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Change the Narrative: RMUoHP Diversity Committees Host Panel Event in Honor of Black History Month


In the university’s continued commitment to inclusion and authenticity, the Student Diversity Committee (SDC) and the University Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee (UDEIC) at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP) held a panel discussion in honor of Black History Month titled “Change the Narrative.” 

Event panelists, Chayla Gaines, PhD; Shanda Gore, EdD; and Michelle L. Webb, EdD, OTD, OTR/L, CAPS, discussed the imbalances within the healthcare system as well as the ways members of this system can come together to create a more welcoming and inclusive environment for everyone. 

The panel focused on three specific types of relationships found in healthcare where inequality can be found and how it can be combated: professional relationships, advocacy relationships, and academic relationships.

When talking about social injustices in professional settings, the panel largely focused on the interactions between healthcare providers and their patients. 

Gore explained how there has historically been a lack of trust between minority patients and their healthcare providers. 

“Due to past historic situations, many minority individuals gravitate towards people who look like them in healthcare and if there isn’t someone who looks like them they won’t go to see a healthcare provider,” said Gore. 

Webb added that one of the challenges for minorities is preconceived or assumed notions about people’s health because of the color of their skin.

Webb added, “The situations where people make assumptions about things based on stereotypes can have the unfortunate end product of inadequate healthcare treatment and even further than that it can lead to death.” 

The panelists went on to discuss how people can advocate for both themselves and others in these situations. 

“What I’ve learned over time in this profession is that I’ve got to be able to speak to what I’m seeing and in that way bring that lens that others are often not seeing,” explained Gaines. “It is important to find your voice and amplify it, use it. This is not the time to be silenced by fear. Try to put yourself in others’ shoes.” 

Gaines continued, “ I challenge people to dig deep in themselves even it they were the one who did it, to hold themselves accountable and ask ‘Am I being an active participant by not speaking up about something that can fully affect someone’s health and wellbeing?’” 

The panel concluded by discussing how these conversations can be held between teachers and their students. 

“There is a fear that many teachers have that if they say something in the classroom it might turn into something they can’t manage,” said Gore. “I’ve seen that this fear can really make people lock up. There might be this natural feeling of I’m not sure when it comes to these types of topics. It’s okay in these situations to say ‘I need help.’” Her hope is that more people can receive help so they can engage in these important conversations.

The closing few remarks of the panelist all expressed a desire that the conversation wouldn’t end here and that everyone would be able to reach out to like minded individuals to keep the conversation going. 

“Find your support group, those like-minded individuals,” advised Webb. “The wonderful thing about diversity of thought is that they might not be people of color. When you find someone—whether they’re a person of color or not—and they’re like-minded, now you’re two. And if you find someone else, now you’re three. It’s so important particularly for students as you go out…to seek those people in your workplace, because they are there…There is strength in numbers.”