University of Washington School of Public Health

UW SPH News: Dean Kaufman on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion

Dean Kaufman on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion


Last week’s all-School conversation was well-attended, and I know many more wished to be there in person or via live feed (we are sorry for the audio problems encountered online). I cannot overstate how much I appreciate the commitment so many of you have made to improve our School’s climate and our approaches to Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion. While we have begun to improve, there is still much work to do.

Here’s a recap from the conversation:

Our consultants from ORS Impact (led by SPH alumna Tracy Hilliard and Joel Gutierrez) presented findings based on numerous individual and focus-group meetings, as well as from the climate survey sent earlier this year. They made recommendations on actions we can take to build a more inclusive environment for our students, staff and faculty. The powerpoint from the presentation is here.

After the presentation, there was a lively question-and-answer period. In addition, I briefly reviewed some of the steps we have taken over the last year, largely in response to the work of several working groups aided by our School’s Diversity Committee. I also outlined a few steps we will be taking in light of some of the recommendations from our consultants as well as from the working groups. You can listen to a recording of my full comments.

One of the clear messages was a consistent request from our community for additional, dedicated staff at the School level to provide visible leadership, accountability, and guidance as we continue to move toward a more equitable, diverse, and inclusive School. As a result, the School will act now to begin the process of recruiting a leader who will report directly to the Dean and endeavor to advance the work done by ORS, our working groups, and other colleagues.

This leader will be tasked with working with the SPH community to develop innovative strategies, initiatives, goals and professional development activities aimed at enhancing Equity, Diversity and Inclusion in the School with regard to climate, recruitment, admissions, hiring, mentoring, curriculum, scholarship, training and service. It is possible that this individual, with appropriate qualifications, may have an academic appointment.

Also, we are continuing our efforts to recruit the best and most diverse students. The School of Public Health recently awarded six new two-year fellowships in a new program for recruiting incoming master’s students with diverse backgrounds, to add to the richness of our student body. It’s a small, but meaningful step.

Many in our School, including leadership, have embarked on equity and diversity training aimed at improving the overall climate. We have adopted new “best practices” to enhance our recruitment and hiring for faculty and staff.

In addition to our internal work on Equity, Diversity and Inclusion, it is vital that we bring focus to the work needed to impact the broader community on these issues.  Academic public health institutions like ours have a responsibility—through education, research and service—to increase understanding of the relationship between equity and health.

Last year, we also created a new curriculum competency on race, equity and health for all students. The Council on Education for Public Health has since adopted a similar expectation for graduates of all accredited public health programs. The UW School of Public Health is an innovator in this area, and I’m deeply appreciative to all of those who helped make this happen, especially India Ornelas, outgoing chair of the Diversity Committee. India has worked tirelessly over the last five years, and I am very grateful for all her hard work and the passion she brings – take a listen.

I also shared that the School will initiate a new Center for Anti-Racism and Community Health (“ARCH”). The Office of the Provost has agreed to provide matching funds over the next two years to allow the School to hire two new faculty members dedicated to the study of race and its impact on health, and to lead the new center. This new center represents a natural confluence in our School of the UW’s two University-wide initiatives: the Race and Equity Initiative and the Population Health Initiative. ARCH will serve to strengthen our work on understanding the social determinants of health and health disparities.

We will continue to seek new and better ways to advance equity, diversity and inclusion.

I look forward to continuing this work in the months ahead, and to the changes that it will forge to make our School stronger.


Joel signature

Joel Kaufman, Interim Dean
UW School of Public Health