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Racism Awareness Week returns

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January 2018

Building on the success of last year’s well-attended Racism Awareness Week at the College of Medicine, the student-run series returns for a second year with the support of $1,000 from the FSU President's Council on Diversity and Inclusion Mini-Grant Program.

The Jan. 8-12 series is designed to foster an open dialogue about race to help participants better understand the roots of racial disparity, implicit bias and how they impact health care. Each day of the series will feature a different topic, with guest speakers from both FSU and Florida A&M University.

RAW was launched in January 2017 by current third-year student Bryno Gay and five other students who are now at their regional campuses. Gay submitted the recent grant proposal with the goal of building the series into an annual event.

“In my opinion, most of the key race-related issues in medicine stem from our own implicit biases about certain groups,” he said. “These can shape a physician’s choice of treatment, diagnoses, measurement tools and even the definition of a disease, thus impacting health outcomes as a whole.”

Gay and the new RAW committee leaders, second-year med students Rachelle Daris and Justine Giles, hope to carry forward the momentum from last year’s event and create a fresh experience.

“Something new this year,” Daris said, “is a discussion on Latino health disparities presented by Dr. Ivette Lopez” – a behavioral sciences and health education professor at FAMU who will speak on the final day. “Last year’s events focused primarily on the disparities in the African-American community, so this year we wanted to expand that.”

The committee leaders also distributed an anonymous survey inviting College of Medicine faculty, staff and students to share instances of prejudice they may have experienced due to race, gender, sexuality, disabilities or other variables.

“We hope that reading some of the situations experienced by those close to us will bring some awareness to these prejudices and a desire to stand against them,” Daris said.

Building awareness of such prejudices is a key step toward achieving health equity, according to Michael Nair-Collins, College of Medicine professor and RAW faculty sponsor.

“Sometimes people get stressed or uncomfortable talking about racism,” said Nair-Collins. “One of the ways racism continues its insidious path is that we don’t talk about it. So many of the injustices are facilitated by unconsciousness or silence on the part of good-minded people. Many people think that talking about it isn’t actually doing anything, but it is. It’s continuing to raise the consciousness.”

Nair-Collins, one of the week’s featured speakers, will address the continuum of bias Thursday, Jan. 11.

“If you’re black or Hispanic, you’re less likely to get pain medication, or you’ll get less pain medication than if you’re white, or you’re less likely to be listed on a transplant list for a kidney, and a variety of other things,” he said. “What clinicians can do is understand their own explicit and implicit biases and work to counteract them and really work hard to provide equitable care to everybody.”

RAW reinforces the College of Medicine’s mission and vision for diversity, inclusion and serving the underserved and underrepresented. In October, the college received the Health Professions Higher Education Excellence in Diversity (HEED) Award from Insight Into Diversity magazine for its “outstanding commitment to diversity and inclusion.”

The full schedule of RAW events is included below. All noon events will be held in Room 1200 at the College of Medicine.

Monday, Jan. 8 – Noon
“Shared Vocabulary”
Shantel Buggs, Ph.D., assistant sociology professor, FSU
Racial terminology and the impact racial and cultural slang has had

Tuesday, Jan. 9 – Noon
Privilege Walk
Interactive activity highlighting how people benefit from privileges that others may not have

Wednesday, Jan. 10 – Noon
“Historical Development of Race”
Patrick Mason, Ph.D., professor of economics, director of the Program in African-American Studies, FSU
The historical context of race and racism in the U.S. and the dynamics of different types of oppression

Thursday, Jan. 11 – Noon
“Continuum of Bias”
Michael Nair-Collins, Ph.D., associate professor of behavioral sciences and social medicine, FSU
Origins of implicit bias as well as privilege and their influence on behavior, transitioning to the explicit bias seen today

Thursday, Jan. 11 – 4 p.m., College of Medicine Auditorium
Grand Round
“Bridge Over Troubled Waters: Crossing the Cultural Divide to Talk About Race & Racism in Academic Medicine”
David Acosta, M.D., chief diversity and inclusion officer, Association of American Medical Colleges

Friday, Jan. 12 – Noon
“Latino Health Discrimination”
Ivette Lopez, Ph.D., professor of behavioral sciences and health education, FAMU
Role of racism seen by Latinos in health care in the communities surrounding Tallahassee