Unity of Purpose
By Mario C. Browne
Director, Office of Health Sciences Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Schools of the Health Sciences
Newsletter Editor

So many thoughts, so little time… As they say in certain social media circles, ‘this is my current situation’. Nevertheless, as we move towards the end of this, the first month of 2021. As we embark on a new beginning birthed by a movement that has sparked unprecedented change in national and state-level government. As we continue to war against a deadly virus that has taken more lives and caused more suffering then any of us want to imagine or accept, I am inspired by the words of a 22-year-old poet laureate by the name of Amanda Gorman in her poem titled; ‘The Hill We Climb’ delivered at the Presidential Inauguration –“That even as we grieved, we grew: that even as we hurt, we hoped, that as we tired we tried..” Her words motivate me as they should all of us in that WE need each other to survive and thrive. It is our diversity that is our strength, and that unity does not mean uniformity, but that we must be united in purpose and do our share of the heavy lifting when times are toughest.
As we head into February and prepare to celebrate Black History Month, two principles rooted in the African and African-American traditions come to mind. The first is Ujima (pronounced oo-JEE-mah). It is the third principle of Kwanzaa and means “collective work and responsibility”. The second principle is Sankofa, a word in the Akan Twi and Fante languages of Ghana that translates to "Go back and get it" and also refers to the Bono Adinkra symbol represented either with a stylized heart shape or by a bird with its head turned backward while its feet face forward carrying a precious egg in its mouth. The literal translation of the word Sankofa is “it is not taboo to fetch what is at risk of being left behind.”
Beloved, we all must do our share in the spirit of unity of purpose – solidarity if you will – to forge ahead as we collectively create “a more perfect union”, never forgetting the lessons and hard-won battles of the past, but always moving forward as the Sankofa. I leave you with another quote from Ms. Gorman who admonished us to “not focus our gaze on what stands between us but what stands before us.” We are comforted as this supernova assures us, ”there is always light if we are brave enough to see it if we are brave enough to be it.”

Dear Colleagues, Students, and Friends,

Welcome to the 2020-2021 spring semester here at the University of Pittsburgh. 2020 brought many challenges including repeatedly throwing racial inequities in our country into stark relief. The University of Pittsburgh has crafted a multifaceted plan to combat racism and improve conditions on our campus for Black students. 

Part of that plan is to diversify the faculty by launching a “cluster hire” initiative. Cluster hiring is the process of hiring new employees in groups rather than individually. The goal is to create a community of new scholars working on common or complementary areas. 

The Health Sciences has mounted (in parallel to the Office of the Provost’s effort) a Race and Social Determinants of Equity, Health, and Well-Being Cluster Hire Initiative. The goal of the Health Sciences effort is to add 25 faculty working in this area over the next four years. 

We are looking forward to identifying, recruiting, and, above all, retaining the scholars who will join us under this banner!

- Paula K. Davis, Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity. and Inclusion Schools of the Health Sciences
HS Story
By Karla Perelstine, Student Editor

In this edition of the OHSD newsletter, we spotlight the “Journey to Medicine Academic Mentorship Program”. This program, sponsored by the Gateway Medical Society in Pittsburgh and funded by the Heinz endowments, was founded in 2009 under the direction of Dr. William Simmons, past president and chairman of Gateway’s board and currently diversity director at the University of Pittsburgh Department of Anesthesiology and Perioperative Medicine and associate professor in the School of Medicine. 
The Office of Health Sciences Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion would like to extend a warm welcome to Dr. Maureen Lichtveld, dean of the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health. Dr. Lichtveld comes to the University of Pittsburgh from Tulane University, where she served as the director of the Center for Gulf Coast Environmental Health Research, Leadership, and Strategic Initiatives within the School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine. She has nearly 40 years of experience in environmental public health. Her research centers on environmentally induced disease, health disparities, environmental health policy, disaster preparedness, public health systems, and community resilience. Dr. Lichtveld assumed her new position on January 1, 2021, replacing Dr. Everette James, who was serving as interim dean, following Dr. Donald Burke’s 13-year tenure in the role.
Rory Cooper, founding director of Pitt’s Human Engineering Research Laboratories and Distinguished Professor in the Department of Rehabilitation Science and Technology in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, has been appointed the University’s inaugural assistant vice chancellor for Research for STEM-health sciences collaborations. We wish him success in his new position.
Jongbae Kim, Ph.D., adjunct professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences (SHRS) has been honored with the Distinguished Alumni Award for outstanding SHRS alumni in recognition of his academic, professional, and humanitarian accomplishments. Dr. Kim currently serves as director of Yonsei Enabling Science and Technology Research Center (YESTEC ) and chief instructor of the Graduate Program of Enabling Technology at Yonsei University in Seoul, Korea. Kim has used his personal experiences living with a spinal cord injury for 35 years to help develop solutions for improving educational, vocational and quality of life aids and services for future generations of people with spinal cord injuries and other disabilities.
Congratulations to Anand Mhatre, Ph.D., assistant professor in the School of Rehabilitation Sciences for obtaining a $350K grant by the Indo-U.S. Science and Technology Forum (IUSSTF) for the design and technology transfer of a postural support wheelchair for children with disabilities
African American Health Science Pioneers
Marilyn Hughes Gaston, M.D.

First Black Woman to direct a public health services bureau                      
January 17 - World Religion Day
January 18 - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.'s Birthday
January 25 - Lunar New Year - Spring Festival - Chinese New Year
January 27 - UN Holocaust Memorial Day “Facing the Aftermath: Recovery and Reconstitution after the Holocaust”
January 28 - Mahayana New Year
Black History Month "The Black Family: Representation, Identity, and Diversity"

February 20 - World Day of Social Justice
February 21 - Washington's Birthday
Healthcare Provider Training on LGBTQIA+ Health - An Introductory Module

The Department of Professional Development and Continuing Nursing Education at the University of Pittsburgh introduces a new self-paced module that provides a brief introduction about best practices in LGBTQIA+ health. The course speaks to the specific needs of this population to increase knowledge, promote positive attitudes and improve the clinical preparedness of professional nurses.
A principal concern for the general public is now that we have the vaccine, what about its availability? Over the holiday break, our own, Dr. Noble Maseru, authored an article addressing that concern, "What Vaccine Distributive Justice Means for Black Residents and Other Communities in Allegheny County". At the time of the commentary's release, a little more than 16 million Americans were infected (cases). As of January 14th, more than 23 million are reported infected and 383,000 people have died. In Pittsburgh's Allegheny County there are 63,000 cases and nearly 1,300 deaths.

We are hopeful that there will be an effective and equitable provision of the vaccine for Allegheny County residents. Dr. Maseru’s appeal offers recommendations in this regard.  
Black Mental Health Matters: A two-part Webinar Series in honor of National Black History Month

PART I: Thursday, February 11, 2021 2:30 to 4 p.m
PART II: Thursday, February 25, 2021 from 2:30 - 4 PM
2021 Engaging Humanities in Health
Cross-disciplinary Conference

April 9 - 10, 2021

Abstracts deadline: January 31, 2021
Notification of acceptance: February 20, 2021

For additional information, please contact HinH@pitt.edu