Empathy in Leadership

Paula K. Davis, 
Associate Vice-Chancellor
Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Schools of the Health Sciences

A recent Forbes article described the importance of empathy in leadership. The author, Tracy Brower, notes empathy has “importance for everything from innovation to retention.” The article references a Catalyst study that found people felt more engaged, included and more able to innovate and less likely to think of leaving their organizations when their leaders demonstrated empathy. Empathy, the capacity to appreciate another’s position, thoughts and feelings and “positionality”, which explains how differences in social position and power shape identities and access in society are key concepts in leading diverse organizations. 

Imagine two faculty members: both on the tenure track, both growing their research portfolios, both collaborating, publishing, serving, teaching, mentoring – working to meet the metrics set by the academy (however one might perceive/appreciate those benchmarks). Behind those academic endeavors may be parenting, physical and/or mental health challenges, caregiving responsibilities, survivorship, recovery, visible or invisible disability, the emotional corrosion borne of confrontations with racism, ableism, gender, and gender identity politics…the list is potentially endless. Balancing all of the above in an era of pandemic has only magnified the struggle. 

Once we are aware of those around us as “people” – multifaceted individuals managing challenges as they navigate academic spaces, we can’t “unknow” that. As tempting as it might be to line everyone up and measure them with the same yardstick, the fact is no two people are the same. They may not take the same path, run the race at the same rate; have the same obstacles or the same approach. To use an equity lens is to take the time to find out what individuals need to meet the tasks set forth, while appreciating that two people at the same point may have unique challenges and may need to do what is asked/required of them differently. This is where empathy comes in.  

Lead from the heart as well as the head. Let the people in your care (regardless of role or rank) know that you truly see them.  Empathetic leadership will pay dividends in engagement and retention.   
Health Sciences Diversity, Equity and Inclusion pauses to recognize the passing of a giant. Dr. Freddie Fu was our ally in DEI. He "walked the talk" every day and in every way. He was an authentic diversity leader. While his absence will be keenly felt, the ripples from his intentional work in diversity and inclusion will go on.
HS Story

Cluster Hire: Dr. Katherine Guyon-Harris, Assistant Professor, University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics.

By Karla Perelstine, M.Ed
Building upon the Plan for Pitt, the University of Pittsburgh is committed to nurturing opportunities for Pitt community members to grow individually and to collectively create, use and share knowledge. Furthering this commitment, the Race and Social Determinants of Equity, Health and Well-Being Cluster Hire and Retention Committee (Paula Davis, MacCalus Hogan, and Naudia Jonassant co-chairs) was formed among the Schools of Health Sciences (Dental Medicine, Health and Rehabilitation Sciences, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, and Public Health). Cluster hiring, an emerging practice in higher education, is a process in which faculty are hired in groups rather than individually to help boost the goals of the institution.

A call for proposals was issued in February 2021 to recruit suggestions for the selection of faculty who possess the ability to utilize their expertise in research and practical experience to promote racial and social determinant equity. The goal is to hire a cohort of at least 25, over the next four years. Dr. Katherine Guyon-Harris, Associate Professor University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and licensed psychologist at Children's Primary Care in Oakland is one of the newest cluster hire faculty members.

Once again, Dr. Rory Cooper, Director of the University of Pittsburgh Human Engineering Research Laboratories serves as an inspiration to us all as he travels the globe winning medals and awards for his work and leisure activities. This August, Dr. Cooper took home three gold medals participating in slalom and table tennis events at the 40th National Veterans Wheelchair Games in New York City.

This November, Dr, Cooper will be presented the 2021 Sigma Xi John P. McGovern Science and Society Award at the virtual Sigma XI Annual Meeting and Student Conference. This award recognizes achievements by a scientist or engineer that transcend their career as a researcher. Dr. Cooper is being recognized for changing the lives of people with disabilities through the founding of Rehabilitation Engineering and bringing newly separated veterans into the world of STEM academia seamlessly.
Dr. Chandra Ford, University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health alumna and founding director of the UCLA Center for the Study of Racism, Social Justice & Health has been honored with a lifetime achievement award by the Association of Black Women Physicians. The Association has recognized Dr. Ford for her research, which examines relationships between racism-related factors and disparities in the health care continuum and advances the conceptual and methodological tools for studying racism’s relationship to health disparities Dr. Ford has also been recognized for her public service and work as a mentor for younger scholars and medical professionals.
Dr. Elaine Mormer, director of audiology clinical education in the Department of Communication Science and Disorders within the School of Rehabilitation Sciences, and PittPharmacy professor, Dr. Lucas Barenbrok have launched an online certificate program which educates pharmacists on core competencies necessary in providing safe and effective support to patients selecting to purchase hearing aids from community pharmacies. As a winner of the 2019 Innovation in Education Award, the program, "Championing Hearing Using Accessible Medication Experts at the Community Pharmacy" (CHAMP), is funded by the University of Pittsburgh Innovation Institute. Innovation in Education Awards are for projects that enhance teaching at the University of Pittsburgh and foster new instructional approaches that represent advances over existing methods.

Congratulations to Dr. Juleen Rodakowski, Associate Professor, Department of Occupational Therapy, on being granted funding through the National Institute of Health National Institute on Aging for her work, "Influence of Strategy Training on Disability for Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment." The study seeks ways in which to prevent disability in older adults with mild cognitive impairment.

Dr. Velma Scantlebury-White, the first Black female to specialize in transplant surgery in the United States has been named a Delaware History Maker. The Delaware Histories Maker Award recognizes individuals who have made a difference to Delaware and the world. Dr. Scantlebury completed her fellowship training in transplantation surgery at the University of Pittsburgh in 1988 under the direction of Dr. Thomas Starzl and joined the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine as a professor of surgery in 1989.
Congratulations to Dr. Ala Stanford, Founder of Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium who is the recipient of The Pennsylvania Society’s 2021 Gold Medal for Distinguished Achievement. She is the first Black recipient to receive this recognition in the award’s 112-year history. The medal is awarded to prominent citizens for their leadership, citizenship, and contributions in various areas. Edward Sheehan, Jr., president of the Society says that “While there are countless examples of Pennsylvanians who have stepped up in significant ways during the pandemic, Dr. Ala Stanford stands out for her ability not just to recognize a problem, but to then create a unique solution and put that solution into action with powerful results,” Dr. Stanford and her team of doctors, nurses, operations staff and volunteers created a testing and vaccination alternative targeted to communities of color in Pennsylvania who are diagnosed at a higher rate of contracting COVID-19 to reduce the incidence and death from the virus. Dr. Stanford did her residency in general surgery at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and a fellowship in pediatric surgery at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Congratulations to Dr. Tyler Traister, assistant professor of nursing on the publication of his new book, “Fast Facts about LGBTQ+ Care for Nurses”. This book, written specifically for nurses, focuses on the unique health needs and inequities affecting LGBTQ+ patients and discusses how to provide them with safe, respectful, and holistic care. 
We Are Proud of Our Pitt Students
Samira Sibblies, a student in the Doctor of Occupational Therapy program within the University of Pittsburgh’s School of Health and Rehabilitation Sciences is credited with advancing diversity and health-related research having joined Dr. Juleen Rodakowski's team as a student researcher on the National Institute of Health National Institute on Aging funded project, "Influence of Strategy Training on Disability for Older Adults with Mild Cognitive Impairment".

The American Association for Health Education describes cultural competence as the ability of an individual to understand and respect values, attitudes, beliefs, and mores that differ across cultures, and to consider and respond appropriately to these differences in planning, implementing, and evaluating health education and promotion programs and interventions. The Health Sciences Diversity, Equity and Inclusion newsletter promotes cultural competence by providing resources that enable their readership to engage in important conversations. We offer links to the following articles authored by members of the University of Pittsburgh community.

The September 2021 Lunch and Learn, sponsored by the University of Pittsburgh Clinical and Translational Science Institute, focused on geographic life expectancy - including conversation around how zip code determines life expectancy, redlining, other challenges, assets; racial/ethnic disparities, available resources, engagement opportunities, and also action steps for folks to take charge of their own health.
University of Pittsburgh
School of Pharmacy Residency Program
1991 - 2021
University of Pittsburgh
School of Dental Medicine
1896 - 2021
Past Events

The annual University of Pittsburgh Diversity Forum was held July 26 - 29. This year’s forum sessions and workshops engaged and equipped participants with the knowledge, skills, and resources to identify sources of systemic oppression, consider strategies for dismantling that oppression, and identify actions critical in fostering more equitable and just communities in which to live, work and learn.

What calls me to the ocean?
Is it the peace borne of rhythmic waves,
Or the gems that appear as the sun meets the water?
Perhaps it's the way I am made buoyant,
able to feel my body held by the surface of greatness.
For under the ocean lie two million ancestors
Who never completed the passage.
They call to me.
They hold me.

-Paula Davis, 9/10/2020
Art of Diversity winner, writing category

  1. Cultivate a sense of cultural humility.  
  2. Educate yourself about the historical experiences of oppressed and marginalized people.  
  3. Reflect on your privileged identities and how you can use them to support others.  
  4. Be an ally. There is no perfect way to be one, but a million ways to be a good one. 
  5. Advocate for oppressed and marginalized groups.  
  6. Listen to oppressed and marginalized people about what they need rather than assuming for them. 
  7. Stand up against injustices when you see them.  
  8. Take care of your mental health, racial trauma is real.  
  9. Check your blind spots, implicit bias affects everyone.  
  10. Make a difference and be a change agent.  
Hispanic Heritage Month (September 15 - October 15)
National Dental Hygiene Month
American Pharmacist Month
National Physical Therapy Month

Oct. 3- 9 - National Mental Illness Awareness Week: “Together for Mental Health"  
Oct. 6-12 - National Physician Assistant(s) Week
October 11 - National Coming Out Day >>

Pitt Military Appreciation Month

November 1 - 5 - Nontraditional Student Week
November 2 - Election Day
November 4 - Diwali >>
November 6 - 7 - Birth of Baháʼu'lláh, the founder of the Baha’i Faith
November 11 - Veterans Day
November 16 - International Day for Tolerance: Climate as a 'Wicked' Problem >>
November 25 - Thanksgiving
November 26 - Native American Heritage Day
November 19 - Guru Nanak Dev Ji's Birthday, founder of Sikhism
November 29 - December 6 - Chanukah
October 4 - 9 - Civic Action Week >>


The Schools of Health Sciences offer information sessions that introduce prospective students to the academic programs that are offered. Links to the schedules for these sessions can be found below.

Let's Engage!

We are now on Instagram! Over the next few months, our office will be expanding the use of social media to encourage dialogue surrounding social justice issues. Bee Schindler, HSDEI Diversity and Inclusion Training Manager, will offer a space for tips to engage in the self-DEI process. We invite you to utilize one of our social media platforms to tell your story and express your ideas. # DIYDEI

Try this icebreaker at your next meeting - Sharing the story of your preferred or given name is a powerful way to humanize work and school relationships.
- Bee Schindler, LMSW
The University of Pittsburgh has announced 2021 - 2022 as the "Year of Data and Society". Data and Society looks at the effect data has on technological, social, economic and scientific outcomes. As a majority of entities at the University of Pittsburgh collect and use data on a daily basis, it is relevant that the Pitt community has been asked to reflect on and develop ideas on how best to utilize data to contribute to the success of students, faculty, and overall human well-being
The clinicians and researchers at the University of Pittsburgh have been active in fighting the COVID-19 crises and keeping the general population informed of new research findings. Recent publications surrounding this research include:
These COVID research studies, offered by Pitt+ Me, are currently open to children and adults of all ages.

Pediatric Moderna Study - A study to evaluate safety and effectiveness of mRNA-1273 vaccine in healthy children between 6 months of age and less than 12 years of age.

Adult Booster Dose Study - This clinical trial is designed to assess the safety, reactogenicity and immunogenicity of a delayed (>12 weeks) vaccine boost on a range of Emergency Use Authorization dosing (EUA)-dosed COVID-19 vaccines.