EP122 CASJPH - NYU’s Center for Anti-racism, Social Justice & Public Health

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EP122 CASJPH - NYU’s Center for Anti-racism, Social Justice & Public Health

Aman: Folks, welcome back to another episode of the I AM GPH podcast. Now, racism is recognized as a public health crisis and the ultimate social determinant of health by both the American Public Health Association and the Center of Disease Control. At GPH, we affirm that health is a human right, and we're actively working to build an anti-racism culture using curriculum, labs and applied practice opportunities. The Center for Anti-Racism, Social Justice and Public Health, also known as CASJPH, is dedicated to developing anti-racism and social justice public health research policies, approaches and model practices. Their mission is to translate research into policy, practice, and action by bringing together the minds from multiple disciplines to examine how racism contributes to health inequity and to reduce race related illness and premature deaths amongst the BIPOC communities. With that, we have the program director, Dr. Melody Goodman, and the program coordinator Danielle Joyner. Welcome to the I AM GPH podcast. We're very excited to talk about your center today. How y'all doing?

Melody: Good, thank you for having us.

Aman: Absolutely, absolutely. So why don't you, why don't y'all get started and let us know what the center is all about. How did the center come to life?

Melody: The center started in 2020, the height of the COVID Pandemic. I think the racial reckoning in the United States. Our school wrote a statement about being anti-racist, similar to every other school in the country. And I wrote back an open letter to our dean and I said, I think we need to take this one step further. If we were really an anti-racist institution, we would be focused on this the way we focus on other diseases. We would really study this, we would develop a center that was dedicated to addressing racism as a public health issue. And I got an overwhelming response from our faculty. They were really in support of that idea and in support of us starting this center. And our dean at the time was super supportive. And so here we are.

Aman: There we go. What was your journey like as well throughout this process, Danielle?

Danielle: So, well, I actually just started about three months ago, so coming in, it definitely was, it was kind of like this huge idea, but a lot of the work we had to like really dive into. And Dr. Goodman had already started like a lot of things, but she was like, I couldn't wait for you to get here, so we could really like jump into this. So now, everything is just like coming together very quickly, but it's coming together like in this like just really amazing way.

Aman: So what made you join this center three months ago, what was the decision that you made that, hey, this is why I want to join this area?

Danielle: So I came, I was working in like more like diversity work. So my interest when it came to working with communities of color and public health, it was always definitely there and I just was in a place where I was looking to grow in my career, and essentially I saw the job posting and I was just like, "Oh, this is it." It just felt very aligned with the direction that I wanted to go on my career. And it was something that I had actually been having conversations with, with just like friends from grad school, things like that. We had spoken about how racism was this huge issue that wasn't being addressed in public health, and this was maybe in like 2019, this is a conversation and then all of a sudden it's like racism is a public health issue. And I was like, "Wow, this is exactly what I've been talking about." And then in 2021 I saw this job posting and it just, it seemed exactly the direction that I should go with my career. So I took a chance and here I am.

Aman: Love to hear that. So there's a lot of listeners that are sometimes out of public health and they listen to this podcast. So for those of those are the people that are not familiar with the field of public health, can you all describe what social determinants are? What is this social determinants aspect when it comes to the world of public health?

Melody: Social determinants are the things that impact health that often we don't consider health if you're not in public health. Most of us in public health consider these things to be health. So I'm thinking about things like education, occupation, where you live, where you work, where you play, where you pray, right? We know all of those things impact your health. They're also the social conditions in which one tends to live. And we consider those the social determinants of health because they're all really important indicators of health outcomes.

Aman: Okay. So I have a question. When this announcement came out into the world, a lot of centers started coming to life at other schools. What is the center at NYU doing differently? What is unique about CASJPH here at NYU?

Melody: I think, one, I should say that we're in partnership with most of the other centers of anti-racism at other schools of public health. But I think what makes us different is that we have a focus on workforce diversity, in addition to focusing on racism as a social and structural determinant of health, we know that in address some of these issues we have to diversify the public health workforce, right? As a biostatistician, I'm a narrator. I get to tell the story with data and I get to tell it from my perspective, but it's important that we have diverse people narrating these stories that are public health because we all have different lived experiences, right? And so I think what we're doing in addition to what the other centers are doing is we also have this real strong focus on diversifying the workforce and developing pathway programs that really start to touch back at junior scientists helping to prepare them to enter the field of public health, hopefully one day.

Aman: Dr. Goodman, I'm curious to hear more about how students could get involved in something like this. How can a student find their why within CASJPH And how can students essentially know that this is their path? What does it take in a student to understand this area?

Melody: So I think the students who have flocked to CASJPH have joined our seminars. So we offer seminars throughout the year and they've come to a seminar, they've heard someone talk about a topic that they hadn't heard someone talk about before. Maybe they've seen someone talk about a topic that they hadn't seen someone look like that before, speaking about that topic. And that's sort of the way that a lot of our students have entered the center and now they're work. We have so many students and they're working on a variety of projects across our center. So there's students that are working to support the center operations. There's students that are working on funded research projects. There's students that are working to help us with some of the programs and initiatives we're doing out of the center. And so it really depends on the students and what their interest is. But I think, and Danielle can correct me if I'm wrong, most of them have come to us because they attended something, some event or something that we've done, and then that's how they found out we existed and sort of then, then we bring them in and we never let them leave.

Aman: So those listeners who are interested in this keep an eye out for the events, whatever time it is. Whenever you're watching this podcast, the center is gonna be running events quite frequently, I'm assuming. Danielle, in the past three months, what have been some learnings that you have experienced as well since you were interested in this area and then all of a sudden, has your mind been expanded in some essence when it comes to this space?

Danielle: Definitely. This is actually a conversation I've had with Dr. Goodman because even though I come from diversity work, diversity work, one thing that I learned very quickly, it's very different from anti-racism work. So the anti-racism research work that we do definitely sits more in like the social activist world when it comes to like a lot of the language. And I would say that the language is constantly changing and constantly updating. So you're definitely always in like a learning space. So it's been like very different. It's also a very different experience for me because I'm also sitting more in the research world, so I'm working more directly with faculty now and things like that. So it's been a huge learning curve, but I've actually really been enjoying it. The days go by very quickly because there's always so much to do and it's all very exciting. And I think that was also a big draw for some of our students that came in. They did come in through the seminars, but then after they would have conversations of like, "So what are you guys doing in the center? I've never heard of this center, an anti-racism center. What are you guys about?" And when we tell them as students of color, they're like, "Oh, we wanna be a part of this. Like we wanna be a part of whatever you got going on." So, that also was a part of the draw, the curiosity about the work and where the center's going and just wanting to be a part of that. So that was a huge thing as well. But it's definitely been a huge learning curve for me, but also familiar in a lot of different ways as well, because I did also come from like working in higher ed and working at another institution. So I guess there's also the familiarity with working at a college that I came with. So I think that's baseline knowledge that I definitely appreciate as well as program management. I've been doing program management and development for a few years now, so working on developing and helping Dr. Goodman create these programs that we will be rolling out in summer of 2023. So that's our little humble plug, but helping kind of with all of these things, that is a skillset that I'm very familiar with. So I'm definitely like, definitely using all the strengths that I came in with, but I'm also definitely learning a lot of new things, but I've really just been like enjoying it. I really feel as though I'm sitting in a place where I really see my career going in the future so.

Aman: Wow. Thank you for walking us to that sneak peek into your world, because I'm sure a lot of people might be taking on roles like this in their own world even after they leave, after they graduate or students that are interested in it. So your passion is evident and I'm sure students will be excited to hear more of that. Dr. Goodman, as someone that has led this center to where it is right now, I'm also curious to hear about any moments, like aha moments that came your way in the past year since or since 2020, since you said, "Okay, I'm starting this center." You already knew so much. Now what has changed from what you knew first and what you know now?

Melody: I think for me, the biggest, I don't know if I call it an aha moment, and Danielle will know this, was the moment when our whole team was together for the first time because I spent so much time recruiting these people individually to come here. And it was such a great feeling to know that I had this idea for what this center could be, but now I had a team of people that were committed to making it happen. So I know that doesn't directly answer, but that was the first time that I was like, "It's actually happening, like it's really real and it's actually happening and the people are here and they're engaged and they're exciting and they're amazing people to work with." So I think my first like real moment was, "here is the team and we're all here together." And to see those six people in the same room. You don't know how long it takes to recruit six people. So to know like all the time that I spent working to build this thing that it was actually gonna like, really start happening. I think to me that was the moment that it felt real.

Aman: There's a lot of folks out there that probably have a dream of building a center. And this thing you described was so pure where recruiting a team, how do you find, you mentioned that the center has partnerships, but the true partnerships are internal, within the community or within the center. What was that process like for you? How do you find the people? What is something you're looking for when you're building a center when it comes your team or your internal circle?

Aman: I think building this center was one of the more unique experiences of my career and I started my career as a financial analyst on Wall Street building and tearing apart companies. But I think what made this really interesting was that I was trying to recruit people to this center that didn't really exist. It didn't have a website, it was really just an idea and a couple of paragraphs of text. And I often joke with them like, "you're my people because you're my people that would join some place that didn't even have a website, that you couldn't Google, that there was no like real historical knowledge about." And so I think, trying to recruit people to build something that doesn't exist is different than trying to, recruit people to something that is established and you can Google it and people sort of know what that thing does. And I think I've been different in the way that I've approached this center. Like I don't have the like, "this is what our center will do." I'm bringing in these people and we're forming it collaboratively. And so to not have that like firm elevator speech, to have no website, to not, have a floor in 708 Broadway yet, none of that existed. And so to recruit people and say, but this is a really good idea and we're gonna invest in it and we're gonna make it this thing. I think it was definitely a challenge, but I also think you get a special type of person that's attracted to that, that will say, "Yes, I will join you and build this thing that doesn't exist yet, and I'll help you develop the website and I'll help you develop all of these things that you have in your mind."

Aman: For those of you listening on Spotify or Apple Music, Danielle is also nodding at the same time while Dr. Goodman sharing that so, the team can agree with that sentiment. So I'd love to hear more about the history of the center, where it started. You mentioned in 2020 and what is a development, like where do you see the center going in the next few years as y'all are working on this project?

Melody: Whew. I think that's challenging because we get so many requests that sometimes we're not expecting that take us off in a tangent that maybe we weren't planning and I told you how unplanned the center was. So to even, go on these tangents, I think what I hope the center will be is I hope it will be a resource for people who are searching to do anti-racist research, who are looking for methods and data and practices and ways of being that we become this sort of model for how this work should be done. I hope that we become, a lot of people say, "How do you get communities to trust you?" I hope that we become a trustworthy space. I'm not trying to convince people to trust us, but I hope that we will be trustworthy, that we will earn the trust of our community partners and other people working with us, that we come to this work from a genuine place. I think what's so unique about our center is many of us are either born and raised in New York or sort of grew up in New York and so this is our hometown. We're committed to it in a different way than this being a job. We're doing work to serve the communities that we grew up in, that we live in, that our families live in, that these are our communities. These are not like some other, this is not them or other. These are our communities. These are our homes. These are the people that we want to help and that we feel connected to. So I hope our center becomes a place and a space that fosters this type of work that people who feel like there wasn't a space for them feel welcomed in this space. That students who have been pushed out of disciplines like public health maybe have been told you don't have the skills to be an epidemiologist or a biostatistician, realize that they do and that they have a welcoming environment that will nurture them and support them in learning and getting to where they want to be.

Aman: Danielle, how does that align with you? How do you see the center as well in your day-to-day going forward?

Danielle: Honestly, really a very, very similar vision. I think that we've had constant conversations around just like the direction of the center because like Dr. Goodman said, we all essentially applied to a job that had no website. And honestly, even the job description, it wasn't like this long extensive job description and we just all, I think understood the bigger picture and we just took a gamble. It was really like, "this could be big. This could really be something that really changes a lot of things." So for us, I think we've all had this conversation, we've agreed that, you have to see the big picture in something like this in order to really be able to stand behind it, like 10 tolls down firm. So I think that was definitely a big part. We have this huge goal to really like translate research into practice to really create concrete change through research and policy. So I think that, the sky's the limit, honestly. I think we have a lot of visions. I think there's directions that this could go that we probably haven't even thought of yet. And I think that's just the beauty of it, that we're just winging it, but we're figuring it out as we go along. Like Dr. Goodman said, "We have so many people reaching out, wanting to collaborate with us." So, there's people that have reached out saying, we just wanna have a conversation with you. We just wanna be a part of the work that you're doing. We just have questions. We wanna work with you and collaborate with you. We wanna do a podcast with you. It's not even the first podcast invite that we've gotten. So, I think it's just it can go so many places and so many people wanna get involved and I think as we continue, as the center continues to grow and evolve, the vision will end up being what it is. But I also think that it will also continue to change, all for the better, of course. But who knows? I genuinely feel like the sky's the limit here. Like honestly.

Aman: So I know earlier we mentioned that this, this did not start with pitching and having a website, but if we were to pitch something, there's gonna be some listeners, there's gonna be people that are ardent supporters of this, and people that know all about it with the demand and the interest that the center has. And I'm curious to hear something from the two of you about what makes this so important today? Why should people be looking into this more and more as time comes ahead of us?

Melody: I think the thing that people don't think about is that racism impacts all of us. It really sets the resources and the strengths of our whole society by valuing some and devaluing others. And it fosters inequality and we all do better when there's less inequality, right? And so addressing the issues of racism, particularly in our health and in our healthcare system, has a potential to impact all of us in terms of how much money we spend on healthcare. The fact that we really have sick care and not healthcare, that we could really change the way our system supports the most vulnerable populations and that can make all of us healthier. And I don't think people think about it in that way. And that addressing racism has a potential to make all of us healthy. And the way that I explain it is that, you know those little dips in the sidewalk that they built for people with wheelchairs, but we all use them. We use them when we have luggage, we use them when we have strollers, we use them when we have other kind of carts, right? It's the same thing. Doing something that protects the most vulnerable of all of us usually benefits all of us. And I think racism is the same way.

Danielle Definitely. I also think that for me personally, and I think for a few of my colleagues who I've had conversations with here on the team, this work is very deeply personal to us because of the experiences that we've just lived in this life. So this is not just like work that we're doing for fad or like things that we're taking on because they seem cool. These are based off of even our own experiences. It's just now coming into the public that racism is this huge issue in public health, but racism has always been the root of all of these issues. Social determinants exist. Public health exists simply because of the issues like inequities and access to care and a lot of issues that have yet to be dealt with. And they've always been looked at as other issues, oh, health inequities, oh, social determinants of health and addressing the social determinants of health. But really the root of of all of this is racism, right? It's this huge inequity based off the color of our skin and it limits our access to a lot of things. It also limits the access to knowledge, not just resources. So with all of the limitations that we have and the experiences that we've had as people of color sitting in this space, the work is also very deeply personal. I watch my family be impacted by racism and health and people that I love. So it's very important that if I'm in a position to create change, that I do that. So this feels much larger than just the work itself. This also feels like an obligation that I have to my own community of people of color simply because of the fact that I'm in a much more privileged position where I have the opportunity to be a part of something that creates change.

Aman: Beautiful, beautiful. Wow. So thank you for walking us through your journey and how the centers come to life. The passion is evident and I'm sure a lot of listeners are gonna gain a lot of value out of this. If y'all canleave our listeners with some final thoughts about your center and where people can find you, please shoot away.

Danielle: So we actually have a website now. It's so funny that Dr. Goodman, because we really did not have a website, but it was a lot of hard work. But we definitely have the website. It's a very long title, but if you Google "Center for Anti-Racism, Social Justice and Public Health", you should be able to find it. I'll also make sure that you get the link Aman, so that when you can put on the YouTube video, so whoever wants it can also kind of like click on it. And I know that when you do Apple Podcasts and Spotify, you can also add a note and I'll add our social media as well. We are on Instagram and Twitter currently. We are trying to get better at posting or I am at least, I should say, trying to get better at posting. But we definitely will. We also have so many things coming up in the spring semester, more seminars, more events. We really just wanna get ourselves out there. So I definitely encourage people to check out our website, check out our event page for like any sort of updates on upcoming events and definitely connect with us on social media so people can see the things that we're doing because I promise you it's only going up from here.

Melody: So I just would like to plug two of our programs. One is that we have the Community Research Fellows training program, which is designed for community members to increase their research literacy. It's sort of like a mini master's in public health, except each of your classes that you took would be a one three hour session. So, it's not really like a masters of public health, but the idea is not to train people to be public health practitioners, but to give them the language, the vocabulary, the tools so that they could ask the right questions when they're asked to participate or partner in research. This program is run in St. Louis. It's turning 10 in 2023. It's run in Mississippi. It's turning nine in 2023. So we're excited to bring the first cohort to New York City as part of the work that we're doing here. We also have our summer internship program, which we call RARE. Don't get me to say the acronym, Research and Racial Equity Scholars. And we're delighted to have several students join us for the summer. We're particularly interested in students that feel like they would never have the opportunity to come to NYU to have the chance to participate in research with faculty, at this level. We really want to open the door to underrepresented scholars, first generation scholars, people who may not have the time and space to often do this type of work. We want to make sure that they do have the time and space to build their CV's, if what they want to do is to join research in this space.

Danielle: Yes. And both applications for both of these programs actually opened on December 1st, so they're currently open. We are accepting up to 500 applications. So you know, the application portal will close or it will close on February 1st. So if they go also to our website, again, under our programs and projects tab, you will see all the information about our two programs that we'll be having next spring and summer. And so whoever's interested in applying then definitely please feel free to do so. The application is open.

Aman: Love it. For those of you listening to this podcast one year after it's published, CASJPH or the center is still gonna be running. So keep an eye out for everything that we'll put in the description, stay in touch with them on social media. The team is only getting bigger and the cause is also getting even more fruitful to fight for. Thank you so much, Dr. Goodman and Danielle for joining us on this podcast. Everything's in the description for our listeners and please check them out. Thank you so much for tuning into another episode. We'll see you next time.