Category: Georgetown Magazine, Spring 2023

Title:Deans discuss health disparities at Black Alumni Summit

Author: Bhriana Smith
Date Published: April 14, 2023
four people stand next to each other with the word "Black Alumni Summit" behind them
President DeGioia, Dean Jones, Dean Waite, Dean King. Photo: Leslie E. Kossoff

What changes are needed to address racism in medicine and health care? On October 21, 2022, during the 2022 Black Alumni Summit—the biennial celebration of the professional and personal achievements of Georgetown’s Black alumni community—Georgetown convened a panel to discuss this important topic.

President John J. DeGioia led the discussion on The Future of Health and Medicine on the Hilltop with three of Georgetown’s deans: Christopher J. King, dean of the School of Health; Roberta Waite, dean of the School of Nursing; and Lee Jones, dean for medical education.

Alongside other diversity efforts at Georgetown, the deans are working to foster an inclusive environment in health and medicine studies.

The first step begins in the classroom. Antiracism curricula are vital tools that can be used to change medical care today and health services tomorrow. Dean Jones shared how the School of Medicine has worked to challenge racism in medicine by diversifying the pool of simulated patients and the case studies that prepare students for their clinical experiences. Moreover, a new bias reporting system allows medical students to anonymously report concerning material they’ve uncovered in a textbook or course.

Incorporating context into the curriculum is just the beginning. During the discussion, the deans explained the importance of teaching students the myriad ways health is shaped by historical discrimination, ongoing stereotypes, and societal living conditions today.

people talk to each other at a party
Attendees at the Black Alumni Summit took advantage of panel discussions, networking, and camaraderie. Photo: Leslie E. Kossoff

Dean Waite emphasized the need to explore the role of racism, rather than race, in health disparities.

“There might be a higher predisposition for hypertension [among Black patients] because of stress, lack of resources, food choices, and other structural impediments,” Waite said. “It’s not just because the people who are racialized as Black in these studies have high blood pressure.”

All three deans have a commitment to diversity and a collective agenda to educate the next generation of leaders to be forward-thinking doctors, nurses, and health advocates.

“What’s going to distinguish [Georgetown’s School of Health] is our commitment to health equity and anti-racism,” said Dean King. “It will be embedded in everything that we do, because this is key to eradicating health disparities and improving the health of the nation and improving the health of the globe.”

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