The University of Minnesota Medical School’s Department of Family Medicine and Community Health is excited to announce the creation of the Josie Robinson Johnson Endowed Chair in Justice, Equity, Diversity and Inclusion and to appoint Andrea Westby, MD, as the inaugural holder.
This chair honors the significant and ongoing contributions of civil rights activist and community leader, Josie Robinson Johnson, EdD. Johnson has dedicated her life to promoting equality and inclusion while breaking down barriers to access education, housing and employment. Her work has left a lasting imprint on the nation and made a profound impact on countless lives.
“Josie Robinson Johnson has had a powerful impact on Minnesota and the United States’ society through her civil rights and community leadership work, and it is very exciting to be able to honor Josie, her work and her legacy through the creation of this endowed chair,” said Westby, who is an assistant professor and director for equity, diversity and inclusion in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. “I am so humbled and honored to be named the inaugural chair, but more importantly, the development of an endowed chair demonstrates the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health’s long-term visionary commitment to and investment in the work toward justice and equity.”
Johnson’s influence in Minnesota – as an advocate, educator, leader and advisor – is immeasurable. She is the first African American to serve on the University’s Board of Regents and led the University’s minority affairs and diversity efforts. She helped create the Department of African American Studies in the U of M College of Liberal Arts. The University established the Annual Josie Robinson Johnson Human Rights and Social Justice Award in her honor.
As a tribute to her lifelong leadership, the Humphrey School of Public Affairs named a community room in her honor and established the Josie Robinson Johnson Fellowship to support outstanding Humphrey graduate students who have specific interest in addressing racial inequities and injustices. Additionally, the African American Leadership Forum created the Josie R. Johnson Leadership Academy, “designed to meet the personal, cultural, civic and professional development needs of 10 African American leaders, while fostering lifelong commitment to improving outcomes in the community.”
“I am deeply moved that the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota Medical School has named this endowed chair in my honor,” Johnson said. “As a lifelong advocate for civil rights as human rights, the recognition that health care is a threshold issue in that struggle is one that I am encouraged that the Medical School empowers with this endowed chair. This endowment embodies the Medical School’s commitment to reach out to our diverse communities and to encourage forward thinking and courageous thoughts as we look to the next generation of health care educators and practitioners to erase racial inequities in health care.”
The endowment of the Josie Robinson Johnson Endowed Chair will ensure Johnson’s trailblazing legacy as a leader in the civil rights movement is honored and celebrated for generations to come. It provides a sustainable investment in advancing family medicine’s key role in promoting the principles of justice and inclusion through the equitable provision of health and care to our diverse community of patients and families.
Improving health disparities starts with a need for deep and strong community involvement, which the Josie Robinson Johnson Endowed Chair will help facilitate. The permanence represented by an endowed chair ensures an ongoing and sustained financial commitment to Josie Robinson Johnson’s influence on the Medical School’s health care mission. Endowments retain their value over time through careful investment, generating financial support for the chair holder’s research, clinical or educational innovations. These funds enable chair holders to train the next generation of health care leaders to address the importance of community engagement in health and wellness.
Chairholder Dr. Westby is an educator and clinician, practicing full-spectrum family medicine in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health’s North Memorial Family Medicine Residency Program. Over the past two years, she has co-directed a faculty-driven departmental initiative addressing equity, diversity and inclusion in the work they do. In performing these duties, she has advocated for justice; addressed fairness and equity issues across health care, medical education and faculty affairs; actively sought out diverse perspectives; and included a wide range of stakeholders.
“Dr. Westby is an excellent choice to be the inaugural Josie Robinson Johnson Endowed Chair. She brings passion, clear-thinking, unceasing energy and humility to work that promotes justice, equity, diversity and inclusion in health care,” said James Pacala, MD, MS, professor and head of the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health. “She is widely respected by colleagues, learners and the community. She has quickly become a trusted leader, not just in the department but also in the Medical School as a whole.”
“Dr. Johnson’s noble achievements in civil rights and social justice have created a legacy that we are honored to be a part of at the Medical School and strengthens our resolve to advance health equity,” said Jakub Tolar, MD, PhD, dean of the Medical School. “We are very grateful for Dr. Westby’s skillful leadership, and we are confident in her ability to accomplish great things in this important role.”
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