2023 National HBCU Week Conference: CDC Works with HBCUs to Enhance Partnerships and Advance Health Equity

Posted on by Isa J. Miles, ScD, MS and Hope L. Dennis, MPH

In August of 1980, President Jimmy Carter signed Executive Order 12232, directing the Secretary of Education to “implement a federal initiative designed to achieve a significant increase in the participation by historically Black colleges and universities (HBCUs) in Federally sponsored programs.” This order set the precedent for efforts to help ensure equity of HBCU participation in federally sponsored programs. Each of the seven subsequent Presidents of the United States signed Executive Orders to renew or reestablish this initial directive to invest in HBCUs. In September 2021, President Biden not only signed an Executive Order to re-establish the White House Initiative on Advancing Educational Equity, Excellence, and Economic Opportunity through HBCUs, but also issued a proclamation recognizing National HBCU Week. In the proclamation, President Biden said:

Since 1837, Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have educated and prepared millions of people to lift up our Nation and make their impact on the world.  These essential institutions have been critical engines of opportunity for generations of American families — they are incubators of excellence, helping to shape the story of our Nation and deliver on the promise of a more perfect Union.  During National Historically Black Colleges and Universities Week, we celebrate the vital role that HBCUs play in molding Black leaders and ensuring that America continues to move closer to reaching its full potential.

The pinnacle event of National HBCU Week this year was the 2023 National HBCU Week Conference. Held in Arlington, VA from September 24 – 28, the theme for this year’s conference was “Raising the Bar: Forging Excellence Through Innovation and Leadership.” The goal of the conference was to connect federal and private resources to HBCUs through workshops, engagements, keynote addresses, and interactive exhibits. The conference concluded with the 5th Annual National HBCU Week Conference Career and Recruitment Fair, which was a full-day in-person event featuring professional development sessions, direct hiring, and recruitment opportunities.

Several CDC staff members attended the 2023 National HBCU Week Conference and were able to meet with HBCU leaders, representatives, students, alumni, and other federal and private partners who are doing work to advance educational equity, excellence, and economic opportunity through HBCUs. This week-long event provided a unique occasion for federal agencies, private sector companies, and philanthropic organizations to participate and provide useful information and successful models to improve instruction, degree completion, and federal engagement to facilitate the sustained elimination of systemic inequities.

Working with HBCUs isn’t something new for CDC. The Commissioned Corps Liaison Office (CCLO) “is involved with HBCUs under the umbrella of CDC/ATSDR, as well as the U.S. Public Health Service (PHS) Commissioned Corps,” explains Darion Smith, MBA, BASDH, RDH (LCDR, USPHS), a recruitment officer for CDC’s Office of Human Resources. “We partner with CDC/ATSDR staff during specific recruitment events and information sessions to help educate HBCU administration, staff, and students about the opportunities in the federal government for graduates.”

CDC continues to build and enhance the public health workforce. In January, the Office of Public Health Law Services (OPHLS) and ChangeLab Solutions launched a new Public Health Law Fellowship. “The fellowship was created to strengthen the public health law workforce by increasing diversity within the field and preparing the next generation of public health law professionals to respond to critical issues,” explains Beverly Anaele, MPH, a public health fellowship coordinator for CDC’s National Center for State, Tribal, Local and Territorial Public Health Infrastructure and Workforce. “We hope to expand and strengthen our collaboration with HBCUs because therein lies a wealth of experiences and diverse perspectives that are vital in this field.” Anaele goes on to say, “It is critically important for the public health law field to look more and more like the population it serves to enhance community engagement and partnership.”

CDC’s Office of Health Equity supports the CDC John R. Lewis Undergraduate Public Health Scholars (Lewis Scholars) Program which introduces undergraduate students to topics in minority health and health equity and supports their career development. CDC partners with seven institutions to deliver the Lewis Scholars Program, including HBCU Morehouse College. Reflecting on the conference, Melanie Duckworth, PhD, MEd, MSW, a Senior Public Health Advisor in CDC’s Office of Health Equity and CDC’s HBCU White House Initiative Representative said, “Having the opportunity to meet HBCU scholars and leaders, White House Initiative Staff, and the many federal agencies that are focused on partnering with HBCUs is a positive step in advancing health equity, enhancing partnerships, and building a diverse and inclusive workplace where everyone can see themselves in the communities we serve.”

To learn more about the work CDC is doing to sustain outreach and improve partnerships with HBCUs, please visit HBCU Excellence at CDC.

Posted on by Isa J. Miles, ScD, MS and Hope L. Dennis, MPHTags , , ,

One comment on “2023 National HBCU Week Conference: CDC Works with HBCUs to Enhance Partnerships and Advance Health Equity”

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    This is a commendable initiative by the CDC to collaborate with Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) and advance health equity. The commitment of the CDC to engage with HBCUs is evident through various programs and partnerships aimed at enhancing diversity and representation in the public health sector.

    The 2023 National HBCU Week Conference seems to have provided a valuable platform for fostering connections between federal agencies, private sector entities, and philanthropic organizations with HBCUs. The emphasis on improving instruction, degree completion, and federal engagement to address systemic inequities is crucial for creating a more inclusive and equitable educational and professional landscape.

    It’s encouraging to see the CDC’s ongoing efforts in building and enhancing the public health workforce through initiatives like the Public Health Law Fellowship and the CDC John R. Lewis Undergraduate Public Health Scholars Program. The commitment to increasing diversity within the public health field and preparing the next generation of professionals reflects a forward-looking approach.

    The collaboration with HBCUs not only brings diverse perspectives but also contributes to community engagement and partnership in the public health sector. It’s a positive step towards creating a workplace that is reflective of the communities served, ultimately advancing health equity.

    To stay updated on the CDC’s endeavors in sustaining outreach and improving partnerships with HBCUs, I look forward to exploring the HBCU Excellence at CDC.

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Page last reviewed: November 1, 2023
Page last updated: November 1, 2023