Shining a Black Light Week Four
February 22, 2021
Though February is officially designated as Black History Month, one month is not nearly enough time to explore how systemic racism has shaped policies, especially in healthcare and education, in the United States. The sacrifices and contributions of hundreds of thousands of African Americans are diminished by simply retelling the stories we already know, like those of Rosa Parks, Harriett Tubman, Frederick Douglass and James Baldwin. While these are important historical figures, Carter Woodson, an African American historian and the founder of Black History Month, intended for Black history to be included in the teaching of American history not just left to 28 days out of the year.
We are honored to Shine a Black Light on the incredible people, like the individuals we highlighted in this feature, who influence the success of CNHP and work toward eliminating health disparities by participating in the educational endeavors of our students.
We thank you, on behalf of the College of Nursing and Health Professions’ dean, assistant dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, and the board of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, for contributing to the social justice goals at CNHP.
Shannon L. Edwards currently serves as a highly respected manager of Student Services for Undergraduate Nursing programs within Drexel University’s College of Nursing and Health Professions. During his tenure at Drexel, Mr. Edwards has counseled hundreds of students of all races and nationalities how to navigate their studies, transition into college, prepare for their future careers, embody confidence and implement ongoing growth initiatives in their program of study. He brings six years of proficiency within a volunteer program called Peer Forward, where he partnered with colleges and universities throughout the country to engage with rising seniors about college readiness and preparation, assisting more than 6,000 students during this timeframe. As a valued member of the fraternity Alpha Phi Alpha, Mr. Edwards participated in numerous help programs to include elementary student read-a-louds, feeding the homeless and encouraging people to vote. He is a candidate for a master’s in counseling. Mr. Edwards believes CNHP represents all races within America, that we must value each person’s opinion; everyone has an equal voice. All are fairly treated and with courtesy and respect despite differences in race, creed and culture. His favorite quote is from Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.”
A fun fact about Mr. Edwards is he loves to cook, and since the pandemic, he has been able to explore new ethnic food and vegetarian dishes.
Leslie Calimer, MS, is currently the assistant director for Student Services for Undergraduate Nursing. Leslie is excited to work with undergraduate nursing students in ACE, BSN Co-op, and RN-BSN Degree Completion Programs. She has worked with nursing students and nursing faculty for over two decades in different capacities. In 1989, she worked with registered nurses in the Continuing Nursing Department in the Home Study Program. As program manager in the Continuing Nursing Education Department, Leslie worked with graduate nursing students with the Drexel NCLEX Prep courses, traveling to NSNA conferences and community college student fairs. In July 2010, Leslie became an academic advisor for the RN-BSN Degree Completion Program. She continues to work with the ADN-BSN Concurrent Enrollment Program and assisted the initial cohort from admission to graduation with a BSN within two quarters. “It is most rewarding when I meet students and help them achieve the bachelor’s degree from admission until graduation.”
Leslie is on the student affairs committee at CNHP. She is a member of the Pennsylvania /Delaware/New Jersey Distance Learning Association (PADLA) and the National Academic Advising Association (NACADA).
Currently, Leslie is a doctoral student in the Higher Education in Leadership Program. The possibilities are endless when we come together and work as a team. Diversity in race and culture is what makes us different, but we are all the same. Once we begin to look at the “content of our character, not the color of our skin” (Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.), then and only then will we all be equal at Drexel University, College of Nursing and Health Professions and the world.
Fun Fact: She started working at the Medical College of Pennsylvania, September 18, 1987, and soon started working at Drexel. She is approaching thirty-four years of service this September. She loves to travel and sit on the beach. Due to the pandemic, she is starting to love gardening!
Taraya Gibson, MPH, BSN, is a care manager RN at Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services. Taraya has worked to bolster interdisciplinary care efforts throughout the clinic by bringing back monthly interdisciplinary care plan meetings and helping high-risk patients manage and prevent chronic disease with the Million Hearts Initiative. She plays an integral role in the facilitation of the six-week fitness and nutrition program.
Taraya sits on the Social Relief Fund committee, co-facilitated the Undoing Racism workgroup, and has recently joined an affinity workgroup. Undoing racism efforts and the fight for an anti-racist culture is readily noticeable to the staff at 11th Street. There is an immense opportunity for 11th Street and CNHP as a whole to develop and grow regarding health equity and inclusion as it relates to staff, student body, student support and patients. As a graduate of the Drexel ACE Program, Taraya is grateful to have a voice and opportunity to implement change.
Some interesting facts about Taraya, she loves to travel and has completed volunteer abroad programs in South Africa and Ghana.
Roberta Waite, EdD, is a nurse of 32 years with a strong commitment to social justice, trauma-informed practices and anti-racism, which has led to developing a culture of compassionate care at the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th St. Health Center operated in partnership with FPCN. Collective work towards understanding the root drivers of health inequities from a socio-structural stance has progressed at 11th St. in meaningful ways by applying processes and strategies that are both internally and externally focused. The center is the first Sanctuary-certified and federally qualified health center in the United States.
There are efforts to advance our work that grants have supported, most recently, Advancing the Action of Trauma-Informed Care Through Anti-Racist Practices and Collective Healing. Through developing and continuing the Undoing Racism sessions and launching race-based affinity groups (or racial caucusing) at 11th St., Waite has also centered her social and racial justice focus on developing and operationalizing the Macy Undergraduate Leadership Fellows Program. That program engages undergraduate students in CNHP and Dornsife School of Public Health to enhance leadership development skills with a unique focus on self, leading teams and understanding group dynamics and community engagement. Waite’s work on trauma-informed practices and anti-racism has been useful in co-chairing the University’s Learning, Leading and Education subcommittee, serving as a pivotal member of Governor Wolfe’s Think Tank, which developed recommendations for a Trauma-Informed Commonwealth and in serving on the leadership team of Healing-Empowerment-Advocacy-Learning-Prevention-Action Trauma-Informed Pennsylvania co-chairing the Racial and Communal Trauma Prevention Action Team.
As CNHP works towards living its core values; creating a culture of inclusion; improving the understanding of racism as embedded in cultural norms; and applying antiracist practices broadly—in scholarship, research, service, hiring and promoting practices, etc.—the College and the University will align with furthering health equity and valuing the full humanity of everyone they touch.
A fun fact about Dr. Waite is that she is a dog lover and avid gardener.
As a member of the Board of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, Marcia Penn continues to bring forth the need for ongoing dialogue and a forum for a welcoming space. Marcia believes that collectively there is a need to create further dialogue and have courageous conversations. While specific discussions can be difficult, they are necessary to make changes, move forward and pave the way for the next generation. We must work to eliminate racism and “to create an institution in which our faculty, staff and students reflect the diversity and complexity of our city and global community.” As a part of the board, we are doing the work to create an environment in which people feel safe to express culturally-based values, perceptions, and experiences. Marcia also chairs the board of trustees, Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee at Waldron Mercy Academy (WMA). At WMA, Marcia creates an environment that celebrates differences in the community and creates safe spaces for the children to have courageous conversations as they learn, grow, and become global citizens.
We know for sure that this is a collective work that requires input, engagement, and commitment from all of us. Marcia hopes that at CNHP, we continue to engage faculty, staff and students to do the work to bring about change within our day-to-day lives. She looks forward to partnerships and continuing the work done at CNHP and hopes that she continues to be a part of building the community where we all feel valued. “You don’t make progress by standing on the sidelines, whimpering and complaining; you make progress by implementing ideas,” Shirley Chisholm.
Marcia loves to travel and has traveled internationally, working with others on evidence-based practices on HIV/AIDS and teen pregnancy prevention. What she also loves to do is dance!
Kelly Myrick has been with Drexel University for 16 years. Kelly Myrick started on Main Campus entering Health Science applications for Enrollment Management and Student Success. She was promoted to enrollment specialist a year after joining Drexel. Kelly shuttled between Main Campus to the Bellet Building to drop off applications and assisted with hosting in-person orientations for potential Health Science students. The following year, she became the clinical compliance coordinator at the College.
Kelly currently manages Nurse Practitioner, Physician Assistant, Nurse Anesthesia, and Physician Assistant Programs. Due to COVID-19 credentialing students for clinical rotations changes day to day, regardless, Kelly strives to assist students, staff and faculty with fast-paced ongoing clinical site changes.
A fun fact about Kelly is she loves designing handcrafted jewelry.
Phyllis Swint, PhD, has maintained a long-standing relationship with the Counseling and Family Therapy department and Drexel University since graduating with her Master of Science in Family Therapy (MFT) in 1995.
Swint has held several program and clinical director positions in community mental health settings for over two decades before her full-time appointment as director of Clinical Training/assistant clinical professor in 2020.
She has worked extensively with the Philadelphia Department of Behavioral Health and Intellectual Disabilities, Philadelphia prisons, the Philadelphia Family Court, as well as Philadelphia’s massive network of child welfare and behavioral health agencies to provide socially just and equitable family therapy services to vulnerable and marginalized communities in Philadelphia. Her doctoral research at Drexel was the culmination of years of prison-to-community clinical program development with incarcerated women that focused on the importance of multiple system collaboration to reduce recidivism and facilitate sustainable long-term family reunification.
Reginald A. Howard is the community engagement specialist at the Stephen and Sandra Sheller 11th Street Family Health Services of Drexel University, which operates in partnership with the Family Practice & Counseling Network. Reggie is a mental health activist and uses his life experiences to ignite, inspire and empower others to prioritize their mental health. He has been featured on Comcast, CNBC, The Philadelphia Tribune and Voyage magazine. On a typical day, Reggie’s contribution to change consists of being an active board member for Lindley Academy Charter School, giving presentations for the National Alliance on Mental Illness and serving as a Community Outreach Coordinator for Black Men Heal.
Whether it’s through his mentally healing podcast, his paradigm-shifting book or his emotionally connecting speeches, he puts the motivation into mental health so that it can be the focal point of today’s conversation. Reggie’s story helps further his mission, not only to impact his community, but people everywhere. From police departments to middle schools, he’s just looking to serve and leave the world better than he found it. "I believe CHNP is making great strides concerning race culture. Having a platform like Shining A Black Light is a start, and I hope to find other ways to continue to break down barriers that marginalized people of color."
A fun fact about Reggie is he is a first-generation American. His family is from the island of Antigua & Barbuda. Antigua has 365 different beaches!