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UW School of Nursing creates Center for Antiracism, tackling healthcare disparities

A new Center for Antiracism in Nursing will focus on breaking down the very healthcare system that has historically failed Black and Brown people.

The University of Washington School of Nursing is unveiling a new effort to tackle racism within the healthcare system. 

The new Center for Antiracism in Nursing poses the question: If we want to see changes within the healthcare system, why not start with nurses? 

"It's time for nurses to act,” said Azita Emami, UW School of Nursing Executive Dean. The school acknowledges the role systemic racism plays in healthcare disparities.

"I think it's time for us. We cannot afford to wait for the solution to present itself for us. It's time for us to act on what we believe is the right thing to do,” said Emami. 

A new Center for Antiracism in Nursing will focus on breaking down the very system that has historically failed Black and Brown people.

"It means really going through our educational program, making changes in our curricula and working on the clinical practice,” said Emami.

The center will also explore promoting community-driven and partnered research, supporting students from underrepresented and historically excluded groups, and applying antiracist principles to clinical practice, organizational operations and health-related policy. 

Emami said, to her knowledge, this center is the first-of-its-kind. Professional nursing groups and other schools are developing anti-racism programs, but none appear to have dedicated a full department to this work.

"We are not naïve. We know that this is America, and it takes a long time for us to eradicate racism,” said Emami. 

That reality is playing out in real-time – as the country tackles the truths behind why COVID-19 is even more deadly for people of color.

Another layer of the pandemic, according to a recent survey by the Kaiser Family Foundation, 43% of Black Americans are taking a “wait and see” approach to getting a COVID vaccine. Experts say that points to years of mistrust among Black Americans in the health care system, something this new center hopes to address.

"We need to show that this is up to us, as one of the prominent academic institutions in this country to really, you know, build that trust again or rebuild it,” said Emami. 

The school will hold listening sessions to figure out what needs to change and establish an advisory committee made up of community members, healthcare institutions, alumni, staff and students, to challenge the University of Washington School of Nursing to see these initiatives through.