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The PhD is done.

Below is the acknowledgement page from my dissertation.

I defended June 2022.

It feels nearly impossible to do a dissertation with young kids and without family support. I thank my childcare providers who took care of my infant and toddler sons, Olu and Kenzo. I also thank my husband, Kevin Lewis, who is on the same journey and completing a PhD in computer science. One day, I don’t know when, the “balancing everything” game will be over. I also want to acknowledge myself. I entered the PhD program feeling excited, curious and unstoppable. Almost six years later, as I near the departure gate, I feel beaten, knocked down and defeated by life and this dissertation. That said, I acknowledge myself for having the grit to continue anyway. I hope that this research brings some value and helps my people. The ideas behind this dissertation would not have come to fruition without my original dissertation chairperson, Dr. Nicholas Freudenberg. I can still recall sitting in his office when we first discussed these ideas and the straightforward feedback he provided for strengthening the research goals. Despite being incredibly busy with multiple projects, Nick has always provided me with quality feedback and recommendations for even more improvement. I first came across Nick by way of Dr. Harriet Goodman, the former Executive Officer for the Social Welfare PhD program at the CUNY Graduate Center. She told me about elective courses that were being offered at the CUNY School of Public Health and she told me Nick was a friend of hers and that he would be a good contact for me. She was right! Harriet was also incredibly helpful to me for strengthening my literature review. She generously made space for her students on all days of the week including weekends. Like Harriet, Dr. Alexis Kuerbis has also been readily available to me and one who seems to have a talent at making the impossible feel possible and uncomplicated. When I took her stats class, I knew then that I wanted to work with Alexis. Despite being on sabbatical, I thank Alexis for taking the time to help me develop the survey questions, make sense of a massive amount of quant data and for her emails filled with encouragement when I was full of doubt and nervousness. Alexis forced me to take out my old statistics notes and learn about new concepts like “spaghetti plots.” I have also enjoyed her transparency and humor. Committee members are human, too. While I never took a class with Dr. Michael Lewis, everyone has always raved about him. In working on this dissertation, I see why. He has sent me articles to read, and he has always provided extremely long and thoughtful email responses to my questions. His feedback on drafts that I thought were final edits, have consistently challenged me to question my assumptions and the importance of backing up everything with proof. Finally, I would like to thank Dr. Elisabeth Brauner who I met in 2005 while I was completing my MPH. We have been in and out of communication over the years. After she emailed me a simple question of “how are you doing?” and me giving an honest response about everything in my life being a complete mess, and my desire to drop out of the PhD program, she agreed to work with me. I can’t wait to run a marathon with Elisabeth! I will bring the mustard. Apart from my dissertation committee, I also owe a huge amount of gratitude to Dr. Cathy N. Davidson. Her grace, support, and professional mentoring have been invaluable to me. It is an absolute pleasure to work with her and the Futures Initiative team. Last but not least, I would like to thank the Association of Schools and Programs of Public Health (ASPPH) and Christine M. Plepys, Senior Director of Data Analytics, for giving me access to the data for Study One. I would like to thank the participants from Study Two who took time to answer a few survey questions. Adashima

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Dissertation Abstract

Workforce Diversity and Health Equity: The Role of Schools of Public Health

The goal to eliminate health disparities and achieve health equity has remained a consistent public health and social welfare challenge for the United States. Schools of public health, despite being disproportionately White, are charged with the important task of training a diverse workforce of master and doctoral-level public health students to protect and promote the overall health of the nation with research, policy, and practice. Experiences and practices related to the recruitment, admission, enrollment, and graduation of students of color, specifically Blacks and Latinx, warrant further research. Positive deviance theory, critical race theory, and organizational culture theory informed this research. There are some data for physicians, dentists, and nurses. However, there is a gap in the literature for public health professionals about the role of workforce diversity among public health professionals and health equity. The research consisted of two studies. Study One examined what the numbers say about diversity. Study Two examined what the schools say about diversity. Between 2010 and 2020, for all degrees and across all schools of public health, the total number of applications by Black and Latinx prospective students increased significantly each year on average by 2% while acceptances increased on average by 6%. The total number of Black and Latinx students enrolling in public health master’s programs in accredited schools of public health increased by 5%. However, the total number of Black and Latinx students enrolling in public health doctoral programs did not significantly change over time. For Study Two, a 2021 self-report electronic survey was sent to staff at schools of public health to ascertain information about recruitment and admission practices. The main takeaways from Study Two are that there is a great variance about the definition of diversity at schools of public health. Furthermore, some schools of public health are ready to implement changes but do not know where to start whereas others have no sense of urgency. Among schools that have made the greatest strides, diversity goals are coupled with policy and practice. Recommendations for improving admission and graduations of Black and Latinx are included in this dissertation. Ultimately, the results from both studies reveal that more research, including qualitative data on student experiences related to recruitment, admission, and enrollment are needed to increase diversity at schools of public health.


Key Words: Diversity, Positive Deviance Theory, Critical Race Theory, Organizational Culture Theory, Public Health, Schools of Public Health, Health Equity, Admissions, Recruitment, Workforce, Higher Education, Students, Blacks and Latinx


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