By CAROLINE BIELEN
The Office of Health Sciences, Diversity and Inclusion established a Social Justice Faculty Fellowship program that officially began on Feb. 8. The goal of the fellowship is to raise awareness among faculty about health inequities in the local community.
The program, which is funded by campus-community partnerships, was developed to address Pitt students’ calls to action in spring 2020 demanding the University create solutions to accomplish social justice, condemn systemic racism and generate sustainable change.
“The school was challenged by the Pitt students and the community,” said Noble A-W Maseru, who helped create the program and is the director of Social Justice, Racial Equity and Faculty Engagement for Pitt’s schools of health sciences. “Chancellor Gallagher responded to the demands in a manner where he acknowledged the university should be more equitable and should address social justice in the school and in the surrounding neighborhoods.”
The 10-month fellowship also follows Senior Vice Chancellor Anantha Shekhar’s vision of “health sciences activism.” It combines a “culture of health” with “empowerment activism” by integrating academics and health sciences.
The program consists of six faculty fellows — one from each of Pitt’s health science schools (Dental, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy and Public Health). Fellows were awarded $10,000 each to engage in projects that address systemic inequity and racism and provide experiential learning opportunities related to health social justice issues.
Each fellow collaborates and partners with a public sector agency, health system or community organization, including the Pittsburgh Study (UPMC Children’s), the Black Equity Coalition, Pittsburgh Water and Sewage Authority, Western Allegheny Health Center Alliance, Pitt’s Community Engagement Centers, the city of Pittsburgh, UPMC, and other community organizations.
“The overarching goal of this fellowship is to involve these fellows in projects that address structural inequality as well as racism and provide them with learning opportunities to engage in health and human development related to social justice issues,” Maseru said, “Fellows’ performance will be followed and measured by seminars every month, and each seminar is led by a social thought leader or practice leader in that area of social justice.”
The main objective is that the fellows’ experience in clinical care and research and their partner organization’s knowledge of the community will allow them to work with one another to create a plan to address health inequities that affect the well-being of the community.
“This is not solely a Pitt academic piece, but it's also a fellowship that advances work that is action-oriented,” Maseru said. “Action-oriented projects are in collaboration and partnering with community organizations and agencies, and those community organizations and agencies are also interested in advancing social justice and addressing systemic racism as well.”
Caroline Bielen is a student writer for the University Times.