Reflexive Contemplation and Resistance
By Mario C. Browne
Director, Office of Health Sciences Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion
Schools of the Health Sciences
Newsletter Editor

I have been pondering what to pen for this edition of the Health Sciences Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Newsletter. What I have been experiencing over the past couple of weeks, perhaps longer than that if I am completely honest, is what some may call an out-of-body experience, an experience in which I am hovering over my life, witnessing the world I am in, and feeling a certain disconnect to things that are occurring around me. After some serious contemplation, I now realize that what I was experiencing was not out of the body but a real attempt at quieting and stilling myself enough to take note of my feelings and thoughts in the midst of all that is happening around me.

What I have been doing, whether intentionally or out of sheer desperation and a desire to live, is engaging in an in-body-experience. I have been actively taking my life back, piece by piece from a world that seeks to devour and consume me. Now, this is the part where one might begin a list of external life realities that are the culprit to this consumption. Suffice it to say that I will bet right about here is where most reading this are nodding their heads in knowing agreement without me even stating the things of which I speak. However, I am keenly aware that by giving more attention to my internal self and voice is an act of resistance. Yes, resistance. The Oxford dictionary defines resistance, in part, as “the refusal to accept or comply with something…”, and “the ability to not to be affected by something, especially adversely”.

In the last edition of our newsletter, I introduced syndemics and encouraged everyone to watch a colleague share her thoughts. I surface the issue again because there are many things beyond our control to ‘fix’ the multiple societal problems we are experiencing these days. Our natural inclination is to DO more. It seems at times that the more we do the deeper we go down the rabbit hole. My lesson learned over this past couple of weeks of being still enough to listen to my inner self is this: Be Still and Listen… Be Still… BE!

I want to admonish every one of us to be mindful and start the healing with the one thing we can control – ourselves. Be mindful of what you are doing and why you are doing it. Are you scheduling or accepting back-to-back-to-back Zoom meetings, with no time in between, for example? (Yep, I am guilty.) Ask yourself, “why”? What is my motivation and how does this affect my well-being and those around me? This is what many call mindfulness; to be fully aware in the moment of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surroundings. One of our colleagues, Dr. Adriana Vieira, assistant dean for diversity, inclusion, & social justice in the School of Dental Medicine and I have been talking about beginning a health sciences-wide meditation and mindfulness initiative as a collective act of resistance. Stay tuned!

In the meantime, as has been my practice since doing these editor’s notes, I want to leave you with some ‘homework’ I think is relevant to our work and our wellbeing. Please take a look at the following article on Mindfulness and stress-related health disparities:

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

The Office of Health Sciences Diversity has been rebranded as the Office of Health Sciences Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Why equity? An equity lens requires that we look at our policies and processes, as well as the education we provide and the way we provide it, ensuring that no one is left out or disadvantaged and that all groups receive according to their needs. Why inclusion? An inclusion lens requires that we create community and create a campus where all constituents feel that they are included, and they belong.

This approach asks us as members of the Health Sciences community to assess where we are and to take steps to repair where we find inequities or realize that members of our community feel unheard or dishonored. It opens the door to dialog such that we create space for conversations allowing an exchange of ideas and positions.

Admittedly, the current pandemic presents challenges. It is much more difficult to have a heartfelt conversation over Zoom than it is to have that same interaction face to face. Nevertheless, it is critical that we begin to have discussions that will allow for a broadening of understanding.

Health Sciences Diversity, Equity and Inclusion is “staffing up” and working on programming to help our units meet this need. Our name has changed, and we continue the work of bringing diversity to the health professions, ensuring that all feel welcome and that all will be treated according to their needs. 

“Equality of opportunity is not enough. Unless we create an environment where everyone is guaranteed some minimum capabilities through some guarantee of minimum income, education, and healthcare, we cannot say that we have fair competition. When some people have to run a 100 metre race with sandbags on their legs, the fact that no one is allowed to have a head start does not make the race fair. Equality of opportunity is absolutely necessary but not sufficient in building a genuinely fair and efficient society.”
HS Story

Along with a new office name that incorporates the word equity comes a new feature to this newsletter. Starting with this edition, members of Pitt's health sciences community will be asked to tell their story surrounding equity and inclusion. If you are interested in telling your story, please contact Karla Perelstine at kmp165@pitt.edu

This month, we hear the story of Noble Maseru, Ph.D., M.P.H., Director, Social Justice, Racial Equity and Faculty Engagement, Schools of Health Sciences. After serving as Associate Dean for Diversity and Inclusion and Director, Center for Health Equity at Pitt Public Health, Dr. Maseru was appointed to his new position by Senior Vice Chancellor, Anantha Shekhar in August 2020 . Dr. Maseru has a career that spans 40 years in the areas of human services, academia and public health.

Here is Dr. Maseru’s perspective on a few questions that have been posed to him:

Question: Tell us a little about your background and experience that prepared you for your current appointment in the Schools of Health Sciences?

I would say that my path to the Director of Social Justice, Racial Equity and Faculty Engagement via my service at Pitt Public Health, began as a grassroots community organizer in Detroit with involvement in social change movements for economic and social justice such as labor rights, the Black power freedom movement, liberation struggles in Southern Africa and health as a human right. So in terms of selecting a livelihood that aligned with my desire to help improve the human condition, public health presented itself favorably. The profession fulfilled essential criteria – social change AND a core value of social justice that includes dismantling institutional racism. As Jonas Salk observed “Public health is a moral commitment.”

Our initiatives at Pitt Public Health include the symposium 400 Years of Inequality: Achieving Redemption, Reconciliation, and Equity Today, Live Longer: Empowering and Engaging Pittsburgh Communities, Pittsburgh Water Equity Task Force, The Black COVID-19 Equity Coalition, National Institute of Health (NIH) Diversity Supplement White Paper, The Pitt Public Health Enrollment and Admissions Report, The Jackson State University Memorandum of Understanding and The Recommendations of the Social Justice Actions Committee Work Groups were projects that reflect the vision Schools of Health Sciences' wish to align with Chancellor Gallagher’s university wide call for Social Justice. This work caught the attention of Senior Vice Chancellor, Anantha Shekhar, and we now have the privilege of continuing our work over all the schools of Health Sciences, such as expanding the utilization of NIH diversity supplements. Moreover, we endeavor to carry out the Senior Vice Chancellor’s vision to expressly confront anti-Black racism, xenophobia and social injustices in general, establishing a Social Justice Fellowship and formulating metrics for outcomes that qualitatively improve differentials (e.g. in admissions, graduation, faculty engagement, culture, hiring) and bring about transformational change.

Question: What are your research interests and how will they support and benefit both academia and the non-academic community?

Philosophically, my research centers on social justice and equity. It has always been an integral part of my public health practice experience. In an academic public health context, this framework is utilized by applying skills in research, uncovering new knowledge and improving the human condition (the health of populations). In Cincinnati, my principal research focus was on interventions that address social inequity, chronic poverty and infant vitality (reproductive health and birth outcomes impacting premature survival). In employing a social equity research framework and translating that research to policy, we had successes.

Lately, my primary research interests are public health and human services policy issues associated with the efficacy of public sector services rendered to socio-economic disadvantaged, vulnerable and underserved populations. I am particularly interested in socio-economic development of neighborhoods as it relates to social determinants of health. (SDOH) and the public sector’s role in achieving health equity for its’ citizenry. For example, The Live Longer Project showed 22 year life expectancy differentials between the lowest life expectancy neighborhood which happens to be predominantly Black and the highest life expectancy which is White. The two neighborhoods are contiguous. So how is it, that two neighborhoods so close, could have this marked inequality? The inequity is perpetuated through exploitive relations attributable to the African American experience over enslavement in excess of 400 years and is the basis of today’s inequality.

Mary Bassett and Sandro Gallea’s article “Reparations as a Public Health Priority – A Strategy for Ending Black-White Health Disparities” is a most recent citing by health policy scientists that have validated the importance of dismantling the structures and mechanisms that harm the African American community and other vulnerable and underserved communities.
Only 9 of the 63 selected neighborhoods in Allegheny County attained the USA 78.6 year life expectancy. So why 62 years and not 78? We know, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that 25 of the 30 year improvement in life expectancy from 1900 to 2000 was due to the Social Determinants of Health (SDOH) - jobs, healthy housing, food security, education and confronting institutional racism. The other 5 years was attributed to health care. An Angus Deaton study showed individuals with low incomes had life expectancies 25% lower than high incomes. The Larimer – Highland Park 22 year differential is 26%. We also know that a high school diploma extends 10 years to life expectancy.

The second Project is the Pittsburgh Water Equity Task Force at The Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PWSA). In Workforce Development, we found in our windshield survey of pipeline contractors, crews are not representative of the Pittsburgh central city neighborhoods they work in, was validated by the (PWSA) workforce data. We believe a blueprint for living wage jobs and poverty eradication can be developed in Pittsburgh if we view orange construction barrels as job opportunities. Only 2 of the 105 contracted employees lived in the target zip codes.

The Urban Institute reported utilities as the 3rd top financial sectors in Pittsburgh. Moreover 11.4% of African American males 18 – 64 are 4.2% of the workforce. They are grossly underrepresented. The same study found that 6 of 10 African American men 16 years > earned zero income over a 12 month period!!! My colleague Mr. Richard Garland is in the process of implementing a skilled and semi-skilled employment ($15 - $30/hour) and training for returning citizens (reentry) and the underemployed in partnership with the Pennsylvania Department of Corrections.
Domestic Violence Awareness Month
How Comfortable are Hispanics With the Word Latinx?
Edited by Karla Perelstine, Communications Intern

Although the word Latinx has been a part of the Merriam-Webster's dictionary since 2018, the term is not being fully embraced. Studies show that only 3% of the U.S. Hispanic community are even familiar with the term. In the article, "A Question of Identity", Sara Weissman discusses the comfortability of using the word Latinx as a descriptor.

Weissman, S. (2020, October). A Question of Identity. Diverse Issues in Higher Education, 37(16), 24-25.
Diversity Calendar

Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15)
National Dental Hygiene Month
American Pharmacist Month
National Physical Therapy Month

Oct. 4-10: National Mental Illness Awareness Week - “What People with Mental Illness Want You to Know.”  
Oct. 6-12: National Physician Assistant(s) Week
October 7 - Panel Discussion, “Hispanic Health Equity: Pipeline, Practice and Progress” - 12:00 noon - 1:30 pm
October 7 - Panel Discussion, "Young, Gifted and Hispanic: Student Experiences on the Path (or Journey) to Equity - 5:00 pm - 6:30 pm
October 19 - Birth of Baháʼu'lláh, the founder of the Baha’i Faith
October 29 - Mawlid (commemorates the birth of Muhammad, founder of Islam)

Pitt Military Appreciation Month

November 3 - Election Day
November 11 - Veterans Day
November 14 - Diwali>>
November 26 - Thanksgiving
November 27 - Native American Heritage Day
November 30 - Guru Nanak Dev Ji's Birthday, founder of Sikhism

Annual prevalence of mental illness among U.S. adults, by demographic group:

  • Non-Hispanic Asian: 14.7%
  • Non-Hispanic white: 20.4%
  • Non-Hispanic black or African-American: 16.2%
  • Non-Hispanic American Indian or Alaska Native: 22.1%
  • Non-Hispanic mixed/multiracial: 26.8%
  • Hispanic or Latino: 16.9%
  • Lesbian, Gay or Bisexual: 37.4%

Adults with a mental health diagnosis who received treatment or counseling in the past year:
  • Asian adults: 25%
  • Black adults: 31%
  • Adults who report mixed/multi-racial: 32%
  • Hispanic or Latinx adults: 33%
  • White adults: 49%
  • Lesbian, gay and bisexual adults: 49%

Last updated September 2019
OHSD's own, Paula Davis, has been promoted to the position of Associate Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. In this newly created position, Mrs. Davis will be responsible for coordinating the recruitment and retention of a diverse community of faculty, students, and staff in the health science schools. Through her office, she will provide education on cultural competence, creating an inclusive environment and eliminating structural and implicit bias.
Associate Professor Roxanna Bendixen is part of a team of occupational therapists who have received funding for research through the Eugene Washington Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) Engagement Award. This award allows patient-centered research to be conducted by those other than the traditional scientist or other research related professionals.
Dr. Bendixen's research team will focus on finding ways to break down barriers faced by children with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families.
Dr. Margaret Larkins-Pettigrew has been named Chief Clinical Diversity & Inclusion Officer at Allegheny Health Network. In this newly created position, Dr. Larkins-Pettigrew will work with leaders across the health care system to shape inclusive workplace culture, advancing its commitment to workforce diversity, cultural competency, and equitable health care delivery and outcomes for all patients and communities served. Dr. Larkins-Pettigrew is an alumna of both the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing and the School of Medicine..
Margaret Rozensweig, School of Nursing, has been named as a Distinguished Service Professor. This award recognizes professors for their contributions and outstanding service to the University of Pittsburgh community in support of its teaching, research, and service missions. Dr. Rozenweig's work has contributed to the understanding of racial differences in the completion of breast cancer treatment and the identification of geographic risk for higher breast cancer mortality. Included among the many awards and honors bestowed upon Dr. Rozenweig is the YMCA Racial Justice Award.
Dr. Mark Schmeler, associate professor in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences has recently been nominated by Pittsburgh Mayor Bill Peduto to serve on the City-County Task Force on Disability. His focus on the task force will be on unconscious bias toward people with disabilities as reflected by poor policies or policies that are not well interpreted or enforced.
The School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences has received funding from the National Institution on Disability, Independent Living and Rehabilitation Research (NIDILRR) to create the IMPACT Center at the University of Pittsburgh. The Center will provide tools and approaches to comprehensively understand barriers and facilitators to successful Assistive Technology Tech Transfer (ATTT), raise awareness and increase the capacity of researchers and entrepreneurs to perform successful ATTT. Co-directors of the Center are Drs. Jon Pearlman and Mary Goldberg.
With over two dozen patents, Dr. Rory Cooper, Director of the Human Engineering Research Laboratories (HERL) at the University of Pittsburgh, has added another one to his name. HERL, whose focus is on innovative technologies that improve human mobility has as its new patent, a computer pointing device used to help people with prosthetic hands maneuver the computer mouse. Members of the team responsible for the development of this device include Dr. Rory Cooper who is credited with the concept and designers Aaron Anderson, Dr. Garret Grindle (HERL), and Zachary Anzelone (University of Pittsburgh, Prosthetics and Orthotics).

Casey Tompkins-Rhodes, School of Medicine, Class of 2021 has been granted an American Medical Association Foundation Underrepresented in Medicine Physicians of Tomorrow Scholarship. This scholarship is offered to African American, Latino/Hispanic, or Native Americans/Native Hawaiians/Alaska Native scholars approaching their final year in medical school. It is awarded to a student who demonstrates a dedication to serving vulnerable or underserved populations.
Counseling student, Dallann Johnson is the winner of the School of Health and Rehabilitation Services (SHRS) social justice design contest. His winning graphic will be featured on SHRS apparel. Proceeds from these sales will benefit the Homewood Community Engagement Center’s mental health initiatives and Pitt SHRS Wellness Pavilion at CEC in Homewood. Stay tuned for purchasing details.
The University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Students believe it is time to take an oath to do better in serving the needs of underserved populations.

Below, you will find the oath written by Medical Students of the Class of 2024 and taken on August 16th, 2020 during their white coat ceremony. This starts a new tradition in the School of Medicine's 137 year history.
University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Class of 2024 Oath
As the entering class of 2020, we start our medical journey amidst the COVID-19 pandemic and a national civil rights movement reinvigorated by the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd and Ahmaud Arbery. We honor the 700,000+ lives lost to COVID-19, despite the sacrifices of health care workers.

We recognize the fundamental failings of our health care and political systems in serving vulnerable communities. This oath is the first step in our enduring commitment to repairing the injustices against those historically ignored and abused in medicine: Black patients, Indigenous patients, Patients of Color and all marginalized populations who have received substandard care as a result of their identity and limited resources.

Acknowledging the privilege and responsibility that come with being a physician, I take this oath as a call to action to fulfill my duty to patients, to the medical profession and to society.
Thereby, I pledge as a physician and lifelong student of medicine:
I will support and collaborate with my colleagues across disciplines and professions, while respecting the patient’s vital role on the health care team.

I will honor my physical, mental and emotional health so as to not lessen the quality of care I provide. 

I will carry on the legacy of my predecessors by mentoring the next generation of diverse physicians.

I will recognize the pivotal role of ethical research in the advancement of medicine and commit myself to endless scholarship with the ultimate goal of improving patient care.

I will care for my patients’ holistic well-being, not solely their pathology. With empathy, compassion and humility, I will prioritize understanding each patient’s narrative, background and experiences while protecting privacy and autonomy.

I will champion diversity in both medicine and society, and promote an inclusive environment by respecting the perspectives of others and relentlessly seeking to identify and eliminate my personal biases.

I will be an ally to those of low socioeconomic status, the BIPOC community, the LGBTQIA+ community, womxn/women, differently-abled individuals and other underserved groups in order to dismantle the systemic racism and prejudice that medical professionals and society have perpetuated.

I will educate myself on social determinants of health in order to use my voice as a physician to advocate for a more equitable health care system from the local to the global level.

I will restore trust between the health care community and the population in which I serve by holding myself and others accountable, and by combating misinformation in order to improve health literacy.

In making this oath, I embrace the ever-changing responsibilities of being a physician and pledge to uphold the integrity of the profession in the clinic and beyond.

A Public Health Grand Rounds event, moderated by Mario C. Browne and aired via Zoom, revisited the Freedom House ambulance service model which provided a pathway for upward mobility, and addressed a severe disparity in pre-hospital care. Although Freedom House was short lived (1967 - 1975), it served as a model across the U.S. and internationally. In fact, Freedom House was awarded a major grant to develop the first national standards for paramedics. It put many Black Hill District residents back to work, and was instrumental in saving many patients' lives who would otherwise have died enroute to the hospital due to slow, inadequately equipped emergency medical transport available at that time. In revisiting the Freedom House, awareness is brought to the present state of EMS training while maintaining a focus on the future.
The Pittsburgh Undergraduate Research Diversity Program is a ten week summer research based program in its fourth year. The program is open to minority students who have traditionally been underrepresented in the health-related sciences: African American, Hispanic/Latino American, American Indians, Alaska natives, Native Hawaiians, Other Pacific Islander. The program promotes diversity in the scientific workforce. Dr. Aisha Lanette, program director says that it "offers the students a chance to understand a career in research, whether they choose to be an MD, PhD, or DDS." Due to COVID, the students went virtual. Although the students were not able to work in an actual laboratory environment, they received a wealth of knowledge through guest lecturers, career talks, and group projects.
Each Friday this fall, the Graduate School of Public Health will bring together a variety of experts who will address different aspects of the COVID-19 pandemic and answer questions from seminar attendees.

10/16: HIV-related Stigma in Healthcare Settings during COVID-19 (S. Krier & M. Friedman)

10/23: COVID-19 & Health Disparities (C. Mitchell Miland)

10/30: Pennsylvania State Response to COVID-19 (W. Braund)

11/6: CDC NIOSH’s Response to PPE Challenges11/13: COVID-19 Vaccine Development & Testing

11/13: COVID-19 Vaccine Development & Testing
PRIDE Health

PRIDE Health is the LGBTQIA (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Queer, Intersex and Allies) Affinity group for UPMC and the University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences (Medicine, Dental Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Health and Rehabilitation Science and Public Health). PRIDE Health exists to serve and support our faculty, staff, students, residents, fellows, and providers, fostering an inclusive, open and affirming environment within which to practice, work and learn. Through PRIDE Health, we assemble socially, act locally and disseminate information on issues pertinent to our members and those whom we treat and teach.

Pride Health publishes a PRIDE LIST which provides a database of LGBTQI and our Allies in the PITT and UPMC community. This resource is meant to connect current and incoming members of our community by a wide range of academic, clinical and other interests. Check the PRIDE list and connect with members by email or phone!

If you are a newcomer to Pitt/UPMC and would like to learn more about Pride Health or are interested in being included on the Pride List, please reach out to Mary Ann Merranko at mam524@pitt.edu.

Save the Date: Community Engaged Scholarship Forum March 2, 2021

 “Progress Through Partnerships: Advancing Community Resilience” 

For more information, please visit www.covestro.us/thinc30-summit