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Professor Sharrelle Barber Leads a “Food for Thought” Discussion on the Connections Between Racism & Public Health Inequities

March 18, 2022

On March 14, 2022, the Drexel University Libraries was pleased to continue its ScholarSip 10th anniversary celebrations with a thought-provoking conversation with Sharrelle Barber, SCD, MPH, Assistant Professor of Epidemiology and Biostatistics, Dornsife School of Public Health.

Professor Barber, who is also the founding director of The Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements, and Population Health Equity, discussed her research on the intersection of place, race, and health with a virtual audience of 45 Drexel faculty, staff, students, and alumni.

Before Professor Barber began her talk, Danuta A. Nitecki, Dean of Libraries, offered a brief reflection on the last 10 years and an invitation to gather together in person once again for the spring event.

“Back in December, I noted that this year marks [not only the 10th anniversary of ScholarSip] but also the return to limited in-person gatherings,” Dean Nitecki said during her opening remarks. “We were able to gather in person for that event, but unfortunately, we had to return to a virtual location for today’s session due to uncertainties surrounding COVID and the Omicron virus when we began our planning in early January. With spring on the way and COVID cases declining, we have renewed hope that we will gather together on campus again for the spring term event on June 6. Regardless of location, I want to thank you all for joining us over these last 10 years and particularly during these demanding and uncertain times. We genuinely appreciate your continued support of the Drexel Libraries.”

After a toast to the end of the academic term, Professor Barber took over the Zoom controls and spoke about her personal and professional journey as a scholar and activist.

“My work has taken me from Rocky Mount, North Carolina, to Jackson, Mississippi, to Rio De Janeiro, Brazil. And each place represents for me an accumulation of past and present harms caused by the deep wounds of racism,” Professor Barber said.

Regardless of location, her work focuses on public health inequities and race, and she has explored and documented issues like how neighborhood disadvantages help us understand chronic disease like cardiovascular risk. She has learned many other important lessons along the way.

“These places also represent the undeniable power of these same communities who have struggled and resisted to make ways out of no ways. I’ve learned invaluable lessons and gained important insights by stepping outside the walls of the ivory tower and allowing my intellectual curiosity to guide me to the places and most importantly the people I need to encounter to do this work justice.”

Professor Barber also spoke about her work to create and launch The Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements, and Population Health Equity.

“I have been fortunate to not only speak about these issues [of racism and public health] … and now thanks to a philanthropic donation from the Dornsife family, we at the School of Public Health have been able to build something that embodies those ideals: The Ubuntu Center on Racism, Global Movements, and Population Health Equity… We have developed this powerful vehicle, and we hope it will help to bring transformative change not only here in the City of Philadelphia but around the world.”

Following her presentation, Professor Barber answered questions from the audience during what has become known as a “virtual ScholarSip happy hour.”

Upcoming ScholarSip 10th Anniversary Events

During a typical year, the Libraries hosts three ScholarSip events that take place on the last day of classes during the fall, winter, and spring quarters. To celebrate 10 years, the Libraries will offer 10 “food for thought” presentations by Drexel faculty, staff, and students across all disciplines running through June 2022.

Upcoming sessions will focus on a variety of interdisciplinary research topics, from sessions on information justice to autism and social health policies to cybersecurity.

These “mini” ScholarSip sessions are held virtually via Zoom, and Drexel faculty, professional staff, students, alumni, and members of the public are invited to attend. Although free, registration is required for all events.

For more information about upcoming ScholarSip events, visit the Libraries’ events page or watch previous recorded events online.