How can public health researchers address racism? How can they place race at the forefront of their research agendas and disrupt traditional research paradigms that maintain status quo? In a new Ethnicity & Disease commentary, five researchers from the Maryland Center for Health Equity (M-CHE) at the University of Maryland School of Public Health discuss their experiences with conducting an 18.5 hour, two and a half day training institute created to address these questions and offer recommendations based on the lessons they have learned.
M-CHE has long been advancing work based on Public Health Critical Race Praxis (PHCRP), a model of Critical Race Theory (CRT) tailored for public health research. Inspired by the annual Health Equity Leadership Institute and building on a long track record of training diverse students, postdocs and faculty to conduct community-engaged health disparities research, the M-CHE established the PHCRP Institute in 2014.
Unique in its focus on structural racism, the PHCRP Institute focused on helping participants explore the fundamentals of CRT and PHCRP, apply learned concepts to their research and disseminate their research findings. Unlike other approaches, the Institute encouraged personal self-reflection and created a safe environment for participants to openly express their own lived experiences with social marginalization.
Twenty four junior faculty, senior faculty and postdoctoral fellows, most whom were female and self-identified as being Black or African American, comprised the first cohort of PHCRP Institute scholars. They represented twenty mostly southern public and private US academic institutions as well as a variety of disciplines and research interests.
For the inaugural PHCRP Institute, held in February 2014, the scholars convened to participate in activities, attend presentations, join in reflections, and interact with Institute faculty. Institute faculty included the authors and PHCRP, CRT and intersectionality experts. Reflecting on their experience, one scholar noted, “I am more convinced now than ever before that I have the tools, support and networks of affirmation to make a meaningful, necessary and sustainable contribution to the field on behalf of my people.”
Based on the success and lessons learned from the PHCRP Institute, the authors recommend that others interested in organizing a PHCRP training institute: create a safe space so that scholars can be candid about the experiences; ensure a mix activities related to PHCRP and CRT; maintain connectivity through social media and email with and among scholars; provide networking activities among participants and maintain flexibility to adapt to emerging needs.
The authors hope to spur support for future institutes that increase the number of diverse investigators interested in keeping race and racism at the forefront of their research agendas, “Ultimately, the research enterprise needs scientists who are self-reflective, community-engaged, action-oriented and fearless when they encounter conventional worldviews.”
The article, “Commentary: Critical Race Theory Training to Eliminate Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities: The Public Health Critical Race Praxis Institute,” was written by Drs. James Butler, Craig S. Fryer, and Mary Garza, department of behavioral and community health; Dr. Sandra C. Quinn, department of family science and Dr. Stephen B. Thomas, Department of Health Services Administration.