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School of Social Work gears up for third installment of Black History Month Research Series

by Matthew Smith

Mental health, physical health and community interventions will highlight the third installment of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work’s Black History Month Research Series. 

Harvard University’s David Williams will open the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Social Work 2024 Black History Month Research Series on Feb. 8
The 2024 series is headlined by David Williams, chair of Harvard University’s Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences in the T.H. Chan School of Public Health and Florence Sprague Norman and Laura Smart Norman Professor of Public Health. Williams opens the series with “The Virus of Racism: Understanding Its Threats and Mobilizing Defenses” — a discussion of racism, the multiple ways it operates in society, and its profound consequences on health. 

The series’ opening discussion will be held Feb. 8, 2024, from noon to 1:30 p.m. Online registration for the opening discussion is available now. The event will be moderated by Trenette Clark Goings, the School’s Sandra Reeves Spears and John B. Turner Distinguished Professor and founding director of the INSPIRED Lab

All four scheduled panels will be held virtually. 

Along with his appointment at the T.H. Chan School of Public Health, Williams is a professor of African and African American Studies at Harvard. An internationally recognized authority on social influences and health, he has been involved in the development of health policy at the national level, serving on 10 committees for the National Academy of Medicine. 

“Dr. Williams’ research has directly influenced the health disparities research we do in the INSPIRED Lab,” Goings said. “We cite his research studies and often use the Everyday Discrimination Scale he developed. He is a thought-leader and internationally recognized authority on health disparities, and I am delighted he accepted our invitation to serve as the keynote speaker for the 2024 Black History Month Research Series. Dr. Williams’ presentation will set the stage for our month-long discussion of mental health among Black people.” 

Williams has authored more than 500 scientific papers, enhancing the understanding of how race, socioeconomic status, stress, health behavior and religion can affect health. 

Other scheduled discussions will focus on mental health; community and neighborhood interventions; and the indigenization of mental health interventions for Africans in the diaspora. 

2024 UNC School of Social Work Black History Month Research Series Schedule 

  • Feb. 29, 2024: “Indigenization of Mental Health Interventions for Africans in the Diaspora,” Time TBD

Founded by Goings and Johnson-Howard-Adair Distinguished Professor Gina Chowa, the series is sponsored by UNC’s Global Social Development Innovations (GSDI) and INSPIRED Lab. 

“The Black History Month Research Series is a platform for knowledge exchange and scholarly discourse that examines the deeply embedded racial issues and possible solutions to build a more equitable society,” Chowa said. “Researchers who present during this series tackle these issues head-on in their research, demonstrating how centuries of discrimination can be dismantled. This series contributes uniquely to UNC SSW’s mission by providing evidence on how to address systemic issues and transform lives.” 

Since 2022, the series has showcased research from both UNC social work faculty and students, as well as invited presenters and external scholars. The series opened with discussions on anti-racist research and offers participants an opportunity to confront the disparities that Black, Indigenous and people of color often face. 

“We are incredibly pleased to host this research series at the UNC School of Social Work and especially grateful Dr. Williams will be the first speaker for this series,” UNC Executive Vice Provost and GSDI Core Faculty Member Amy Locklear Hertel said. “The topics are timely and reflect the core social work values of social justice, dignity and worth.” 

Participants can earn one free continuing education credit hour for each workshop they attend.