Explore This Center

About the Center for Racial Equity and Justice

The Center for Racial Equity and Justice grew out of a task force on anti-racism, established in 2020 amid growing societal awareness of the impacts of racism. The disproportionate impact of COVID-19 on Black or BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, and People of Color) patients and multiple incidents around the nation at the time highlighted the pervasive and destructive impacts of racism. The goal of the task force, supported by Maurizio Fava, MD, chief of the Department of Psychiatry, was to establish an anti-racist culture in the department, support racial diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI), and put forward racial equity and justice solutions relevant to psychiatry.

Among several key recommendations, the task force identified the need for a Center for Racial Equity and Justice dedicated to these efforts.

The Center has three initial priorities:

  1. Increase academic knowledge within psychiatry about racism and its mental health impacts
  2. Promote racial equity, diversity and inclusion in psychiatry research. It’s not just about the questions being asked—it’s also about who is asking them
  3. Collaborate with other anti-racism and DEI efforts across the hospital, Mass General Brigham and Harvard Medical School

Racial Equity and Impacts to Mental Health Research

Understanding the impacts of racism on mental health and finding paths toward solutions for mental health challenges related to structural racism, inequality and disparities requires rigorous research. To increase academic knowledge in this area, this Center and the Department will serve as thought leaders and engage in innovative research.

Examples of active projects selected for funding are briefly described:

Transportation Solutions for Structural Inequities Affecting Home Healthcare Workers and the Homebound Older Adults and Caregivers Served in Diverse Communities

Home health aides (HHAs) provide real-time, on-site support for older adults in their homes, helping to improve older adults’ health while lessening the physical and emotional strain on familial caregivers. However, a major limitation in realizing these benefits is that HHAs themselves – a workforce whose members largely represent communities of color – face numerous challenges related to structural inequities, including a lack of affordable, accessible and reliable transportation.

  • Aim 1: Provide transportation support to HHAs in attending job training and work assignments
  • Aim 2: Evaluate whether on-demand transportation access will expand the reach of HHAs and improve key metrics of care delivery, health and quality of life outcomes and job satisfaction

Funding: Local Initiatives Support Corporation

Cohort survey-CMS data linkage for multi-level modeling and novel risk prediction of suicide in diverse older adults

Major gaps exist in our understanding of the impacts of risk and protective factors, including novel contributors, on racial and ethnic differences in later-life suicide outcomes. Resolving these gaps requires novel tools and multi-level analyses using longitudinal designs in large, diverse, and well-characterized samples. This project will create a new resource of an innovative linked dataset of longitudinal patient-reported survey variables and Medicare/Medicaid administrative claims data among over 80,000 adults in two diverse US cohorts: VITAL-DEP (VITamin D and OmegA-3 TriaL-Depression Endpoint Prevention) study and SCCS (Southern Community Cohort Study).

  • Aim 1: Apply a multi-level framework to determine the role of racial and ethnic disparities on the risk of suicide
  • Aim 2: Develop a machine learning-based risk prediction model for suicide events that applies to racially and ethnically diverse groups

Funding: American Foundation for Suicide Prevention

Our Team

  • Olivia Okereke, MD, MS
    • Director, Center for Racial Equity and Justice
  • Farhabi Talukder
    • Clinical Research Coordinator 

Support the Center for Racial Equity and Justice

Philanthropy can have a pivotal impact on this work. Many of the research questions don’t have natural funding sources in large agencies like the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

The issue of why minorities are not better represented—as participants or researchers—needs further examination. There is also a need support for diverse clinicians and researchers at critical junctures in their careers to retain people who are advancing new approaches to address racism in psychiatry and the mental health impacts of racism.

Donations to the Psychiatry Center for Racial Equity and Justice can help accomplish so much.

To learn more about how to support the Psychiatry Center for Racial Equity and Justice, please contact us.