13 - Newsletter - Obituary African Alumni, New Race Advisor, Report &Support, Racism & Global Health

Hello to everyone in the FAIR network!

It’s been a while since our last newsletter, but we’ve been busy behind the scenes. We certainly have not stopped working to practice anti-racism in our daily lives and we hope you have also continued to find ways to be anti-racist every day. Here’s what’s been happening on the LSHTM front.

Obituary - Remembering Dr. Olije Ega Wakdok - African scholar alumni

On March 20th, 2021, we learned about the tragic death of one of our African alumni in London. Dr. Olije was a Chevening Scholar and completed a joint MSc in Health Policy, Planning, and Financing in 2017-18 from the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM) and the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE). She rejoined LSE in 2020 to complete a PhD focusing on healthcare policy in Nigeria.

Learn more about Dr. Olije or leave a tribute here. You can also share testimonies on the LSE page here. Finally, friends and family set up a gofundme page to support funeral costs including her return to Nigeria. Every donation counts.

We were hoping to see this in LSHTM Chariot but it didn’t happen….

Killing of George Floyd - LSHTM and Black Mental Health

We thought that the Director’s email regarding Sarah Everard’s murder signalled an understanding of the impact of societal traumas on staff and students’ mental health. We were therefore deeply saddened that the School did not think to acknowledge Derek Chauvin’s guilty verdict with a similar message. Many universities around the world did this, and we commend the Research Degree students reaffirming their support in their latest newsletter.

Can you imagine what it is like to anxiously wait to see if a murderer - blatantly caught on video committing the crime - will actually be found guilty? While some inhumanely worried that a not-guilty verdict would lead to property damages, Black people’s humanity was at stake. The agony was palpable in the numerous videos that circulated of Black people listening to the verdict. The tears that followed were not “joy” but relief, pain, exhaustion, stress and more. Unfortunately, this relief did not last as we mourned the murders of 20-year-old Daunte Wright and 16-year-old Makhia Bryant’s killings.

Remember that not EVERYONE wants to talk about it but it makes a difference to know that people are at least aware.

We encourage the white privilege discussion group to talk about this experience and critically reflect on LSHTM’s silence.

Testimony - Who are the #FutureHealthLeaders?

We recently shared a testimony from an LSHTM graduate, acknowledging that despite earning an MSc, their career path was still blocked by discriminatory funding schemes for doctoral work and job descriptions that all but advertised for the most privileged. We know that LSHTM counts on alumni to continue donating to the school after graduation. We think that at the very least, it can take down the roadblocks impeding its graduates’ advancement.

Report + support / Mislead and impede

We’ve devoted considerable time over the past couple of months to following up on our ‘16 months to nowhere’ post. In the weeks following its publication, LSHTM leadership reached out to ask for our input on designing a system for handling complaints of racism and harassment. Although we sent a list of criteria for guiding the process, our communications with SLT dried up as soon as we suggested that the extensive work they continued asking for should be paid.

From there, we decided to take a deep dive into understanding LSHTM’s Report + Support system – what it is, what it is not, and whether it might give users the false perception that their reports are being taken seriously while actually upholding the status quo. Here’s what we found out:

  • ‘External investigation’ does not mean ‘independent investigation’. Someone has to write the terms and draws the boundaries governing what can and cannot be investigated

  • Anonymous complaints of racism and harassment will not lead to any investigations and there is no way to track them (example)

  • Past incidents (even reported ones) will not necessarily be considered in current inquiries.

  • Investigations have no explicit objectives.

  • There is no publicly available strategy for using reports and assessments to inform school policies moving forward.

For those who find this discouraging and disheartening, we share the wise words of activist and abolitionist Mariame Kaba:

Let this radicalize you rather than lead you to despair.

New Director, same story?

We also wrote about the decision-making process around the choice of a new director for LSHTM, after many members in our network reached out to express their incredulity and embarrassment that once again, the school chose a white man (hi, Liam) to lead LSHTM. We wish Prof Smeeth the best and a excited about this new chapter but the lack of transparency, the failure to identify a pool of qualified non-white candidates, and the symbolism around this choice were not lost on observers. During the staff Q&A session sharing the news, numerous people raised pointed questions and it was telling that most did not feel comfortable revealing their names.

Some information about the recruitment process are now on the Intranet. See for yourselves.

We hope for a future in which people are not afraid to ask questions....

Collaborations in The Lancet Global Health

Under the leadership of several committed LSHTM researchers, members of FAIR’s core group participated in producing a comment for The Lancet Global Health on the use of language when we talk about diseases, disciplines, and populations. The (forthcoming) paper talks about the artificial dichotomies loaded into terms like ‘Global South’ and the need to critically examine the words we use in the field of global health. Words are the building blocks of thought, so when colonial legacies make their way into language, it makes it more difficult to dislodge the assumptions underpinning public health interventions in other countries.

New Race Equality Advisor at LSHTM

By this time, you may well understand our scepticism every time the school leadership creates another toothless committee, position or programme to ‘bring racial equality to LSHTM’. Still, we wish Jordan Lewis the very best in his new post as Race Equality Advisor and stand ready to support all meaningful actions to make a difference for our community.

Take action against vaccine apartheid

As vaccine rollout offers the first glimmers of a post-pandemic reality in the UK, COVID-19 continues to ravage other populations and health systems worldwide. If you live in the UK, the EU or the USA, one thing you can do today is urge your government to waive intellectual property rights impeding access to vaccines. In the USA, a petition signed by over 2 million people has been presented to the Biden administration; in the UK, this petition has only a few thousand signatures – time to disseminate and raise this number, global health scholars!

In academic news

---New open access global public health journal. PLOS GLOBAL PUBLIC HEALTH - Julia Robinson as Executive Editor and Dr. Catherine Kyobutungi and Prof. Madhukar Pai as Editor-in-Chief - join Prof. Seye Abimbola and us in wishing them good luck in their ambition to drive diversity at all levels—editors, editorial boards, peer reviewers & authors.

Apply to join the PLOS Global Public Health Editorial Board. “We’re committed to equitable, global representation of the research and researchers we support and are seeking a diverse team of volunteer Academic Editors to help us publish global public health research of the highest ethical and methodological rigor. Learn more about the role and apply to join our Editorial Board using the link below.”