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Yale School of Public Health Town Hall Focuses on Diversity, Inclusion and Social Justice

June 25, 2020

More than 120 members of the Yale School of Public Health community participated in a virtual town hall this week to discuss ideas about how the school can better address diversity, inclusion and social justice moving forward.

“In light of the brutal police murders of Black people at the hands of police and the disproportionate effect COVID-19 is having on communities of color, it is important that we come together to recommit ourselves – both individually and as a school – to being anti-racist and living up to our values of diversity, equity, and social justice,” event moderator Mayur M. Desai, M.P.H.’94, Ph.D.’97, associate dean for diversity, equity and inclusion and associate professor in the Department of Chronic Disease Epidemiology said as the town hall got underway.

Participants – including students, faculty, staff, and representatives from the Association of Yale Alumni in Public Health – gathered in breakout groups organized around the topics of increasing diversity and inclusion among students, faculty, and staff; policing at Yale and in the greater New Haven community; and evolving the YSPH curriculum and classroom environment to be more anti-racist and inclusive.

Suggestions raised during Tuesday’s 90-minute session included exploring opportunities to develop and strengthen pipelines for recruiting high school students and undergraduates of color into the field of public health; incorporating more diverse voices in course content and increasing scholarships.

“This was tremendously helpful,” Desai said as the event concluded. “I really appreciate all of us coming together to discuss these issues. This lays the foundation for developing and prioritizing action items that the school will take in the short-, medium-, and longer-term going forward.”

Melinda Pettigrew, Ph.D.’99, senior associate dean of academic affairs and professor of epidemiology (microbial diseases) said discussion of social justice, systemic racism and health inequities should be incorporated throughout the entire curriculum.

“As a school, we need to help faculty navigate these important and difficult discussions,” Pettigrew said.

As for next steps, Desai said feedback from the town hall discussion will be incorporated into the school’s diversity, equity and inclusion action plan. Dean Sten Vermund said he will discuss the town hall recommendations when he meets with Yale’s president and provost in August.

The Yale School of Public Health is currently conducting a campaign to raise money for more scholarships. Through June 30, 2020, any donation to the school’s Alumni Fund, no matter the amount, will be matched by a $250 donation from three members of the YSPH Leadership Council. One hundred percent of the Alumni Fund is put toward scholarships. For more information on giving, please visit the Alumni Fund website.

Submitted by Sayuri Gavaskar on June 25, 2020