Reinforcing the Institute's Commitment to Diversity

January 10, 2019
Jonathan Jackson

Jonathan Jackson set the tone at the beginning of a panel discussion directed towards new Bachelor of Science in Nursing students focusing on recognizing power, privilege, and positionality during their first day on campus.

“Maybe some of you feel like some of this is so hard, that it would be so much easier if we had access to some kind a guru,” said Dr. Jackson, the director of the Community Access, Recruitment, and Engagement Center (CARE) Research Center at Massachusetts General Hospital. “If someone could give us an answer sheet so we never got anything socially wrong, we could get an A+ in social wokeness.”

However, he noted, that’s not the case. “Providing competent care requires us to see the individual. We have to remember to attain the core values of professionalism, of inclusivity, of innovation and trust, of productivity, of accountability. All of those require us to truly lower our guard and be vulnerable to those around us to provide competent care.”

“What Is the IHP's Role in Health Care? Exploring the Impact of Power, Privilege, and Positionality,” provided the more than 100 incoming BSN students with a first glimpse of the core values and mission of the MGH Institute. Throughout the afternoon session, health care professionals, students, alumni, and LGBTQ advocates discussed the intersectionality of these three points as they relate to the importance of treating patients with dignity and respect while providing the new students with ideas on how to become the best health care professionals – and people – they can be.

Sponsored by the IHP’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Council, the conversation was the most recent event designed to spur conversation and raise awareness on campus about issues surrounding diversity.

“We hope that by sharing the values of the Institute with you, you can get a better sense of what they mean and see how they are operationalized each day,” President Paula Milone-Nuzzo told the students. “We want you to know we are committed to living them as best we can in all that we do. They’re not just words on a paper. This is what we believe, and our values guide how we act.”

The panelists each had different suggestions on how students can better understand diversity issues, even if they have not been exposed to the many inequalities that often can hinder the patient-caregiver dynamic. Afterwards, the students broke into teams to discuss the advice and to report our ways in which they could implement the recommendations during the next 17 months as they work towards becoming registered nurses.

Panelists were Ndidiamaka Amutah-Onukagha, PhD, MPH, CHES, an assistant professor in the Department of Public Health and Community Medicine at Tufts University School of Medicine; Kenya Palmer, MS-Nursing ’13, a nurse practitioner at Boston Medical Center’s Department of Endocrinology, Diabetes, Nutrition and Weight Management; and Andrew C. Sackett-Taylor, MS-Nursing ’16, a nurse practitioner at Gandara Center Outpatient Clinic in Springfield, MA.

View photos from the event.

Definitions Related to the Discussion


The individual or collective ability to be or act in ways which fulfill our desires. These desires can be positive, but they can also be used to hurt, dominate, or oppress others.


Refers to the unearned resources, advantages, control, normative status, access to services, opportunities, and other forms of power that members belonging to a dominant group (such as whites, males, heterosexuals,etc.) automatically have because of their identity.


Race is only one aspect of an individual’s identity that is relevant in discussing oppression. Positionality refers to the many social identities (affinities, values, norms) an individual possesses.

The above three definitions come from CARED’s Fighting Racism: What is ‘Being an Ally?’


The belief that social justice movements must consider all of the intersections of identity, privilege, and oppression that people face in order to be just and effective.

SOURCE: Olvo’s So You Want to Talk About Race, Chapter 5