Months before the 2020 murder of George Floyd and the Black Lives Matter movement made nationwide headlines, the MGH Institute had already recognized an increased level of student activism around racial injustice issues and wanted to tap into that passion.
In July 2019, the newly created Office of Justice, Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion piloted the JEDI Fellows program to raise awareness of these issues throughout the IHP community and develop student leadership opportunities.
The program was adapted from the Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion Fellowship program that Chief Equity Office Dr. Kimberly Truong developed in 2015 while at Harvard’s T. H. Chan School of Public Health. A full program was approved and funded by the Board of Trustees the following year. Now, after more than three years, the scope of its influence has been wide-ranging – and continues to grow.
“The JEDI Fellows program represents the possibility of transformation in our health care system by equipping and preparing future healthcare professionals to intentionally engage in deep conversations about anti-oppression and giving them tools for leading with justice and equity in their practice and workplaces beyond the IHP,” said Jammy Torres-Millet, the Associate Director for Social Justice Education & Student Engagement. “They learn skills and experiences that are essential for any healthcare provider to engage with in order to provide culturally humble and respectful care.”
Since 2019, more than 20 students have served as Fellows. Each receives JEDI leadership development opportunities and mentorship to co-develop, pilot, and facilitate workshops and programs across campus.
“I am most passionate about equity in accessibility of heath care, specifically for the BIPOC population, and helping people understand social determinants of health and how we can address these issues,” said second-year Fellow Wendy Lee, MS-NU ’23, who is working in the Dean’s office in the School of Nursing.
Torres-Millet, who has overseen the Fellows program for the past year following the departure of Kay Martinez, points to a much larger audience of students, faculty, and staff who have attended JEDI Office-sponsored events over the past several months as an indication of the Fellows’ growing influence and presence. Those include an Asian American Pacific Islanders (AAPI) Identifying Student Space, social justice programming, and workshops such as the new “Leading with Justice” dialogue series, BIPOC community meet-and-greet, and the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders’ info meet-and-greet hosted by Angelique Campo, SLP ’23, a new Fellow who is working with the CSD Department. Fellows also sit on the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences’ Anti-Oppression Task Force and the new School of Nursing JEDI Collaborative.
In addition, students are hosting monthly JEDI programming for academic programs and the greater IHP community, including weekly on-campus and virtual office hours. The most recent event occurred October 1, when Arianna Bayangos, OTD ’24, a returning Fellow who is working in the Department of Physical Therapy, presented on Brave Spaces at the department’s Social Justice Conference.
Fellows also engage with a JEDI curriculum to further support their JEDI leadership development and growth. This curriculum was developed by Torres-Millet in consultation with Watkins Liu of the JEDI Office and inspired by the Faculty, Staff and Student JEDI Resource padlets that the JEDI Office had created in collaboration with the Bellack Library. Concepts and frameworks covered include Critical Race Theory, Restorative Justice, Rest as Resistance, Social Determinants of Health, Intersectionality and Power.
An Academic Program Focus
Fellows also are embedded into the school’s academic programs, working with faculty and staff to address equity issues including curricula that often inadequately address how to care for patients that are often marginalized and minoritized. Significant progress in several programs has been made to update case studies, assign new class readings, and integrate JEDI core competencies, which were drafted by former Fellows Corliss Kanazawa, MS-NU ’22, and Kana Sakai, MS-NU ’23, under the supervision of Dr. Kimberly Truong and Dr. Callie Watkins Liu of the JEDI Office. An audit was conducted in the Department of Occupational Therapy by former Fellow Rachel Kahn, OTD '23, and Dr. Callie Watkins Liu, Director of JEDI Curriculum, Pedagogy and Faculty Support. An audit will be done next in the Department of Genetic Counseling.
The students also have been involved in community building efforts including a session on community agreements during the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders’ student orientation and the Department of Physical Therapy’s retreat for first-year students, both of which were led by Torres-Millet and Bayangos. Now in her second year as a Fellow, Bayangos said she looks forward to “calling students, faculty, and staff into dialogue through events and in informal discussions.”
“The CSD department has really benefited from our work with the JEDI Fellows program,” said Lesley Maxwell, Associate Chair in the Department of Communication Sciences and Disorders, who recognized the work of last year’s Fellow, Brianna Abbas, SLP ’22, in developing the orientation that Torres-Millet and Bayangos also facilitated. “Faculty and students developed a set of shared value statements and community agreements to use as we work together to integrate our values of justice, equity, diversity and inclusion into everything that we do.”
Alejandra Luna, OTD ’22, said her two-year experience as a Fellow provided her with myriad benefits. “It was very beneficial to my own growth and learning. It was liberating in both a personal and professional sense to be able to discuss matters that were really important to me,” she said.
Luna said she focused on topics including a lack of access to higher education primarily for people of color due to issues like money, support, mentorship, inequitable distribution of resources, ways in which some curricula contributed to systemic racism by highlighting certain populations more than others, and not discussing social determinants of health as a byproduct of systemic racism.
“I feel much more aware of the ways in which society really disenfranchises certain populations and have a better grasp on how I can make certain spaces and practices more equitable,” said Luna. “Additionally, I learned how to initiate difficult conversations and how to engage in these difficult topics with people who may not have the same viewpoint or experience.”
Like Luna, each Fellow comes to the initiative with their own individual passions and JEDI goals. It can be professional, personal, or a combination of the two. But they all have one thing in common – to help make things better in their own way.
“I am extremely passionate about increasing diversity and representation in the science field, as well as having conversations about why we see this difference in the healthcare field,” said new Fellow Rebecca Rojas, GC ’24, who is working with the Department of Physician Assistant Studies.
“Based on my personal identity and family’s local upbringing, I am most passionate about Asian- and Asian-American specific issues and topics, specifically the rising cost of living and gentrification of the Boston area forces low-income and marginalized communities to live further from the city to find affordable housing,” said new Fellow Tiffany Tsang, OTD ’25, who is working in the Department of Occupational Therapy and who previously had volunteered with the Asian Community Development Corporation in Chinatown. Tsang, Bayangos, and new fellow Katie McColgan, OTD ’25, also lead the school’s AAPI identifying student space.
“Having a support system for students of color who go through many hardships to get here and succeed is essential,” said new Fellow Stacy Monteiro-Mendes, MS-NU ’25, who has a dual appointment in the School of Nursing and the JEDI Office. “I would love to help strengthen that support for others.”
“I am passionate about care for the LGBTQ+ community and how gendered language in health care can sometimes be harmful for trans individuals,” said McColgan, who works in the Dean’s office in the School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences. Ning Xie, MS-NU ’23, a first- year Fellow with a dual appointment in the School of Nursing and JEDI Office, said he is passionate about the “improvement of trans health and making course content more inclusive of gender diversity and minimizing cis-heteronormativity.”
Kennedi Jones, GC ’23, who returned to work in the Genetic Counseling department this year, will lead JEDI-focused dialogue spaces for students in that program.
For Torres-Millet, the new year promises to be one of continued growth and expansion of the JEDI Fellows program. “I really believe that this year the IHP community is going to feel their presence and impact in many ways,” she said.
The Fellows will continue to serve on the SHRS Anti-Oppression Task Force and SON JEDI Curriculum Task Force, and will participate with the nursing school’s JEDI Collaborative. Fellows will also focus on cultivating relationships with students, including collaborating with student club organizations and the Student Government Association.
This year’s projects have included curriculum audit support, creating a shared JEDI learning document/tool, facilitating dialogue with faculty around comfortability with teaching JEDI content, hosting informal student-centered JEDI dialogue spaces, a conference presentation, co-facilitating community building sessions and JEDI workshops, and reviewing the school’s holiday calendar.
“The IHP community has much more clarity on the role and impact of the JEDI Fellows,” Torres-Millet said. “I look forward to continuing to make the JEDI Fellows and their work visible.”
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