does want to take seriously these imperatives of diversity and equity and inclusion, it's not enough simply to say that that has to be matched with clear, robust directives that speak to acknowledging those issues, tackling them head on and making sure that the university is working to do all it can to support faculty who are underrepresented.
Tia Palermo: Thank you for that insight. Have you seen the success that your own department effort has had influence other departments or initiatives university wide in their hiring practices?
Adia Harvey Wingfield: It's a little hard to measure just because there's so much variance across arts and sciences and there's so many different disciplines within the one that one college alone that there's a lot of range among them. But I will say that I think that the fact that we have been so successful and done so well in building a racially diverse, academically strong department in a short period of time has certainly been recognized in the university community. And I think serves as a clear message, an indicator to other departments that, again, this is something that's possible to do with the right programing plans, commitment and initiatives in place. I will say that I do think that the work that we have done that functions to show that this is a step that that departments can take, to to follow this lead.
Tia Palermo: That's great. And it really is an impressive group of scholars that you have in your department.
Adia Harvey Wingfield: Thank you.
Tia Palermo: You have a recent paper entitled ‘Getting In, Getting Hired, Getting Sideways Looks, Organizational Hierarchy and Perceptions of Racial Discrimination’ The participants in that study were from the health care industry, not academia. But in this work, you demonstrated that position in the organizational hierarchy is linked to perceptions of racial discrimination, whereby individuals at the top of the hierarchy so examples in that study where doctors reported fewer individual incidents of racism but identified more structural and organizational discrimination as compared to individuals lower in the hierarchy. Examples of structural discrimination included the education pipeline, hiring decisions in developing a mentoring relationship, something you spoke about earlier. What parallels can you draw between that study and implications in academia, given that academia is also vertically ranked in terms of students, professors and hierarchy among professors?
Adia Harvey Wingfield: So that's another great question. And I first want to offer the caveat that the study, as you mentioned, is focused exclusively on health care workers. So I think that there likely are some parallels, but I don't want to give the impression that I'm speaking from data. When I answered a question, I did not interview primarily academics. So I cannot say with certainty that the patterns that I described among health care workers would necessarily be present among people in academia. But that said, I do think that it's at least likely to I think it's safe to hypothesize that there may be some comparable outcomes and there might be some some parallels. Right. So by way of example, when we think about how academia is hierarchically organized and how it's very hierarchically structured and ordered in a lot of ways around similar ideas of status and prestige, I think that it may certainly be the case that for faculty, the experiences that they cite with how race has an impact on their work may certainly be more likely to include more structural processes as well as the more interpersonal ones, which was what I found with with actors in my study.
They cited that there were some cases when they had interpersonal experiences with race, racial discrimination. But as you mentioned, by and large, what stood out for them were the structural barriers that made it difficult to advance into and thrive in in medicine and in physician work in particular. I think it's not difficult to speculate that similar processes might be true for black faculty and certainly for black administrators in ways that I think might reflect different outcomes. If we're talking about black employees of a university who are in staff positions, particularly if they maybe a lower level staff positions that don't offer the same autonomy or status or ability to shape one's work environment.
That, I think, is certainly true for professors. So I think that there are likely some comparable outcomes that we would see between academia and the health care industry. Even though the study didn't focus on those fields, I think it's a I think it's safe to guess at least and hypothesize that the higher one is positioned in the organizational hierarchy. The more impact that may have on perceptions of racial discrimination in academia as well.
But that's a question for maybe a future graduate student to just study a little bit further and to see if my hypothesis is correct.
Tia Palermo: That's great. We're exploring ideas for future research here. Thank you. Can you say anything about the resistance to hiring more than one underrepresented minority in a department or what's sometimes termed as the ‘only one’ syndrome? Have you seen this played out?
Adia Harvey Wingfield: Fortunately, in my current department, that's not an issue that we have.
Like I said, we've worked hard to make sure that we do have a racially diverse department, both among our top ranks of faculty who are full professors, and that that continues throughout the department as well at the untenured ranks as well. But I will say that this experience of being the only one or organizations that seem to feel as though hiring one person at a high level ranking is sufficient and gets the job done is not only something that exists, but something that is inaccurate in terms of the ability to really diversify an organization or or a level of an organization.
Research indicates pretty clearly and conclusively that when workers are people of color or women. But when workers are white women or people of color and they are underrepresented in positions to the point where they are the only or one of very few at that organizational level, they’re are a lot more likely to be mistrustful of the organization's commitment to equity and equal opportunity. They are, if they are women, more likely to experience sexual harassment, they are more likely to consider leaving and they are less likely to be satisfied with their employment in that company.
So organizations in many cases may see this idea of this only hiring phenomena as progress. Right, that we've got one person in our C suite and we've done a great job because we've got one person at this executive level so we can brush up our hands and say we've found that diversity problem. But again, that's short sighted and it's not correct. And it comes with creating an environment where in the short term, you may be able to say that you have this one person filling this role, but that one person's experiences are likely more challenging than they would be if they had a cohort of a cohort experience of more robust representation. And if ultimately what that leads to is that person not producing as well as expected or that person looking for other opportunities or that person being disengaged from the organization. The organization is not really winning if they're not maximizing and making full use of that person's talents and opportunities.
Tia Palermo: That's a really great summary of how the challenges that the individuals can face, but also how those challenges can play out in adverse ways for the organization as well. What would your response be to people are departments who say we've tried to diversify our hiring, but qualified scholars of color either aren't accepting our offers or they have too many offers to choose from. They don't want to come here.
Adia Harvey Wingfield: Yeah, I would. One wants to know what exactly trying to diversify your hiring looks like. Does that mean making an offer to one person? And then when that one person. If and when that one person declines, not trying again, does it mean trying to hire someone that you know is already in demand from other places who has multiple other options and then saying, well, we made an effort, but this person just doesn't want to be here? These people don't want to be here. There not much more that we can do. Does it look like that?
If that's the case, I would not really find that to be such a compelling argument. I'll put it that way. Right. I mean, we know if we look at data that they're in most cases, research indicates are more candidates of color available for positions than there are actually positions. So given that mismatch, it's not that we see the glut on the supply side. Right. The issue is not that we see the narrowing on the supply side, more so on the demand side. And if that is the mismatch, then it strikes me that most departments, if they really have the will, if they really have the interest, if they really want to put the work into finding really strong candidates of color. This this is achievable. And I think that my department and the success that we've had indicates that this is achievable.
Right. But it may mean not simply going back to your networks of people that you already know and looking for candidates through them, it might mean looking for candidates through other networks that are specifically inclusive of and designed to include candidates of color. Right. It may mean reaching out to people and explicitly saying that you really want to have a racially diverse applicant pool and asking your connections and your networks to make sure that they mentioned that you have an available job and encouraging candidates of color that they may be advising to apply for this position on top of using the top of the accessing list serves and professional organizations and things like that that are made more that are more racially diverse.
Those might be critical steps that organizations have to take when it comes to hiring. But I believe that doing so really has implications for what the applicant pool looks like. I'll also say that taking those first steps should not be the sum total of what those efforts to racially diversify look like, looks like because if organizations take those early steps and build an early pool of candidates that are racially diverse, but then as we go through the whittling process, somehow it just happens that you happen to whittle out all the candidates of color.
You want to be a little bit more reflexive at that middle stage about what you're a long short list is looking like or what your fly out list is with like or whatever you want to term it. So I would say that I don't really think in this day and age when organizations or departments say that they've tried, but they are simply unable to to hire candidates of color. That makes me wonder what processes they are using to engage in hiring, because it makes me suspect that perhaps it's those processes that are returning a dearth of strong candidates of color, more so than a lack of strong candidates of color really being out there.
Tia Palermo: There's some really great recommendations in there about directly reaching out and, you know, exploring new networks and making sure that the early steps in the process are not just where it ends. So those are really great suggestions. Thank you. What advice do you have for departments? Probably some similar advice along those lines, but advice for departments who are aiming to diversify but perhaps can't do so as rapidly on the scale that your department did.
Adia Harvey Wingfield: So that's a great question. And one thing to acknowledge about our department is, like I said when I started, we were brand new we knew that we had to build we had support for from our administration for doing a lot of hiring in a short period of time because we, we had to. Right. And I obviously recognize that every department is not going to be in a position where they are granted 10 hires in the state of three years. I think most departments are not going to be in that position. Right. Again, that said, that does not necessarily mean that it's impossible to achieve these goals. Right. And the fact that our department had these hires didn't necessarily automatically translate into making sure that our hiring process would turn out to be racially diverse.
That didn't happen just because we had hires. That happened because as a department, we made an explicit, intentional commitment to making sure that that was the outcome and that that commitment was supported by administration. Had we not had that commitment and had administration not been supportive of it, we could have fairly, very easily not had a racially diverse department. I could have not written that article at all because there wouldn't have been anything to talk about. Right. So I say that to make the point that most departments are not going to be in a position where they're doing that much hiring that quickly.
However, I recognize that we're in a pretty difficult situation now for many universities where budgets are lean and positions may be cut, but knock on wood, eventually we've got to get to another side where universities and departments do begin hiring again. When we do get to that point, I think that any department is in a position where they can follow these steps. Think about how you are initially seeking candidates for open positions in your departments. Are you simply posting an ad on a list serve and waiting for people to come to you? Or are you actively trying to cast a wide net so that you can attract candidates of color to want to apply to your department once you are going through the applications that you have, are you doing so with an eye towards making sure that you are not somehow systematically weeding out candidates of color from those who make the initial applicant list to those who make the long shortlist?
Are you doing the same thing when it comes to your your fly out list, when you do bring in candidates, if you do bring in candidates of color, are you making sure that on the campus visit you are not creating an experience that is alienating? Are you making sure that they have access to or have a window into what their experience of campus life would look like were they to be hired?
And if you ask yourself that question and the answer is that the window of what campus life would look like for a candidate of color is campus life would be pretty bleak. That's a point. Some bigger issues that could be useful to reconcile. What would it take to make your university campus? One that is approachable and welcoming and inclusive of a variety of candidates of color if that's something that is a sticking point at that point, it's useful, I think, to have a bigger conversation to raise these bigger questions of how the university at large may want to change, to be a place that is more attuned to the importance and need for more racial diversity on campus.
Tia Palermo: Thank you for that. So we've been talking a lot about the hiring side. But let's flip it. And do you have any advice that mentors and advisors should give their underrepresented minority PhD students, when they're going on the job market in terms of finding an environment that's a good fit?
Adia Harvey Wingfield: That's a great question. Again, I think that it's useful to look at the experiences that faculty in a place already have a place. Right. So if you are a mentor or an adviser to a person of color who's going on the job market, I think it's useful to encourage them. And they may already be thinking this. But I think it's useful to encourage them to get a sense of what life in that department and in that university would be like if they are applying to departments where the department in question hasn't time tenured any faculty of color. Are they applying to a department where the department in question hasn't ever hired any faculty of color? Right. Those are things that are going to matter, and those are things that the faculty of color have to navigate when making employment decisions and weighing particular particular options.
So I would encourage mentors and advisors to make sure that they are assisting their advisees in doing the legwork of finding out what the general climate and experience for them is going to be like. You don't want, in my view, simply to say that you want to send someone to a top rate program in whatever field is being in that environment is going to be miserable for that person. And my view, that is simply not worth it. Other people may think differently and probably do think differently. But I think that that's not a fair trade off to ask junior faculty of color to make when they are looking for for employment.
So I think it's important for advisers to make sure that they take into consideration that advisers of color have a relatively unique experience and that they consider what the entirety of department and university life will be like for them as people of color in these settings, and to make sure that that is a factor that they weigh in determining whether to apply for positions and ultimately whether to accept some really great advice for advisors and PhD students on the market.
Tia Palermo: This has been really insightful. Is there anything else that you'd like to share with our listeners about the topics or related topics that we've been talking about?
Adia Harvey Wingfield: I believe I would just add that I think this is really a critical moment for universities right now for a lot of reasons. We are seeing the ongoing protests for more racial equity and an end to systemic racism in society right now.
We are at a point where the nation is becoming increasingly multiracial. Students of color are growing numbers of those who are attending universities. The numbers of faculty of color have not necessarily shifted in commensurate ways.
And this presents a real problem that I think universities need to devote some time and energy and effort into tackling that kind of mismatch. In my view, does not bode well for outcomes for students. But not only that, it doesn't necessarily bode well for universities as we move into continue to move into the 21st century and becoming a more racially, more multiracial society. I believe that universities will be largely better equipped to come to terms with those demographic changes if they actually reflect those demographic changes. So I think it's really critical to grapple with these questions of how best to do that in ways that make sure that both students and faculty are adequately represented and completely included in environments that have a long history of being very extensive and unwelcoming and alienating and hostile.
Tia Palermo: Adia, this has been so insightful and really a pleasure to speak with you. I really just want to thank you for sharing your insights with me and with our listeners here at SPHHP.
Adia Harvey Wingfield: It's been really great to talk to you. Thank you. Thank you for having me. I'm happy to do it.
Hello, and welcome to Buffalo Health cast, a podcast by students, faculty, and, staff of the University at Buffalo School of Public Health and Health Professions. We are your cohosts Tia Palermo, Jessica Kruger, and Schuyler Lawson.
Schuyler Lawson: In this podcast we cover topics related to health equity here in Buffalo, around the US and globally. In this first semester of the podcast we’re taking a deeper look at racism and health.
Jessica Kruger: We’ll be talking to experts around the US, as well as individuals here on campus, and in the Buffalo community who are working to remove inequities, and improve population health and well being. You’ll hear from practitioners, researchers, students and faculty from other universities, who have made positive changes to improve health equity and inclusion.
Welcome to the buffalo health cast. I'm your host today. Jessica Kruger, and I'm joined by one of our amazing three plus two students in the Department of Community health and health behavior tomorrow across tomorrow, will you tell us about yourself.
Temara Cross: Sure. So hi, everyone. My name is Tamara as she said, I'm currently in my first year of the CH HP program. I'm also pursuing a bachelor's and African American Studies, I was born and raised in Buffalo involved in several social action organizations in Buffalo, and my free time I my free time I say with air quotes I enjoy giving back to my community singing with the gospel choir at UB, going to church and also playing basketball. So that's a little about me.
Jessica Kruger: Fantastic. Well, thanks so much for joining us. I'm really interested in learning more about your internship that you're currently in with REACH buffalo. Could you tell us about your role in that internship and a little bit more about REACH?
Temara Cross: Sure, yeah. So REACH buffalo stands for racial and ethnic approaches to Community Health and this initiative was funded it is funded by the CDC. We're in year three now.
And the primary goal is to reduce chronic disease and in our target population. Our priority population which is our residents along of Ferry Street which is East Ferry and West Ferry and also we kind of like try to focus on five zip codes which is 14208, 14209, 14211, 14213 and, 14215.
Temara Cross: So that's our primary goal and we we make sure that we whatever programs that we implement we make sure that we have community voice. So we have community wellness champions.
And then just several people on the team just working together, but my specific role is a reach program intern assistant, intern, slash, Assistant. So I'm helping out on various projects are not just one focus area.
We have different focus areas, by the way, one is community clinical linkages and other one is nutrition and another one's tobacco. So yeah, we're Focus, focus on all of them. And we also received a supplemental grant this year because of covert, of course, but we're our main goal is to promote and educate the community about the flu vaccine and just making sure the community knows that they had the opportunity to take it and yeah so that's what I'm doing.
Jessica Kruger: Sounds like a really exciting project and group to be part of. Could you give us an example of maybe something specifically that you've worked on with the program?
Temara Cross: Sure, I'll talk about how I hit the ground running. So I started in August of this year and soon as I got my laptop. They were like alright so black breastfeeding week is coming up in two weeks. So we want to we want to start some programming, but we don't obviously we had restrictions because of Kobe. So we did stuff virtually so we are. We broadcasted chocolate milk, which is a documentary about black women who breastfeed.
We so we did that, we had like a discussion, like a forum about partners, how they feel when they're like when they're supporting mothers who breastfeed. And yeah, we just had like discussions about black mothers who breastfeed and how they felt about that. All virtual.
Jessica Kruger: Wow, sounds like a huge undertaking that you definitely rose to the challenge for. In your internship. What, what are the most valuable things that you feel like you've learned so far?
Temara Cross: That's a great question. So I would say the most valuable thing I've learned and that is being it like in practice, I would say, is like really actually appreciating community voice because we might have X amount of years in a community, we might live there, we might know someone who lives there. We might have been in the field for so long, but if you aren't living and going through certain things you really don't know how other people like perceive what you might think is the best for them so I've just really learned to appreciate community voice and really use that as like community assessment, you know, really taking that like not just checking off a box like okay we listened to the community, but we're still going to do XYZ know like really taking that into consideration that was something that I found really valuable and really helpful because again, they don't even have to be taking their time out to help us, you know, mitigate chronic diseases in that area, but they're still contributing and we appreciate them for it.
Jessica Kruger: And that's a really important part of public health that sometimes often, like you said, as a check mark right but we really, really need to think about who we're serving and how we serve them I I heard a quote “Not about us without us.” Right? And that has really stuck with me and how you work with the community and work with the community, not just for a community.
Temara Cross: Exactly.
Jessica Kruger: So thanks so much for telling us about your internship. But I want to know more about you. In particular, you have a really interesting background in some of the areas that you have studied. So you're a major in African American Studies and you minor in anthropology. Can you tell us a little bit about why you have chosen those and how they flow into your work in public health?
Temara Cross: Of course I'll start right back to 16 year old me junior year of high school, I knew I was going to be a teacher of some sort. Didn't know what but I was just going along at Hutch Tech. That's where I went to high school here in Buffalo.
And I we had majors in high school like certain concentrations. I was in biochemistry. And I was like, I don't know what I'm going to do, but I'm going to do something and it's going to be teaching and November comes around and my I find out my grandmother's really really sick. She had like kidney failure, and congestive heart failure. So I'm like, What is going on and I will before she lost a, you know she was able to speak with us anymore. I was asking her, you know, why can't you, why didn't you like take action sooner gramma. Why weren't you like talking with the doctors really doing what you had to do.
And I mean, she was obviously but um she really stress the fact that, you know, she was tired of seeing other doctors all like different doctors all the time because you know she had different different organ systems require different doctors right and so she was tired of seeing different doctors and then like when she she had to keep explaining her story to different doctors. So there's that. And then not seeing doctors who looked like her. And that was really the big thing that stuck with me.
Temara Cross: You know, in the, the distrust that we see in the medical industry. And that was just really like my first hand, like, Wow, this really exists so after she passed away. I was like, you know, is this really reoccurrence like in my community. Is this something like is it, is it just her or is it, you know, so as I'm like observing how like asking my community members asking my neighbors. So my family, my immediate family, you know, how do you guys feel about going to the doctor and they're like, we don't go there unless we absolutely have to. We don't go, we're not we're not speaking to these people, these, these people air quotes but again, that's when I realized, you know the best way I could serve my community, because I'm always very community oriented. But the best way I could was to serve in the health industry in the medical field. And so I decided that I would pursue medicine eventually and then launch a health facility in the side of Buffalo. So with that, it's kind of real it all in.
So I'm majoring an African American Studies, just to kind of gain more history like a historical point from like like get more of a historical like better understanding of why you know the why, because we're not learning that and that's another thing with we're not learning that in our general education courses we know it's like briefly talked about, but we're not learning about Tuskegee as much as we should be when I learned about Samuel Cartwright all these people who have used black bodies for the advancement of medicine.
We're not talking about that as much as we should be. So that's why I decided to major in African American Studies and then with an anthropology, um, I just kind of wanted to pick something up to learn more about why people do what they do, as far as culture. I know.
Like my, my, like, I've, I've had the opportunity to go to like a more diverse high school, so I was exposed to, you know, different cultures, but not really understanding why people do what they do, like how cultures are formed and things like that. So that's why I decided to just minor an anthropology, you know, get the best of my money's worth.
Jessica Kruger: And such a moving story that how you took a very traumatic event in your life and turning it into something positive. I'm right there with you. I also have a minor in anthropology for my undergrad and I think it's pivotal to begin to understand the perspectives of others and how that's created and You know, you bring up a really good point about the culture, the historical relevance of events that we really need to integrate into our curriculum. And think about, you know, we can't move forward. If we don't understand the injustices that have occurred in the past. Do you have any advice of of how we can begin to make some of those changes?
Temara Cross: Man, you know, I'm not going to speak too too much, you know. Can't let all can't spill the tea. But I'll say Black Council is in the works of really redeveloping and redesigning the undergraduate curriculum, just to kind of expose people to have a course where not only, of course, but also, like, make sure this is a design where it's throughout all courses but really understanding how to be anti racist because I know from personal experience, a lot of my friends from like Williams were Orchard Park, like they have never had to have those experiences and they have never had to have those conversations. So coming to you. Be I we as Black Council and also personally, we believe that it's, it should be up should be held accountable to provide courses like that and be able to input that into correct themselves required for students. Not so. Oh, I'm going to check this box for diversity because I took a class and diversity.
And it's not it's not like that. It's a you really have to be. You don't have to experience it, but you have to have training of some sort, and you really need to be exposed to it, how to be anti racist because being complacent is just as bad as being racist.
Jessica Kruger: Wow, that's, that's a really important point that you're making. Right. It's not just one class that changes you, right, it's it's being open to continually learning being open to hearing diverse voices and viewpoints. And being uncomfortable. Right. Some of this can be very uncomfortable to learn about especially. We know that in the history books that you're taught through school. It's from a very white lens. And so how can we begin to change that. And I think you've come up with some really great idea. So tell us more about the the Black Student Council.
Temara Cross: Right, so I actually saw, I saw that you look for it on UBLinked yet, and we're not on UBLinked yet. I don't know what we're doing, but, where you see the Black Council is a coalition, I would say not coalition, but it's comprised of all the black organizations that you be so we have Black Student Union a Caribbean Student Association African Student Association, UB gospel choir representative of that organization.
So many of us, but um so we came together. It all started back in 2019 February, where there was a town hall meeting, just as we were really upset about the budget cuts to or to organizations that really aim to ensure black student success. So like Educational Opportunity Program C-Step, and there's a town hall and we had a rally. And we were like, You know what, since all of us think alike. Why don't we just come together because, you know, we have all these different black organizations, but we all feel the same way. So we came together and wrote a couple proposals wrote a couple demands and you know we just hit the ground running from there and you know as people graduate as people and move on. And, you know, start adulting we have to like pass the torch and stuff.
So our main goal right now is just kind of sustainability of the Council and just making sure that we continue to increase the momentum and push the administration at UB just making sure that we keep that going. Despite having online classes in these unprecedented times, you know, it's really hard for us to come together.
But when we do, we're trying to make sure we you know, really hit the ground running in hold up accountable for ensuring black student success, but a few of the things I'll just mention.
So one of the things we are really looking forward to making sure we work to increase the minority admission or acceptance rate. And one thing that resonated with me when I read that demand was how so I serve on this as counsel I you'd be the scholarship you be which we just ensured the students at say at UB who received scholarship or us as students so they don't have to get the scholarship, but they graduated from a buffalo public charter school. So our goal is just to make sure that they have the resources they need at UB and one thing I learned was that the emissions that you'd be goes to certain high schools. They don't go to all the high schools in Buffalo.
And like, looking back like it. This is why like sometimes I just wish I knew all these things when I when I was in high school, but you know, you learn as you grow, and as you get older, but they only go to like Hutch Tech the high performing high schools City Honors, Da Vinci.
And it just goes to show you know not like they're not the students in the other high schools aren't even given the opportunity of exploring what's out there of not not just the other local colleges, you know, so it's really because this is like, you know, the university and for them.
Not to do that is alone is really like systematic. It's really a systematic and it's really something we wanted to address because the, the population of black students at UB is so small proportion is so small. So we want to just hold you be accountable, such that they really strategically seek out other students of color for to be a, you know, have the opportunity to obtain a degree there.
And yeah, we'll also, you know, we're also looking at increasing black faculty. We know that
while black faculty are recruited and, you know, they come along. A lot of times they leave because of the climate of the institution. So that's one thing that we feel like they should address
again, another thing I'll mention is like the curriculum development really making sure that it's not just one class that addresses racism and discrimination but it’s implemented throughout all fields, especially STEM fields. We have one of our members, she shared a really touching story about, you know, she came in and her advisors really discouraged her we're discouraging her from taking African American Studies courses because you know it's not you don't have space for that and all attest to that because I came in as biomedical sciences.
And it was a really rigid curriculum. I couldn't take what I wanted to take so so those are just a few of the things that we want to address you know we have we fought we're finding out as we go along that a lot of people think the same way we do so.
There's power in numbers, as we know, democracy, so we're just working together working, finding the connections, where we can but we all, we always need support. So if there's any students up there any organizations that want to get involved. Black students you can hit us up on Instagram, Twitter UB black council. I'm just like, promoting here.
UB Black Council you can hit us up and find out ways you can get involved. But yeah, we're just trying to really hold you be accountable to, especially given the climate now. And I always say this and I'll continue to see it. It's it's unfortunate that it took the death of a man for the country to realize how oppressive black people have been for over 400 years but it's time. And, um, yeah. With that, I'll, I'll stop. I'll get off my soapbox but yeah that's that's what we're doing. So, yeah.
Jessica Kruger: Well, it sounds like you're using a lot of your public health skills to, you know, organize and break down some of these systems, it's it's really powerful to hear how much you're doing as a student. You want to kind of tell us a little bit about how your work with the Black Student Council relates to your, your overall public health, you know, lens or how you kind of view things?
Temara Cross: Oh yes, I'll just say like, I don't know, every week going through at least with I don't, even an undergrad, like every week. I'm just finding how public health is my life. I won't speak for anyone else but like how public health is every day is something and I'm just like, it was a couple. I think it was last week we learned about negotiation in our one of our leadership courses in the in the CHP program and I was like, this is really like applicable to my life, it’s not just public health and they say they gave us examples of how negotiation is using public health, you know, I'm negotiating with a state about like funding for vaccines, stuff like that. And I'm like, Well, you know, we have to negotiate on a daily basis. So it's not just
From a public health lens and I'll say my internship with REACH is so it's like I'm literally taking what I learned in the class. I know this is like the purpose, but it's like I'm scooping what I learned in the class and putting it right in the internship and it's like it's like vice versa. Like I'm taking what I learned the internship and really applying it with the coursework and it's so I'm so grateful. Like I'll shout out to Heather Orom for really cheap. She was the one that emailed me was like this is for you. So, um, I thank her for that.
But yeah, it's really just so applicable and I'll just go back to the black Council on like the negotiation. That's just one primary example like really negotiating such that, you know, administration. I'm grateful for what, you know, you'd be administration has done thus far.
For some things I'll say, but, um, you know, that's a long way to go. But again, it has to be negotiation, it has to be communication consistent discussions and yes, so that's just one thing that I've learned like primarily in my program that I was able to like directly apply, but there's so so much so much
Jessica Kruger: It's so great to hear, it sounds like you're really taking what you learned and applying it exactly as you know an internship is is planned and I love how you can really translate this into multiple areas of your life, not just your internship or your professional career, but also how this you're taking some problems that are very apparent of the university and using those skills and knowledge to make some of that change. So bravo to you!
Temara Cross: Thank you.
Jessica Kruger: Tell me what's next.
Temara Cross: Oh, man. You know what's crazy is I have all these post it notes on my wall. And I said, I never put any posting notice so disorganized, but every idea that pops in my head. I just put it on my wall and I've eventually I want to go to med school. And I was like, do I take a gap year do I, what do I do because this semester alone was really like, how can I study for the. I was like, what, how can I study for the MCAT, With all this going on?
But I was thinking, okay, maybe I'll take my break considering we have an extended break take my break to study for them cat. So I guess. Next, aside from, you know, actually, finishing my master's program. I'll be starting to look at med schools and I don't want to leave buffalo, but you know, I'm a homebody but you know exploring other options. I'll say. So that's what I'll be doing. I'm just chugging along with my Social Action organizations open buffalo. Buffalo transit writers united, you know, and obviously being a student, too. But yeah, really, just chugging along but also taking days to myself. Like I said, I'll be eating a lot tomorrow with thanksgiving. I'll be eating so much but yeah, making sure my cup is full. I'll say that. That's my primary next step is making sure that my cup is full. So I can do what I want to do and give back to others.
Jessica Kruger: And still care is so important in our field. Well, I can't wait to see all that you accomplish in your program. So thank you so much for being a guest on Buffalo HealthCast today.
I'm sure all of our listeners have learned so much about reach, but also some opportunities in which we can make change and support students and making change.
Temara Cross: Of course, of course. And if you guys have any questions feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org find me on Facebook, I post memes mainly, keeps me sane.
Jessica Kruger: With the contact information in our show notes. Thanks so much for tuning in.
Temara Cross: Of course.
Schuyler Lawson: This has been another episode of Buffalo Health Cast, tune in next time to hear more about health equity in Buffalo, the US and, around the globe.
Born and raised on the east side of Buffalo, New York, Temara is a first-year graduate student at the University at Buffalo, majoring in African-American Studies and pursuing a BS/MPH in Public Health, concentrating in Community Health and Health Behavior. She is involved with organizations such as Say Yes Buffalo and Open Buffalo, actively working to achieve educational, socioeconomic, and racial equality.
March 25, 2021
Reverend George Nicholas is an active member of the Concerned Clergy and co-convener of the African-American Health Equity Task Force.
February 25, 2021