Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Committee call to action

Dear DEB colleagues,


This is a call to action. The Department of Epidemiology & Biostatistics (DEB) Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee are partnering with the Institute for Global Health Sciences (IGHS) DEI committee to develop and implement initiatives to fight social injustice. We are stronger together and there is considerable overlap in staff, students, and faculty who hold appointments in both organizations. In this letter, we express our outrage at the recent publicized events of police brutality and racism toward Black people in our country. These events are not new; hundreds of people of color are victims of police brutality every day in the U.S., and in 2019 alone 234 people shot and killed by police were Black; 68% were people of color. Structural racism is responsible for this devastating loss of life, a force that affects all aspects of the lives of Black people. The COVID-19 pandemic has shined a spotlight on the long-standing effects of structural racism as we see Black and LatinX communities disproportionately and negatively impacted by the virus and our public health policies.    


As members of an academic institution, we have a responsibility to educate ourselves and learn how our implicit biases fuel structural racism. It is a time to consider ways in which we can all be active and impactful allies for Black people on a daily basis. We each hold intrinsic biases that have been ingrained in us since birth. All of us. Identifying and examining our biases is a first step. Academic institutions were built by the same people who founded our country. Institutional racism is in the architectural mold of our institution. We can restructure it but this takes deliberate and persistent action. But there is much more that we can do as individuals and as a community to address institutional racism and structural inequalities in our culture.


We encourage each of you, as part of the broader DEB community, to take responsibility and do the personal and collective work necessary to identify your role in this system.


We ask you to act in the following ways:

  1. Do some inward soul-searching: what unconscious biases might you hold towards Black people? Take the test: https://implicit.harvard.edu/implicit/takeatest.html
    1. Some resources to read include: White Fragility, How to Be an Antiracist. More below.
    2. After identifying your biases, think about ways to change these biases. This is more than waiting for someone to tell you what action to take. It goes beyond “being open” to doing something and beyond asking a person of color what you can do (which puts the onus on them). Do the work yourself; there are many resources you can tap into.  
  2. What systematic changes do you want to see happen that will help dismantle systemic racism? These can be changes within the workplace, in your community and circle of influence, nationally and globally. 
    1. After identifying them, make a list of action items you will do to address them. Actions, when taken regularly, accumulate to big change.
  3. What can you do right now to be an ally? Allyship includes educating yourself, educating others, supporting/encouraging others, initiating action to change individual and institutional actions and policies, etc. Allyship is an action. Move from bystander to upstander!


We expect those leadership roles (e.g., managers, division heads, principal investigators, directors, and educators) to:

  1. Hold yourself responsible to do the work. Be a role model for your team. Have your actions reflect your values.
  2. Offer coverage and support to allow members time away from work to process and heal.
  3. Develop lab/group handbooks or course syllabus that explicitly state acceptable and unacceptable behaviors. And refer to these often to establish norms. 
  4. Personally check in with your team regularly and ask if there is anything they need for support. Especially POC members.
  5. Create and share a list of mental health resources available (see resources below).
  6. Educate yourself about the history of academic institutions and how this history contributes to continued structural racism.


The DEB DEI Committee is committed to promoting a dialogue regarding the racism we see and experience in this country, including here at UCSF. On June 8th, we will start with a web-based workshop focused on “Power, Privilege, and Allyship in the COVID-19 Era” which will focus largely on the ways structural racism continues to operate in our personal and professional spaces. Check your email and RSVP here


As workers in an elite academic setting, we have a duty to position ourselves and our work to address the disparities that we study and to be mindful of the way in which we may inadvertently perpetuate those disparities. We have a lot of work ahead of us, and collectively we can make impacts that reflect our PRIDE values as an institution. This journey will be intense and uncomfortable, but we can choose to embrace vulnerability during these difficult times. We cannot be silent at this moment. We all see the devastation and the havoc that these injustices wreak on the entire Bay Area community. Change is the responsibility of every one of us.


Please reach out to one of the DEI committee members to share your ideas on specific steps we can all take to dismantle structural racism. Our committee is working closely with other committees across campus and with the Office of Diversity and Outreach to combine our efforts to catalyze change. Thank you in advance for your willingness for self-reflection, leaning into the discomfort, and committing to action.  


In solidarity,

The DEB DEI Committee

Iona Cheng

Kristina Dang

Christian Leiva

Felix Liu

Georgina Lopez

Suzanna Martinez

Kala Mehta

Meghan Morris

Starley Shade

Jennifer Smith

Susan Rubin

Anna Rubinsky

Asha Robertson


Additional Reading Resources

What White People Can do For Racial Justice

5 Ways to Show up for Racial Justice Today 

How to be an anti-racist

Black Lives Matter

Me and white supremacy

History of White People

Killing the Black Body


Emotional and Mental Health Resources:


Other Support Resources:


Anti-Racism Resources

These resources contain many media (books, films, podcasts, blogs, etc) to get started with for self- and community education.


Support Community Organizations, Get Involved

There are so many orgs, initiatives, etc. Here are just two places to start. 

  • Neighborhood Funders Groups - COVID Funds to donate to 
  • UCSF Do No Harm Coalition- “We are healers, health workers, and activists accompanying communities affected by state sanctioned violence in our collective struggle for health, dignity, and sovereignty. Health is a human right and as health workers we have a collective duty to eradicate systems of oppression which threaten that right.”

**Note—this call to action was intended to be sent on Monday, June 1, but has been delayed due to a department server outage.**