Greetings from the Associate Vice-Chancellor

Paula K. Davis 
Associate Vice Chancellor
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Schools of the Health Sciences

We usher in Black History Month in challenging times; challenging in that we continue to struggle with the repercussions of the persistent COVID-19 pandemic which has compounded disparate health experiences among US citizens. Our country has now experienced 72.2 million COVID cases and 871,000 deaths; 871,000 citizens lost to their families, employers, and neighborhoods; 871,000 citizens whose contributions to our nation have been lost. The CDC reports BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) citizens die of COVID at 1-2x the rate of their white counterparts. The friends, family, neighbors and colleagues who have died, regardless of skill or talent, are lost to us. 

In the face of it all, I applaud our colleagues in the lab, the clinic and the community who are working for COVID prevention, treatment, and education. I applaud our colleagues who are critical players in the Black Equity Coalition (BEC). Using county-level data, BEC researchers documented and publicized a racial gap in the COVID experience in the Pittsburgh area. They found Black residents of Allegheny County were disproportionately hospitalized and were more likely to end up in the ICU or on a ventilator. These colleagues, including Drs. Tiffany Gary-Webb, Noble A-W Maseru, Tracey Conti and Dara D. Mendez, along with community partners, use data to tell the important stories of community impact and advocate for health equity. So this month, while recognizing the contributions of those who have gone before, I pause to recognize those who fight in the here and now. Because of them, others may yet have a chance to make history.
Speaking of making history, Lisa Upsher has joined the Office of Health Sciences Diversity, Equity and Inclusion as director. Lisa comes to the University after leading DEI efforts at CORE, the Center for Organ Recovery and Education. Lisa was instrumental in having CORE declared a site of the Minority Organ Tissue Transplant Education Program (MOTTEP), promoting positive health behaviors through public education by focusing on diseases and behaviors that lead to the need for transplantation in minoritized communities. Lisa’s work included outreach to the community, clergy and campus. Join us in welcoming Lisa to the Health Sciences.
And finally (really, finally) take a moment to scan HSDEI’s 2020-21 Annual Report which has been added to our website at
Celebrating Black History Month 2022
"I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings" is a powerful poem by Maya Angelou (1983), the renowned US poet and civil rights activist who died in 2014. This poetry is famous for its intimate description of freedom, and for the role of personal voice as a true element of it (Caredda, 2020).

The poem describes the opposing experiences between two birds: one bird is able to live in nature as it pleases, while a different caged, bird suffers in captivity. Due to its profound suffering, the caged bird sings, both to cope with its circumstances and to express its own longing for freedom (Yarnell, 2019).

As we celebrate Black History Month, the Office of Health Sciences Diversity, Equity & Inclusion (OHSDEI) honor the achievements of Black Americans while recognizing their roles in history. We pay tribute to the contribution of those that sacrificed their lives and so much more, that we may have freedom, justice, equality, and a better future.

Now more than ever, as we face continued challenges from the global pandemic, systemic racism, and healthcare disparities, we must embrace historical achievements and perseverance, while continuing to fight for inclusion for all.

I’ve barely been here a month and truly feel immersed into the great partnerships that empower OHSDEI. My focus is to continue to build innovative programming to help students, faculty, staff and engaging the community. HAIL to PITT!


Lisa Upsher, MSOL, Director
Office of Health Sciences,
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion
Caredda, S (2020, December). I know why the caged bird sings – A poem by Maya Angelou.Sergio. Caredda: Insights on Work, Organisation Design, Experience, Leadership and Change

Yarnall, L. (2022, February). Caged bird. summary and analysis. LitCharts,its%20own%20longing%20for%20freedom.

Join us in programmatic and enrichment activities bringing shared experiences, community voice, and the development of skill building | trainings related to diversity, equity, inclusion, antiracism and social justice. Rooted in improving the health and wellbeing of underserved and oppressed individuals and communities, our Programs and Initiatives lean into opportunities to learn, unlearn and relearn. For additional information, please contact Bee Schindler, LMSW at
Bee Schindler, LMSW
Diversity and Inclusion Training Manager
HS Story
Welcome the new Cluster Hire Faculty in the School of Dental Medicine

By Karla Perelstine, M.Ed.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Dental Medicine combines efforts with the Office of Health Sciences Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Office of the Provost in its commitment to improve recruitment, retention, development, and support of a more diverse environment. Over the past three months, the school has kept to this commitment by hiring five new faculty members through the Race and Social Determinants of Equity, Health and Well-being Cluster Initiative. You can find out more about these faculty members' diverse pathways into the School of Dental Medicine HERE
AL DÍA, a multi-platform News Media organization that is focused on documenting experiences of Latino individuals in the United States, has named three University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine professors as "2022 Top Doctors". These three individuals, Dr. Alda Maria R. Gonzaga, Dr. Gysella B. Muniz Pujalt, and Dr. Diego G. Chaves-Gnecco are the epitome of excellence and diversity in the medical profession.
Dr. Alaina James, School of Medicine, Department of Dermatology, and Dr. Jennifer White, School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Department of Occupational Therapy have received the Office of the Provost's Award for Diversity in the Curriculum for their exceptional effort in incorporating equity and inclusion into existing courses and curricula. Dr. James has been recognized for reformatting the dermatology course “Skin and Musculoskeletal Disease” to include a skin color gradient of images with white, brown and black skin colors while Dr. White challenged students across five courses to be inclusive of the diverse spectrum of people they will be serving in the future.
Black History Month (Black Health and Wellness)

February 1 - 7 - African Heritage and Health Week
February 1 - National Freedom Day >>
February 7 - National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
February 20 - United Nations World Day for Social Justice
Developmental Disabilities Awareness Month
Ethnic Equality Month
Gender Equality Month
Women's History Month (Women Providing Healing, Promoting Hope)
Deaf History Month (March 13 - April 15)
March 1 - Zero Discrimination Day (Zero Discrimination Against Women and Girls)
March 1 - Mahashivaratri >>
March 8 - International Women's Day (Gender Equality Today for a Sustainable Tomorrow)
March 10 - National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
March 19 - Certified Nurses Day
March 20 - National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
March 21 - International Day for the Elimination of Racial Discrimination
March 26 - Khordad Sal >>
March 30 - Doctors' Day
February 21 - Global Health Day >>

March 8, 21 - Painless PubMed >>

The Schools of Health Sciences offer information sessions that introduce prospective students to the different academic programs that each school offers.
The Universitity of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, under the direction of Annette DeVito Dabbs, PhD, RN, ACNS-BC, FAAN, has created the Equity Design Thinking Educational Series and Pitt Equity Design Thinking webpage which introduces learners to design justice, an approach that addresses how technology can be designed to dismantle structural inequality.
Pitt+ Me is currently recruiting research participants for the Adult Booster Dose Study and the Pediatric Moderna Study.
This NPR article outlines the findings of the Black Equity Coalition, a grassroots team of researchers and advocates concerned about addressing COVID-19 in vulnerable populations. 
Dr. John Gallagher
Since 2020, John Gallagher, DNP, RN, RRT, professor, at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing, has been a member of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) COVID-19 Guidelines Panel put forward by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses. As the only nurse in the country on this committee, he helped to create COVID-19 treatment guidelines for front-line workers. His work has been commended by Dr. Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), and Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
Congratulations to Jonna L. Morris, PHD, RN, Assistant Professor Health & Community Systems, School of Nursing and Judith A. Shovel, BSN, RN, School of Nursing Alumna on being recognized by the Pittsburgh Magazine 2021 Excellence in Nursing program as Pandemic Response Heroes..