Category: Children's Health, Health Magazine

Title:Health equity expert named RJI co-director

Author: Bill Cessato with Camille Scarborough
Date Published: November 8, 2021
In addition to his administrative appointment at the institute, Griffith will have a primary appointment as a professor with tenure in the NHS Department of Health Systems Administration. He will have a secondary appointment in the Department of Oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center.
In addition to his administrative appointment at the institute, Griffith will have a primary appointment as a tenured professor in the NHS Department of Health Systems Administration and a secondary appointment in the Department of Oncology at Georgetown Lombardi Comprehensive Cancer Center. Photo: Phil Humnicky

Derek M. Griffith, PhD, joined Georgetown University School of Nursing & Health Studies in July 2021 and will serve as founding co-director of the university’s new Racial Justice Institute (RJI). A university-wide effort across the law, main, and medical campuses, RJI is a leading-edge, multidisciplinary research and outreach organization.

Griffith will use his expertise in the fields of psychology and public health to promote health equity through the lens of ethnicity, gender, and race.

Within RJI, he also will carry the title of founder and director of the Center for Research on Men’s Health Equity.

Griffith says Georgetown’s strong institutional commitment is what attracted him to the directorship role.

“If you look across the country and, frankly, across the globe, there are very few university-level entities that explicitly focus on race and justice, and that are seeking to intervene at the intersection of the two,” says Griffith.

“I’m very interested in the factors that contribute to health inequities as well as how we actually achieve health equity,” he notes. “We’re trying to intervene to improve lives, not just study why it is bad and how bad it is.”

Griffith has focused his work—particularly in cancer and heart disease—on analyzing poor health outcomes among men, describing variations based upon race and ethnicity, and proposing multilevel intervention strategies.

“There’s a very strong focus on women’s health and breast cancer, particularly community-based approaches to Black women’s health, within the cancer center,” he says. “What I hopefully will be able to bring is a complementary focus on men’s health, particularly Black men’s health.”

Griffith says that he is looking forward to helping students form a strong knowledge base in psychology and public health, as well as working with RJI colleagues to create conversation and change regarding racism and justice.

“If we think about racism as a system that is consistently disadvantageous to some groups and advantageous to others, we need to look at culture, policy, and law and how they intersect with health and well-being,” says Griffith.

“You have to set your sights high,” he adds. “We are aspiring for this to be a global model for research, policy, and interventions to promote racial justice and racial equity.”


About the Racial Justice Institute

In February 2021, Georgetown launched the Racial Justice Institute as part of a commitment, made in 2016, to use research and scholarship to transform the systems and institutions that perpetuate inequities in health, wealth, and opportunity.

It will serve as a place to seed and inspire the next generation of scholars and leaders addressing the vestiges of enslavement and well-being of Black, Indigenous, and people of color.

Health and society scholar Derek Griffith will be joined by legal scholar Robin Lenhardt and performing arts scholar Anita Gonzalez as institute leaders. They will soon add a fourth faculty member from the McCourt School of Public Policy.

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