Equity and Justice: Spotlight on UMB Schools’ EDI Officers

This post is an edited excerpt from the story that originally appeared in CATALYST

Equity and Justice is a core values set at the University of Maryland, Baltimore (UMB). At each of UMB’s schools, equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) assistant/associate deans work to ensure that UMB embraces and is committed to diversity.

CATALYST caught up with the School of Pharmacy’s assistant dean for equity, diversity, and inclusion, Chanel F. Whittaker, PharmD, BCGP, FASCP, to discuss her work.

CATALYST: Why did you decide to go into the EDI field?

Whittaker: Equity, diversity, and inclusion is important because offering high-quality health care to all is my primary responsibility as a pharmacist. As reflected in the oath of a pharmacist, I wholeheartedly commit to “promote inclusion, embrace diversity, and advocate for justice to advance health equity” as long as I continue to practice professionally and beyond.

Throughout my career as a pharmacist and academician, I have always integrated principles of equity and inclusion. Much of my work has been focused on influencing individual health outcomes and developing interventions to promote medication literacy in older adults. However, in this new role, I have the opportunity to make a much broader impact.

What has been the most gratifying change regarding EDI that you’ve been part of, either at UMB or elsewhere?

The School of Pharmacy is still in the early stages of our equity, diversity, and inclusive excellence journey, but we have begun to celebrate important milestones. One significant change since beginning our journey has been a shift in the dialogue around EDI from something that is relevant to a few interested stakeholders to a central guiding principle that is relevant to all that we do as a school.

One of the most gratifying changes is evident in recent changes to the Doctor of Pharmacy curriculum. In 2022, the faculty developed and approved new anti-racism and anti-oppression competency-based outcomes as part of the new PharmD curriculum.

Another exciting change that is currently in progress is that the school’s faculty affairs committee chaired by Amanda Oglesby, PhD, has been charged by the dean to integrate the school’s core values of “equity and justice” into the appointment, promotion, and tenure [APT] policies.

Integrating EDI into the APT process creates a new space for faculty to demonstrate excellence in research, teaching, practice, and service. But more importantly, this demonstrates the faculty’s commitment to the school’s mission to “globally engage and lead education, pharmacy practice, scientific research, and pharmapreneurial initiatives to collaboratively and equitably improve the health of society.”

What has been the most pressing EDI issue facing your school over the past year? Have you been able to take steps to address it, and if so, how?

The most pressing issue of the past year has been to remain in step with the rapid changes occurring nationally around equity, diversity, and inclusion. Our school’s journey is only a microcosm of the broader shift in research institutions, professional organizations, and the health care system to intentionally address pervasive and longstanding inequities. Therefore, while we celebrate the significant strides being made by the school related to integrating EDI into the PharmD curriculum and APT policies, I also see these as practical steps to prepare the school for changes in national policies related to program accreditation, practice, and research best practices. Beyond the need for change to remain accountable, we would like to embrace this time of change to evolve our school’s legacy of excellence to reimagine excellence through the lens of inclusion, a lens that seeks to advance equity, diversity, and inclusive excellence in teaching, service, and research.

What are some of your goals for your school this coming year?

In the coming year, there is one priority for the School of Pharmacy: to complete the “Beyond Excellent” strategic planning campaign. The school’s inaugural Equity, Diversity, and Inclusive Excellence [ED&I] strategic plan will establish the school’s unique brand of inclusive excellence. The “Beyond Excellent” campaign began in fall 2022 with multiple town halls and listening sessions with faculty, staff, and students to identify ED&I priorities for the school. The ED&I strategic plan centers on Theme 3 of the UMB strategic plan: University culture, engagement, and belonging. It has five key perspectives including accountability and sustainability; access and equity; inclusion and belonging; inclusive practice, research, and teaching; and community partnerships and pharmapreneurship. We look forward to publishing the full strategic plan in fall 2023.

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