Alumni Profile: Dr. Swannie Jett, DrPH 2011

February 14, 2021

 

In recognition of Black History Month, the College of Public Health is sharing interviews with some of our outstanding Black alumni. We asked each of these individuals to reflect on the meaning of diversity, equity, and inclusion in their personal worldviews and in the field of public health. 

 

Dr. Swannie Jett, DrPH 2011 Dr. Swannie Jett

Health Commissioner for Brookline Health and Human Services 

 

What do diversity, equity, and inclusion mean to you? 

 

Diversity in my world is simply the inclusion of every race, demographic, economic status, education, and nationality involved with a chance for input at the table—a fair equitable opportunity to have input and perspectives to enrich our nation. I believe equity is having the same opportunities to succeed in the world and leveling the playing field for success. In this world wealth is correlated with health, but unfortunately, everyone doesn’t start the race of life at the same starting line. We need to build a society where everyone has an equal chance and opportunity to accomplish their dreams. We need fair treatment and equitable distribution of resources with the opportunity to achieve more with hard work. Our current society doesn’t include everyone. We can accomplish great things as a society with the inclusion of everyone. 

 

Why are diversity, equity, and inclusion important to public health? 

 

COVID-19 is an excellent example of why diversity, equity, and inclusion matter. We have made vulnerable populations by the exclusion of parts of our communities. Public health can be the catalyst to identify and collaborate within and outside communities to bring everyone together to have dialogue and shift resources for a better world. Public health must conduct community health needs assessments, identify the vulnerable parts of the population, and lend people a voice by being the chief health strategist.  

 

How does your work contribute to the conversation regarding diversity, equity, and inclusion in public health?  

 

In my work, I’ve always conducted health assessments of the community to identify needs. I determine policies that impact people, and and lend my voice to foster change. Sometimes my work has identified systemic racism and exclusion. Once this has been identified I work extensively with stakeholders to change the system. 

 

In 2020 Dr. Jett authored “Public Health is committed to health equity, social justice, and improving communities that suffer from systemic racism,” a reflection of his own experiences with racism and health equity.