For Crystal Dixon, diversity and inclusion cannot exist without equity. In 2019, she was appointed by the dean as chair of HHS’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee – her first task? Including the word “equity” in the title. She wanted to ensure the committee was embracing the concept of equity in their efforts.
My goal is to illustrate how systems, structures, policies, and governmental decisions impact the life experiences of vulnerable communities and leads to disparate health outcomes
She soon recruited two new members to join the remaining group, which had been serving the committee since 2012. The ambitious group of faculty and staff are tasked with providing recommendations on how to recruit and retain faculty of color in HHS. They are exploring hiring practices of departments, sharing successful hiring strategies from departments, and promoting a culture of inclusiveness within HHS.
You might call this Dixon’s life’s work, and in the current climate, it is needed more than ever.
She received an undergraduate degree and master’s in public health from Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. During her graduate program, she completed a certificate in Ethnic Rural Health Disparities and later worked as Chronic Disease Case Manager in rural, eastern North Carolina.
She worked as a Graduate Assistant at the Center for Health Disparities Research and gained research experience on health disparities plaguing African American breast cancer survivors while concurrently serving as a graduate teaching assistant in the academic unit of Health Education and Promotion.
After an internship at the Center for Health Promotion and Disease Prevention at UNC Chapel Hill, Dixon worked as a Public Health Education Specialist at the Durham County Department of Public Health. She served on various media platforms sharing her community engagement experiences, including a television series entitled, Living Healthy, which aired on Durham Television Network; a feature in
The Herald Sun in an article entitled, “Taking Charge of Diabetes;” she has been interviewed by Radio One and NCB-17 My Carolina Today. During her time in local government, Dixon mobilized communities to take action on managing diabetes and launched the What’s the 411 series. The series serves as a bridge to the community for Duke University providers by providing an equitable opportunity for the underserved community to receive adequate and medical advice to improve their diabetes management. After Dixon accepted a Proclamation for Diabetes Alert Day from the Durham County Commissioners, this series was institutionalized and continues to be offered for community residents today.
Dixon began her anti-racism work after training with the Racial Equity Institute and joining the Guilford Anti-racism Alliance. She spends her time advocating for systemic inequities impacting the Guilford County School System. She has provided public comments advocating for racial equity in school policies at Guilford County School Board meetings, which have been cited in the News and Record.
She is now an appointed faculty member serving on the Interprofessional Committee for HHS, an affiliate faculty member for the Maya Angelou Center for Health Equity and a Nationally Board Certified Health and Wellness Coach and trainer for the UNCG Health Coaching program.
She was a co-creator of a documentary that was funded by the Association for the Prevention and Teaching Research entitled, “Seeking Health Equity: Examining Racism as a Social Determinant of Health.” This documentary highlights the groundbreaking research of the Greensboro Health Disparities Collaborative, which led a five-year national study that implemented technology and other tools to address systemic racism impacting African American breast and lung cancer patients in the healthcare system.
She has also appeared as a guest on UNCG’s “Liquid Philosophy” podcast (Season 2, Episode 2), speaking about her contributions in racial equity and systems change.
As the HHS faculty representative on the Chancellor’s Advisory Committee on Equity, Diversity and Inclusive Excellence, Dixon has been afforded the opportunity to leverage University partnerships to support DEI initiatives. In collaboration with the University Libraries, they were able to secure funds from the Office of the Provost to host an event entitled, “The Groundwater Presentation” on March 22, 2019. The Groundwater Presentation is a lively and interactive program that establishes a foundational understanding of how race-based structural inequities impact institutional outcomes..
“This opportunity illustrated that campus partnerships are key when making an institutional impact,” Dixon said. “Having the opportunity to be invited by the previous Director of University Libraries, Martin Halbert, to serve on the Racial Equity Committee made this collaboration possible.”
Dixon also created the Racial Equity Course Committee, with a purpose to design a course that would embed the two-day racial equity training for students to experience. Although this course concept began in TRECC, it inevitably collapsed into an internal grant entitled, Community-Engaged Pathways and Partnerships (P2) grant. The purpose of the P2 program is to support teams of faculty, staff, and community partners who seek to build the capacity of their members and structures so that community-engaged initiatives move from individual efforts to collective action and commitments.
As co-investigator on the P2 grant, the course was approved and is entitled, HHS: 300: Race, Class, and Health Equity: Examining Systems, Power, and Institutions in Society. This course will examine the foundations of the explicit and subtle ways that racialized patterns in American culture and practices permeate political, economic, and social structures, and ultimately influence health.
The motivating factor that continues to inspire me is that in the Department of Public Health Education, several students are first-generation and underrepresented college students and are often limited in funds to experience professional development opportunities.
“With the support of the Bill Evans Scholarship from PHE, I was able to successfully secure approximately 40 scholarships for students to attend the three-day NC Public Health Association Conference in Greensboro. Students were provided an opportunity to network with a cadre of public health professionals, secure internships, and enroll into memberships for professional organizations.”
Dixon was also recruited to work with the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at Wake Forest University (WFU) to develop the foundational framework for all faculty, students, and staff to incorporate best practices for DEI at the individual, departmental, and administrative levels. Her goal is to adopt this finished product for HHS and UNCG.
“Dismantling systemic and institutional racism will require white allies to commit to individually learning about the historical manifestations of systemic racism in the US,” Dixon said. “It will require them to overcome their emotional fragility and guilt, leveraging their power and privilege to dismantle oppressive policies, advocate for equitable and inclusive practices, and engage in allyship to sustain these institutional changes.”