Monday, January 10, 2022

We are pleased to highlight the Health Sciences Social Justice Reading Group in honor of Unity Week — the University of Iowa's celebration of growth in diversity, education, and inclusion. The reading group is hosted by the College of Pharmacy.

The Health Sciences Social Justice Reading Group was started by faculty, staff, and students interested in furthering discussions related to social justice and health equity. The idea for the group originated from the insights of Juliana Quarterman, '21 PhD, who suggested that there was a need to have DEI-related discussions. 

Jeanine Abrons

"In the past few years alone, we have seen many examples of racial inequality, income disparity, and other issues tackled by the social justice movement at the forefront of the news and most people’s minds. Because it may seem overwhelming to know where to start when educating yourself on diversity, equity, and inclusion, we started a reading group to help," said Jeanine Abrons, clinical associate professor of pharmacy and discussant leader, who has been involved with the formation and coordination of the program.

Initially, the group was formed specifically for the College of Pharmacy. The focus was later expanded to all health professions to create an informal learning community that works towards creating an equitable and inclusive environment and to discuss issues related to social justice specific to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM), and health science-related fields. Each month for an hour, participants review short readings (e.g. websites, blogs, educational pieces) that highlight a topic of discussion related to diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The learning goals for the group include the following:

  • Spark conversations around STEM education, research, and culture;
  • Create a shared understanding of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion terms and concepts through discussion;
  • Build and deepen trust within health sciences;
  • Identify steps to make classrooms in health sciences more equitable;
  • Practice engaging in dialogue about diversity, equity, and inclusion with individuals from different contexts.

Since its inception in 2021, the group has continued to brainstorm content that addresses the needs of the community and covers topics relevant to all health sciences as well as faculty, staff, and students. In its short existence, the group has already started to make an impact.

Maisaa Abudagga

“…Despite the fact that I belong to a minority group, participating in the Health Sciences Social Justice Reading Group has been an eye-opening experience for me. Not only has it assured my awareness and knowledge of social inequality, but has it also taught me much more than I thought I knew. …It also gave me the courage to participate and make my voice heard in many different activities at school, work and in my community. I learned how to listen closely to people who are different to understand them better and build a respectful relationship with them." --Maisaa Abudagga, pharmacy student representative

All UI faculty, staff, post-docs, professional students, graduate students, and community members are encouraged to participate and share topics of discussion that they would like to see covered. For more information about Spring dates or to join the group, contact Jeanine Abrons at