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WVU antiracist course offers opportunities for Health Sciences students to better navigate health care fields

WVU antiracist course offers opportunities for Health Sciences students to better navigate health care fields

After a successful course offering in the spring, West Virginia University is again offering students an opportunity this fall to learn how to be an antiracist and what that means as a concept.

The course, “How to Be an Antiracist,” challenges students to examine ways that racism influences their lives and thoughts and identifies ways to practice antiracism at WVU.

“I believe that this class is not only a very important space for any university to have on campus, but also is a space that makes me feel safer,” said Wren King, an anthropology student in the class. “Antiracism is something that all of us need to embrace if we are going to heal and grow in the coming decades. I recommend this class to everyone I talk to.”

This course follows a book club format, and students read through Ibram X. Kendi’s How to be Antiracist and work through Kendi’s companion book, Be Antiracist: A Journal for Awareness, Reflection, and Action. Some instructors use other materials, as well.

In helping to promote and advance diversity, equity, and inclusion at WVU Health Sciences, this course can be beneficial to students entering the health care field.

“In terms of health, the pandemic has really brought to light the structural, cultural, and policy-related aspects of our country that result in racial health disparities,” said Dr. Rachael Woldoff, a sociology professor who teaches a section of this course with Dr. Heather Washington. “To paraphrase Kendi, antiracism is an active effort and choice to personally, and even professionally, commit to bringing about change by identifying, describing, and dismantling racism and racist policies.”

Daniel Brewster, another instructor of this course, said, “To understand race, ethnicity, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, and the intersections of inequity will make someone a better medical professional. A course like being antiracist enables a medical professional to better understand the history of colorism, biological racism, cultural racism, body racism, gender, and sexuality racism.”

In the fall, students will gain a unique experience to join other students and instructors to read and learn from Kendi’s text. Students will learn about the ways in which ideas about race and racism in the United States affect all people. The goal of this course through discussion is to practice antiracism and talk through ways to bring antiracist action into our daily lives.

“There are a multitude of examples of racism in medicine, some even tied to this global pandemic that currently exists,” said Brewster. “At the foundation is a society that makes Black, Indigenous and people of color (BIPOC) less healthy, that perpetuates a disparity of medical coverage based on race and ethnicity, as well as biases by healthcare workers against the BIPOC community. There needs to be reform in the medical education and training system, and it should include the teaching of antiracist curriculum.”

Woldoff added, “Those entering the field of health care may not know the ways in which institutional racial injustices lead to health disparities and then further exacerbate them. Our class can be used to highlight the many ways that health inequities are tied to racism. Sometimes we discuss the American fear, neglect, and stigmatizing of Black bodies. Other times, we may discuss health care and insurance disparities.”

Health Sciences students who are interested in taking this course may enroll for fall 2021. This one-credit course is being offered in five sections:

  • Section 001 – Tuesdays 5:30PM-6:20PM / EIE G26 / CRN 88297
  • Section 002 – Tuesdays 7:00PM-7:50PM / EIE G26 / CRN 88298
  • Section 003 – Mondays 5:30PM-6:20PM / EIE G26/ CRN 88299
  • Section 400 – Wednesdays 4:00PM-5:40PM / ESB 215 / CRN 88300 – 8-week course Ends 10/06/21
  • Section 401 –Wednesdays 4:00PM-5:40PM / ESB 215 / CRN 88301 – 8-week course Starts 10/11/21.

For any questions about this course, email Dr. Susanna Donaldson at