If you visit the UC Davis MIND Institute website, you’ll find the following statement:
“The UC Davis MIND Institute condemns the ongoing racism and violence targeting people of color. We are committed to fulfilling our mission to help all families affected by neurodevelopmental challenges and to promote equal access to high-quality health care and education for all members of our community.”
The MIND Institute leadership has always aspired to equal access to high-quality health care, but has recently redoubled its efforts to achieve this.
“We know that there are huge gaps for certain groups of people with disabilities, due to inequities and barriers that make it hard for families to access care,” said Janice Enriquez, associate clinical professor in behavioral and developmental pediatrics and a MIND Institute faculty member.
Enriquez is chairing a new committee for diversity, equity and inclusion that includes a range of faculty who’ve volunteered for the effort.
“Structural racism is embedded within in all of our societal systems, and it’s really important for us to increase our efforts as an organization – and individually – to combat that and to better understand our patients and reach those who are currently invisible to us,” she added.
The committee’s efforts include:
— Elizabeth Morgan, doctoral student
UC Davis MIND Institute
- Staff members trained to facilitate racial healing circles through the Office for Health Equity, Diversity and Inclusion
- Book clubs involving faculty and staff to discuss and address diversity, equity and inclusion
- Discussion groups about “isms,” (like racism) with trainees and fellows
- A strong push for MIND Institute trainees at all levels to understand the social determinants of health and health equity
- A partnership with the Transformative Justice in Education Center at UC Davis for a series of training sessions, in an effort to address disability at the intersection of multiple cultural identities.
New diversity grant program
A new quarterly grant program is also in place — the MIND Institute Diversity Award. The $1,000 grants support postdoctoral fellows, graduate students, medical students and undergraduates with research projects that address issues of race, ethnicity and culture in the development, identification, care and support of individuals with neurodevelopmental challenges and their families. Postdoctoral fellow Amber Davis and doctoral student Elizabeth Morgan were the first recipients.
“It’s definitely a step in the right direction,” said Morgan, who’s researching the methods that Black parents use to advocate for care for their children with autism, as well as the challenges they face. She’s optimistic about the response to current events.
“It’s been impactful to see how leaders have responded to the racial reckoning. People are stepping up and they’re not just making statements, but also program and policy changes. At the heart of it, that’s what we all need to do.”
Morgan leads a support group for Black parents of children with neurodevelopmental disabilities called Sankofa (which means “go back and fetch it” in the Twi language of Ghana). The group holds culturally relevant training sessions and provides a safe space for parents to be heard.
It’s an example of the sort of listening that the MIND Institute is working to incorporate at every level.
“Our goal is health equity for all people with neurodevelopmental disabilities,” said MIND Institute director Leonard Abbeduto. “That starts with listening and understanding the needs of those in our community who face barriers accessing care. Our research, clinical work and everyday interactions must all reflect that goal.”
The UC Davis MIND Institute in Sacramento, Calif. was founded in 1998 as a unique interdisciplinary research center where families, community leaders, researchers, clinicians and volunteers work together toward a common goal: researching causes, treatments and potential prevention of neurodevelopmental disorders. The institute has major research efforts in autism, fragile X syndrome, chromosome 22q11.2 deletion syndrome, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and Down syndrome. More information about the institute and its Distinguished Lecturer Series, including previous presentations in this series, is available on the Web at mindinstitute.ucdavis.edu.