The University of Alabama at Birmingham has honored 27 students in the M.S. in Health Administration (MSHA) program with the President’s Diversity Champion Award for student organizations. The students took the initiative to create the MSHA Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Student Council whose purpose is to prioritize DEI as fundamental pillars of the MSHA program and bring heightened social awareness to the faculty, staff, alumni, and students of the program.

The founding council members are: Brianna Houston, Mark Lainoff and Damini Patel of MSHA Class 55, and Rana Webb of MSHA Class 56. Click here to see the full list of all 27 council members.

The MSHA DEI Student Council came about during the summer of 2020. The students found themselves navigating the COVID-19 pandemic as well as digesting an influx of media focused on social injustices across the country. Class leaders organized a Zoom forum where students could speak candidly, share experiences, and ask honest questions.

Nearly four hours later, they had decided to create this new council and add a permanent Vice President of DEI position for the MSHA student executive board. As a result of these meetings, students developed recommendations for the MSHA program such as DEI activities for student orientation and ideas for program-wide “Lunch and Learn” sessions. They have also played an active role in student recruitment efforts, by participating in the annual recruitment day and serving as student interviewers for prospective students.

“What has been particularly impressive is how the students have not only initiated and led the MSHA DEI Student Council but have also ensured it is sustainable,” said Amy Landry, Ph.D., Howard W. Houser Endowed Professor in Health Administration and director of the UAB Graduate Programs in Health Administration. “We believe these students are creating a more inclusive community here and will create organizations and communities that are more equitable and inclusive as they embark on their careers.”

MSHA DEI Council Masked“I am most excited for the lasting impact the Council will have on the MSHA program for years to come,” said Houston, who in addition to being a founding member is the inaugural Vice President of DEI for the MSHA Student Organization. “The mission of the MSHA program is to ‘develop leaders to shape tomorrow’s healthcare,’ and I am confident the presence and work of the DEI Student Council will contribute to producing knowledgeable and culturally competent healthcare leaders. 

Though newly formed, the MSHA DEI Student Council has made a significant impact on the program, current students, and alumni. Members have met monthly to create and organize initiatives that encourage safe and inclusive spaces for discussion and promote significant days and events across different cultures like Diwali, Yom Kippur, and National Hispanic Heritage Month.

In addition, the council has hosted a virtual panel of alumni guests to discuss the dynamics of working in a multi-generational workforce, navigating careers as people of color, and the importance of being advocates for underrepresented groups. This new DEI series provides the students with experience and develops specific tools for their success as inclusive leaders. These initiatives, along with others planned for the spring semester, are evidence of the commitment to diversity not only in the MSHA program but the greater UAB community.

Tiffany Chaney, Chief Diversity Officer, Baptist Health, is an alumna of UAB MSHA Class 36 who has served as a panelist for a Council event. She has watched the program grow more diverse over the last two decades and is proud of where it is today and where the students will take it tomorrow.

“I am impressed by their enthusiasm and courage – their commitment to diversity will have a lasting impact on the leadership of health care organizations into the future,” said Chaney. “In addition, by adding this committee to the MSHA Student Organization’s constitution, their work will continue long after they have graduated.”

Established in 2019, the UAB President’s Diversity Champion Award is an annual honor that recognizes significant achievements of faculty, staff, students and student organizations toward developing a more culturally diverse and inclusive university community. Click here to see all the 2021 award winners.