Reckoning with Our Racist Past: An Academic Health Center’s Engagement with History and Health


  • Logan Vetrovec VCU
  • Anne Massey
  • Sally Santen
  • Cherie Edwards
  • Kathy Kreutzer
  • Kevin Harris



health equity, racial equity, structural racism, health disparities, equity and inclusion, race, racism, health sciences education


Academic health centers (AHC) both contribute to and are influenced by the communities they serve. As part of a central commitment to improving human health, there is a need for AHCs to acknowledge their history related to race and racism, the resulting impact on current health disparities, and the disparate treatment of racial and minoritized communities. As AHC’s care for Black and Brown communities, they have a unique responsibility to redress their respective legacies of bias, discriminatory practices, and experimentation without consent. One way to achieve this is to provide learning opportunities for in-depth engagement with students, faculty, staff, health care providers, and community members in conversations regarding racial equity, which are essential to shaping and impacting change at an individual and institutional level. Virginia Commonwealth University in Richmond, Virginia, launched a new initiative, History, and Health; Racial Equity, designed to (a) increase awareness of our institution’s history, impact, identity, and culture, and (b) support meaningful conversations around history, health equity, structural racism, and health sciences education. Urban and metropolitan universities may learn from and replicate this program and encourage such conversations in their communities.

Author Biographies

Anne Massey

Anne Massey, MSW, Director, Community and Patient Services, Office of Health Equity, Virginia Commonwealth University,

Sally Santen

Sally A. Santen, MD, PhD, Senior Associate Dean, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, and Professor, Emergency Medicine and Medical Education, University of Cincinnati College of Medicine, 

Cherie Edwards

Cherie Edwards, PhD, Assistant Professor, Education Research Faculty, Office of Assessment, Evaluation, and Scholarship, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine, 

Kathy Kreutzer

Kathleen O’Kane Kreutzer, MEd, Assistant Professor and Director, Special Projects, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine

Kevin Harris

Kevin Harris, PhD, MSA, Senior Associate Dean for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion,Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine


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