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Shining a Black Light Week Two

February 7, 2022

During Black History Month, the College of Nursing and Health Professions and its Board of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion recognize Black and African American faculty, professional staff and students with attention to the gifts, support, competencies and contributions each have made toward the success and sustainability of the College. As with our first installment, this week, we are Shining a Black Light on faculty, alumni and students whose contribution are felt throughout the College and University.

headshot of Juanita GardnerJuanita A. Gardner, PA-C, MPH, joined the Physician Assistant (PA) Program in 2012 and has been instrumental in contributing to the mission of the department and the College of Nursing and Health Professions. She received the Sherry Stolberg Alumni Award for her accomplishments as a physician assistant and for promoting the PA profession internationally. Professor Gardner was the lead PA faculty and clinician for the College of Nursing and Health Profession’s Parkway Health and Wellness Clinic. In recognition of meeting the mission of the program and for a career dedicated to service to the underserved, she has received the Women & Family Life Center’s SHERO award for community service and for mentoring youth. The Southbridge Medical Advisory Council granted her the Healthcare Commitment Award. She was also awarded a certificate of appreciation for her longstanding service with Henrietta Johnson Medical Center (a federally qualified health center). Professor Gardner has spent over five years of her career as a trailblazer for the PA profession in Edinburgh, Scotland where she developed clinics, taught clinical skills to nursing students, and provided primary care to patients from all over the world. She was the first and only physician assistant hired by the Edinburgh Cancer Center in Scotland. Her duties included training young junior physicians and assisting with leading the Head and Neck and Lung Cancer teams. She has traveled to South Africa and worked alongside relatives of Nelson Mandella and provided books and school supplies to youths. Her commitment to the underserved and underrepresented minorities led her to Capitol Hill to the offices of then-Senator Joe Biden and then-Congressman Tom Carper to advocate for accessible, quality healthcare. Professor Gardner has been a member of several CNHP committees, including the Curriculum Visioning Committee and the Academic Affairs Committee, and she currently serves as an alternate on the Senate Committee. She serves as the PA program’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion representative and chairs the PA program’s pre-matriculation committee. She is also a member of the program’s clinical year and admissions committees. Professor Gardner is a board member of the Lupus Foundation of America Philadelphia Tri-State Chapter and serves on the Community Service Committee and Medical Advisory Council. She has collaborated on editing the “Complicated Pregnancies” chapter in the Physician Assistant Review 5th edition. Professor Gardner’s student evaluation scores are consistently greater than 4.5 on a 5-point Likert scale. Examples of student comments include “Professor Gardner is kind, compassionate and supportive.” “She has a vast and insightful knowledge of the profession.” “Professor Gardner is motivated to see her students succeed.”

Professor Gardner shares that there is much that we can achieve in the College of Nursing and Health Professions in terms of diversity, equity, and inclusion. We must first be honest and acknowledge the disparities and inequities that exist. The College must then be intentional in taking steps against racism and recognize the impact of implicit bias. Hopefully the college and the University will provide meaningful training that will be impactful and create a culture that is welcoming to all. By embracing the value that is inherent in having a diverse and inclusive community, CNHP can be positioned to evolve into a truly just and equitable institution.

Fun Fact: Trekked two weeks along the Indian Ocean to raise money for senior centers, orphanages and schools in several South African villages.

headshot of Rasheed OKelleyRasheed O’Kelley is the site development and contracts manager for the College of Nursing and Health Professions. He has been a part of the Drexel community as an employee for 17 years, and he is an alum of the Master of Drexel Legal Studies program. Rasheed believes in the power of collaboration and partnerships. This has become very evident during the current COVID-19 pandemic.  He believes that there is no better approach to solving challenges than how the famous "two heads are better than one" saying goes. Whether creating internal partnerships between colleagues or departments, or leveraging partnerships between other universities or health systems, harnessing the strengths and abilities of others is one of the most strategic ways for our College to stay innovative and solve complex challenges. Any partnership, big or small, will work best when there is a shared goal. Establishing a common purpose sets the foundation and acts as the glue holding the partnership together. The shared goal is to serve our most important customers, students.

Regarding what can be achieved with respect to race-culture, O'Kelley says, “Other universities that desire greater diversity, equity and inclusion may not be willing to invest the time, energy, resources and commitment necessary to make it happen. Understanding and engaging in self-reflection and discussions about race-culture is an essential step to addressing individual and systemic inequities in our society. We must be aware of and honest about our personal perspectives, and how these may or may not contribute to biases that, in turn, may contribute, even unintentionally, to prejudice, inequity and isolation. Colleges and universities present ideal environments for helping guide conversations and learning opportunities for students. The assistant dean of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion and the Board of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are on the front line and are very vocal about cultural issues that affect our students whether it is on a local or national level.

Rasheed shared a fun fact about himself; he loves to read autobiographies and loves professional wrestling. 

headshot of Sinjin WrightSinjin Wright is a student in the Certificate in Medical Billing and Coding Program. While I may be new to the Drexel family, I’ve completed my undergraduate and graduate degrees at LaSalle University (Philly all the way!) studying communication with a focus in Leadership and Global Understanding. After graduating, I began working in the refugee resettlement and immigration fields with a few nonprofit organizations in the D.C. Metro area. As of now, I help run a Black-owned, mental and behavioral telehealth private practice, which focuses on helping people of all backgrounds achieve their personal goals. 

With respect to equity and inclusion here at Drexel, I came in, as a remote student, not knowing that I was entering a community that fosters awareness, dialogue and education for all students, but particularly BIPOC students. This is the work that should be continued for current and incoming students and the next generation.

Fun fact: I’ve been blessed to receive the opportunity to travel to various countries of almost every continent (Australia and Antartica, here I come!).