A diverse group of four new members has joined UCGHI’s board of directors, offering an opportunity to further promote diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) at the institute and across the UC system. As they begin their new roles, the institute expresses gratitude and says goodbye to a longtime supporter and co-director of UCGHI, who has retired.
The four new members from UCSF, UCLA, UC Berkeley and UC Irvine represent a range of disciplines and campuses and began their three-year terms in June. The UCGHI Black Lives Matter Task Force, formed in 2020, provided guidance to UCGHI in the board member selection process. The UCGHI Nominations & Appointments Committee, comprised of five board members reviewed the top three nominees from each campus. In response to UCGHI’s DEI Recommendations, including specific recommendations to diversify UCGHI leadership, the Institute had a diverse pool of applicants including a new requirement to submit statements that demonstrate their commitment to DEI as a leader on their campus and integrated into their research areas. For the first time in the institute’s history, DEI statements became a requirement for candidates for the Board of Directors.
The new members bring a wealth of experience and interest in supporting DEI measures to their positions. Ninez Ponce, PhD, MPP, a professor of health policy and management in UCLA’s Fielding school of public health, leads the California Health Interview Survey, the largest state health survey in the country. Ponce wants to see the board and UCGHI work toward diversifying UC faculty, developing anti-racism training, and incentivizing research on structural racism.
“If we lead with DEI by diversifying the faculty and expanding and deepening the training opportunities on anti-racism for them and in the student and community collaborations that UCGHI is doing, I think it’s going to help transform UCGHI,” she said. “And UCGHI and its transformation then can be an example for the rest of UC.”
The survey Ponce leads focuses on health equity. Detailed questions on race, ethnicity, gender, and neighborhood safety are asked in seven languages. Because Ponce raises funds for the survey from private organizations, the survey can include questions that aren’t government-sanctioned, such as on guns and gun violence.
“I think this kind of entrepreneurship is really needed, especially since we’re thinking about transforming UCGHI to be an anti-racist organization,” she said. “I think the why, we’re getting, but the how, how to operationalize it and how to finance it, is something that I think I could contribute to,” she said.
Eric Goosby, MD, a professor at UCSF’s school of medicine, director of the Center for Global Health Delivery and Diplomacy, and member of UCGHI Black Lives Matter Task Force, is another new board member. An internationally recognized expert in HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases, Goosby brings his experience with hundreds of infectious disease control initiatives in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia, and Eastern Europe to his position on the board.
Goosby wants the board and UCGHI to focus on relationships between UC, organizations that fund its global research, and the countries where this work is done.
“The problem in international work for a public institution is real,” he said. “We have a special obligation to think through what the DEI areas of concern are in everything from whom we hire in San Francisco or California to do work in, for example, Myanmar, and how the population in Myanmar is represented in our workforce, and we have the country’s prejudices, expectations, and practices to work through to realize that,” he said. “The post-colonial assumptions that play out in that are thick and have largely not been addressed.”
Like Ponce, Goosby would like to see more diversity in faculty hires at UC and wants to explore how hiring committees might be incentivized to make that happen.
Brandi Summers, PhD is an assistant professor of geography and global metropolitan studies at UC Berkeley and an author. She brings her interdisciplinary research background and interests in sociology, African American studies, and geography to study how economics, race, and political power are linked in urban areas and “ways that Black people thrive and meet certain challenges and how cities address issues related to them,” she said.
Summers wants to see the board and UCGHI provide more support for students of color and impoverished students.
“There is, I think, a duty or responsibility that oftentimes Black women feel to make sure that we provide space for those students,” she said. “And being a first-generation college student and beyond myself, that’s certainly something I’m really committed to,” she said.
Some students of color and those from poor and working-class backgrounds do not always have the same advantages that white and wealthy students are afforded, and hard work alone can't account for those differences, she said. “If you don’t come from money, or you don’t know people in your family that you can talk to about what you’re going through, it really can be traumatizing,” she said.
Bernadette Boden-Albala, DrPh, MPH, a professor of population health and disease prevention and a professor in the departments of epidemiology and neurology, is the director and founding dean of the Program in Public Health at UC Irvine. A social epidemiologist, she studies the social contexts of cardiovascular disease and stroke both nationally and globally. She’s led projects with Latinx communities in New York and native populations in Alaska, and in Europe and West Africa.
Boden-Albala stresses the importance of partnering with communities in designing research projects “to understand the unique and novel context within which the communities are experiencing these problems and then work on solutions,” she said.
In her time on the board, Boden-Albala hopes to help strengthen UC’s ties to global universities she’s worked with. Doing so will mean engaging local communities, particularly when partnering with organizations that may not have the power or status of UC.
“We need to frame our conversations so that they are equity based and there is no one power at the table, and really listen to each other about our needs,” she said.
As the board members began their new roles, Patricia Conrad, DVM, PhD, who was part of the institute from its earliest days, retired. Conrad was a UCGHI co-director from 2016 until her recent retirement and a co-director of one of the institute’s centers of expertise from 2010 to 2016.
Conrad also represented UC Davis at a December 2007 meeting organized by Haile Debas, MD, then the executive director of UCSF Global Health Sciences and later the founding director of UCGHI. That meeting was the start of a process that eventually led to the institute’s creation. For Conrad, the meeting was “love at first listen.”
“I could see where the whole UC together could contribute so much,” she said. Debas’ initial plan for a UC-wide school eventually evolved into one for an institute, and UCGHI began in 2009.
Conrad, who was also associate dean for global programs and distinguished professor in UC Davis’s school of veterinary medicine, said she’s loved all the positions she’s held at UC and the institute. She described herself as a lifelong “doer.” But her plan is to start retirement with a pause.
“The few times in my life that I paused and reflected, I made some of my best decisions,” she said. UCGHI is grateful for Pat Conrad’s leadership and invaluable contributions to help make what UCGHI is today.