My name is Negin Fouladi and I am Associate Clinical Professor and Director of online graduate programs (MPH-Practice and Policy, MHA, Dual MD/MHA, Certificate-Principles of Public Health) in the Department of Health Policy and Management at the University of Maryland School of Public Health. I have over 200 students in my programs and have many roles, including administration, teaching, advising, and mentorship. I teach graduate courses on health systems, public health research methods, and health care strategic planning & marketing and undergraduate courses on global health and health policy. I am the academic and career development advisor to all students and mentor practice-based internship and capstone activities of students in my programs. I also do my best to continue scholarly activities in translational science and comparative healthcare to provide national and international research and practice opportunities for students and researchers in the field.
I mention all this as working with large numbers of diverse students in various capacities and international research teams must include strategies to promote equitable education and research systems focused on inclusivity, belonging, and creating safe collaborative spaces. This is by no means an easy task with a magic formula! Creating culturally sensitive and equitable environments requires first and foremost self-reflection about intersecting identities and how they are connected to others and influence our beliefs about diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging. We need to intentionally assess cultural, structural, and contextual factors influencing practice and build a collaborative space rooted in trust and respect. This applies to teaching/learning and research/practice environments where all must be equal members with voices heard and acknowledged.
Participating in the American Evaluation Association Minority Serving Institution (AEA-MSI) Fellowship has provided the opportunity to deeply reflect on my efforts to date and push me to do more in creating inclusive and culturally sensitive environments in teaching, research, and practice. I intentionally try to develop such environments in teaching and strengthen community- building through problem-based activities, self-reflection, engaging intersectionality, and pedagogical partnerships. In efforts to promote inclusive and equitable research environments, I began working with colleagues in the UK in 2020 and expanded to Ireland and Australia in 2021 to develop and launch an International Virtual Health Research & Exchange collaboration platform (HREx) for the Global Universitas21 network to address challenges of limited collaboration opportunities and difficulty securing mentorship and funding opportunities continually experienced by underrepresented students and early career researchers in healthcare, which were highlighted during the Pandemic. HREx emphasizes diversity, inclusivity, and culturally sensitive mentorship and professional development for students and early career researchers in health services, policy, and management.
The MSI Fellowship has encouraged and given me the confidence to engage more with my students and the international community leading to the development of a “Health Practice Community” utilizing culturally responsive and equitable evaluation (CREE) strategies. This is a new initiative bringing together students, academics, researchers, and the practice community at the University of Maryland and University of Birmingham, UK as equal stakeholders to increase equity, diversity, and inclusion within and across academic institutions and promote knowledge translation and exchange and evidence informed decision-making in healthcare.
Ultimately, my goal as an educator, researcher, and most importantly friend is to provide as many opportunities and environments as possible for my students and colleagues to develop in all aspects of their lives knowing they are heard, acknowledged, and can accomplish anything. As I said earlier, it’s not an easy task but so rewarding to see individuals succeed!
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