As we begin a new academic year, I am often asked by new students and parents to share what I most like about my role as an advising dean in the School of Nursing and Health Studies.

Though there are many aspects of this role that I enjoy, what I value most is the opportunity to be part of a school that works to prepare the next generation of health care professionals. Serving as an advising dean allows me to not only work with the Global Health students I advise, but also to work across our four departments to turn the NHS mission and vision into action — to advance the health and well-being of individuals and communities while advocating for health equity and social justice in local, national and global communities through education, scholarship and social action. In addition to these NHS values that influence my role as a dean, I am also guided by Georgetown’s commitment to diversity, respect for all persons and contemplation in action as we seek to work for the common good.

A commitment to these values fuels my passion for the work I do to help others – including students – understand the value of working to achieve health equity in our community, in particular the efforts to ensure that all people have full, equal access to opportunities that enable them to lead healthy lives.

To achieve health equity, we must afford all members of our community equal access to health care and strive to eliminate avoidable health inequities and disparities, two distinct but important and interrelated concepts. Health inequities are differences in health that result from social, economic and environmental conditions; health disparities, conversely, are preventable differences in health outcomes between different groups of people that often lead to patterns of disease that burden those populations.

It is equally rewarding to work alongside students to deepen their learning by connecting their classroom experiences to these concepts through practice in the broader world. For me, this happens most while working with students to put these concepts into practice with a specific emphasis on underrepresented and vulnerable populations that are disproportionately affected by health inequity. By not only teaching students about the issues of health inequity but also allowing them to witness and address these problems firsthand, we enable them to recognize the significance of their efforts in health education and expand their knowledge of the subjects at hand.

Experiences like these can be transformative for students on multiple levels.

Just last summer, NHS students, faculty and community partners collaboratively created a report entitled “The Health of the African-American Community in the District of Columbia: Disparities and Recommendations,” which identified a number of health inequities between black and white communities in Washington, D.C.

For example, the report concluded that black men in the District tend to live 15 years fewer than their white counterparts, among many other things. After completing the report, the students involved advocated for health equity by engaging local government officials to drive change in addressing these health disparities and inequities. The publication of the report not only served as a valuable educational tool, but also had tangible benefits for our local community.

Another example that comes to mind is designing and co-teaching “Health Equity Think Tank: Exploring Realities and Solutions,” a new health studies course that is open to all students at Georgetown. The course is intended to provide students with the opportunity to focus on the root causes of health issues, while raising their awareness about progress across health, education, justice, housing, transportation and employment sectors to address social determinants of health.

It is these types of experiential learning opportunities that further help our students gain awareness of the importance of achieving health equity, domestic or global, as all human beings deserve.

It is rewarding and inspiring to be part of a school that values the importance of advancing health equity while also emphasizing the importance of addressing health disparities and inequities. By teaching our students about healthy inequity through firsthand experience, the NHS allows them to bring the values of our school and of our entire Jesuit university – including our commitment to health and social justice and a respect for all people – to life through their education. It is these values in action that make the NHS a special place to work. I look forward to sharing these values and their importance with all new students joining our community this fall.

Brian Floyd is the assistant dean of academic affairs in the School of Nursing and Health Studies. From the Dean’s Desk appears every other Thursday.

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7 Comments

  1. The Health Equity Think Tank course is a new, but indispensable, addition to the repertoire of the School of Nursing and Health Studies. Having been one of just five or six students in the flagship semester, with access to four professors, I was absolutely fortunate and blessed. The following semester, I was happy to see that number swell to about an average class size. Clearly, once word got around, the high level of interest in eradicating health disparities through experiential learning and remarkably Socratic discussions among NHS students quickly drew them to the course. I want to express my deep and sincere gratitude to my Health Equity Think Tank professors–Brian Floyd, Chrisopher King, Ella Heitzler, and Edilma Yearwood–for their passionate involvement and mentorship. They are truly making a huge difference in the lives of students, and beyond!

  2. Stefanie Kurgatt says:

    Wonderful piece Dean Floyd! As a recent NHS graduate I can honestly say that the values that have been instilled in me throughout my four years at Georgetown have helped me gain a better understanding of health equity and the role I want to play when it comes to addressing social determinants of health. I came to Georgetown not knowing what I wanted to do, but being in the NHS and a healthcare management major, I came out knowing that wherever my career leads me, I want to help people and address the world wide issues we have when it comes to health.

  3. David Palmieri says:

    I was lucky enough to have Dean Floyd as my First Year Colloquium teacher, and since the first semester of freshman year he has been an incredible mentor to me. That is why I was overjoyed to be able to take his class Health Equity Think-Tank and serve as his student once again. Of all my classes at Georgetown, this was surely the most rewarding. Health equity, a multidimensional, complex disciple, was explained so thoroughly and so clearly. Classroom projects and assignments helped further understanding and growth. Our final project was both practical and challenging, and students are known to bring their projects to fruition in the real world.

    At University, we generally learn about problems, but this class is about the hard task of developing solutions. With a diverse, intelligent, engaged set of students and four incredibly qualified, experienced instructors, that is exactly what we sought to do. A comfortable, fluid, secure classroom atmosphere also had a great part in making this class so successful.

    Our health as individuals, and a population, is determined by so much more than just clinical care. It is vital to understand health factors, culture, history, policies, procedures, and much more to take a genuine, critical look at our healthcare. I highly recommend Georgetown students from any school or major take this course, it is truly eye-opening, engaging, and informative. Thank you Dean Floyd for your commitment and passion of helping others, and thank you for helping me along a similar path.

  4. Cristeen Anyanwu says:

    I took this course Fall of 2016 and I can say that this course helped shape my academic pursuits. This course is cura personal in its truest form as it takes into account your own lived experiences, lived experiences of your classmates and incorporates tools that can help you conceptualize solutions to problematic societal issues centered on health and well-being. The professors are extremely approachable and available to talk with you. They have so many unique experiences shared amongst the four instructors: Dean Floyd and Professors Yearwood, Heitzler and King. I believe it’s offered this upcoming Spring and I would recommend it to any student interested in social justice, environmental health, public health, health policy, public policy, and law as this course expands across many disciplines. This course is so important given the politic landscape and I’m just happy I was able to take the course before I graduated!

  5. Working with Dean Floyd and the other faculty in the NHS has definitely prepared me for my current role working on population health software. Because of their insights, I now have the ability to take the issues and recommendations addressed by the health disparities report and work toward including them in electronic medical health records to ultimately reduce health disparities and health inequalities.

    Dean Floyd also helped me realize that there are many avenues one can take to combat these problems. While I was not expecting to be in the health information management sector, he gave me the necessary tools to utilize the knowledge that I gleaned in my classes to make a difference in my workplace and ultimately in people’s lives.

    Thank you, Dean Floyd, for the work that you are doing, and best of luck with the school year as you lead the next generation of healthcare professionals.

  6. I was both a contributor to the DC Health Disparities Report and a student in the inaugural semester of the Health Equity Think Tank course. As a recent NHS graduate, words cannot describe how influential these two activities were on not only my last two years at Georgetown but also in helping me to better understand and articulate the need to address health disparities.

    The report allowed us to understand firsthand from a variety of healthcare professionals what is going on in the African American communities right in our own DC communities.

    Having access to FOUR professors for one course at Georgetown and pretty much at any other university I can think of is unheard of. But the Health Equity Think Tank course allowed us students to learn from, discuss, and brainstorm solutions to some of the most challenging aspects of health disparities with four professors, including Dean Floyd, from diverse backgrounds that gave us the freedom to focus on specific issues that we hope to address.

    Dean Floyd’s commitment to help others, both students and the surrounding communities that he serves, is truly amazing and I highly recommend this course to Georgetown students across ALL majors. One of the most important things to note about this course is that it is not specific to a certain school or major. Students gain an understanding and vision of how their fields of study relate to the material that is covered in the course.

    Whether you study Health Care Management and Policy or English, you will quickly realize in this course that health is determined by far more than clinical care and involves further exploration into socioeconomic classes, history, culture, law, policies, and the list goes on.

  7. Radhika Sahai says:

    I was a student in the first Health Equity Think Tank course in Fall 2016, and had the privilege of being advised on my goals and pursuits in Healthcare by four compassionate and highly knowledgeable professors. Through the course, we examined health disparities and the social conditions which contribute to them by drawing on academic literature, anecdotes, and our own personal narratives. This course allowed me to form a more complete understanding of health inequity and the ways in which health disparities can be addressed by combatting social injustice. This course was instrumental to my career path and I would highly recommend it to anyone hoping to make a difference in health care and health justice issues!

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