Matt Schorr
September 19, 2016

Photo by Matt Schorr
Camara Jones, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H. speaks to community members during a roundtable discussion at the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance.


“It’s not a scary thing to identify racism,” Camara Jones, M.D., Ph.D., M.P.H. told community members gathered at the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance on Monday, Sept. 12, 2016. “It’s an empowering thing.”

Jones, who is President of the American Public Health Association and a Senior Fellow at both the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and the Cardiovascular Research Institute, described racism as a system that creates dual realities. Those realities, she said, unfairly benefit specific groups over others, and it can be difficult for groups who benefit to recognize that such realities exist.

“Most people in this country are in denial that racism still exists,” Jones said.

The system of racism, she explained, negatively impacts health equity in a society. It contributes to health disparities between specific social groups and, according to Jones, “saps the strength of a society through the waste of human resources.”

To combat that problem, she said society must do three things:

“We need to be interested in the stories of others.”
“We need to believe in the stories of others.”
“We need to join in the stories of others.”

The ultimate goal of true, universal health equity would be, as Jones described it, the assurance of optimal health for all people.

Jones’ roundtable discussion – which was attended by former US Surgeon General and past Meharry Medical College President David Satcher, MD, PhD, FAAFP, FACPM, FACP and current Meharry Medical College President James E.K. Hildreth, PhD, MD; as well as faith partners, health department leaders from the state of Tennessee and metro Nashville, community-based organizations and neighborhood association leaders – was a prelude to her lecture “Achieving Health Equity: Tools for a National Campaign Against Racism” at Vanderbilt University on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016, as part of the Flexner Dean’s Lecture Series.

In the past, she has appeared in Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED) Talks discussing allegories on race and racism, with the hope that they might empower others.


About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance

Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshops.