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July 2019
Congratulations to CHET Founder and Director, Melissa Simon, MD, MPH and the entire 2019 Class of Presidential Leadership Scholars on their graduation, Thursday, June 27, 2019, in Dallas, TX. This six-month program serves as an opportunity for diverse leaders to collaborate on global impact and learning curricula focused on leadership through the lens of Presidents Bush, Clinton, and Johnson.
Stay tuned as we kick-off Season 2 of Skinny Trees: Lifting Health for All, CHET's podcast featuring Chicago Department of Public Health Commissioner Dr. Julie Morita.
Follow us on Twitter @SkinnyTrees312 to be the first to know when our inaugural episode is released and to learn more about innovative health equity research and programming happening in Chicago, as well as Dr. Morita's proudest moments as Commissioner. Listen to past episodes here.
Join us for our next 
One Book Northwestern 
Hidden Figures Summer Series Session
  • Monday, July 8, 2019               12:00 pm - 1:00 pm                     Lurie - Hughes Auditorium
  • Monday, August 12, 2019        12:00 pm - 1:00 pm                McGaw - Daniel Hale Williams Auditorium
Click here to R.S.V.P for the series! 
Hidden Figures Spotlight

Health Equity exists in every sector, yet it is often difficult to stay informed about all the incredible work impacting this topic. With the goal to elevate the work of health equity champions across traditional boundaries, each month, Voices will be featuring individuals and/or organizations advancing health equity work in and around the Chicagoland area who, at times, may be unsung to the greater community. 
Inger Burnett-Zeigler, PhD
Assistant Professor of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Northwestern University's Feinberg School of Medicine
Dr. Burnett-Zeigler's research focuses on examining the factors associated with mental health service utilization, specifically are they relate to attitudes and beliefs about mental health, access to mental health treatment, engagement in mental health treatment, and barriers to mental health treatment among disadvantaged populations including racial/ethnic minorities and those with low income, limited education, and limited access to resources. She is currently the Principal Investigator for the "Mindfulness Based Stress Reduction for Depressed Women in a Federally Qualified Health Center" study which examines the acceptability and preliminary efficacy of a mindfulness based treatment for depression delivered to women in a community primary care setting.
  • Q: Where did you see the greatest health inequities when you started your work? How did these disparities affect the communities that you serve?
  • A: I grew up in the Chatham neighborhood on the south side of Chicago, went to high school at the University of Chicago Laboratory School in Hyde Park and church at Mt. Moriah Missionary Baptist Church in Englewood. As I traversed across these three communities I became keenly aware that the residents had extremely disparate access to health care resources. These early experiences led me to consider how where you live can play a critical role in accessing healthcare, health outcomes and long term well being. My epidemiological research examining the social determinants of mental health confirmed that people with fewer years of education, less income and those who are uninsured are at greater risk for mental health conditions and less likely to access mental health care.
  • Q: What do you view as the greatest need now? How do you incorporate health equity in the work you do?
  • A: The greatest need now is two-fold - information for better preventative self-management of health and the implementation of healthcare systems that effectively reach underserved communities. As a mental health advocate, I focus on educating the African-American community on the impact of stress and depression on mental and physical health, home, work and community functioning, and long-term well being. As a researcher, I seek to develop, test, and implement accessible and culturally tailored programs in underserved communities that will improve mental and physical health outcomes. My ultimate goal is to change healthcare systems by creating sustainable models to efficiently deliver mental health interventions in community based settings.
  • Q: What direction do you think health equity work needs to take to achieve health for all?
  • A: In order for us to achieve health for all we must collectively agree with the value that healthcare is a human right, not just for those with privilege and means. We then must be willing to allocate the necessary resources to provide more equitable access to healthcare in impoverished communities.
  • Q: How can other hidden figures collaborate to amplify their impact on health equity?
  • A: Hidden figures can collaborate to amplify their impact by not staying hidden! It is important that those who are working in health equity including researchers, healthcare providers, policy makers, insurance companies, community members and other allies break out of our respective silos and collaborate toward shared goals.  
  • Q: What does being recognized as a Health Equity Hidden Figure mean to you? Who are your Hidden Figures?​
  • A: It is an honor to be recognized for doing the work that I truly believe is my social responsibility. "To whom much is given, much is required" and I truly have been blessed with so many wonderful opportunities and people who invested in me that it will take a lifetime to try to repay my debt. My hidden figures are my grandmother, who sacrificed so much for me to have a high quality education, my childhood friend Dr. Gayle Ratliff, the 67th woman in the US to receive a PhD in physics who will be joining the Northwestern faculty in the Fall, and the social psychologist Dr. Mamie Clark who played a historical role in using psychology to argue for de-segregation.
Dolores Castañeda, MPH
Community Health Advocate 
University of Illinois at Chicago, ChicagoCHEC
Known to residents of the Little Village community as, ‘Mamá Dolores’. Her outreach work focuses on a variety of issues surrounding the health and wellness of Latino immigrants in Chicago. For years, she has worked to feed, clothe, and mother the homeless in Little Village. Every Wednesday and Sunday when the homeless shelters and church food pantries are closed, Dolores takes to the streets, passing out homemade Mexican food and words of support. She is an activist for undocumented immigrants and precarious workers. She has worked with local clinics to ensure that the homeless community has a safe place to seek healthcare without fear of being asked about their immigration status. Dolores has contributed to many research projects through organizations like the Greater Lawndale Healthy Work Project and the Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative. She has served as a mentor to undergraduate students at the UIC School of Public Health since 2016 and enjoys sharing her passion for social justice and immigrant rights. Dolores plans to utilize her public health education to continue tackling the health inequities that exist in Little Village and beyond.
  • Q: Where did you see the greatest health inequities when you started your work? How did these disparities affect the communities that you serve?
  • A: The first experiences of health inequities was in my country, Mexico I was living below the poverty level. I began to see at an early age how people die due to not having access to medical care.  One of the people was my father. He died because of his lack of access to medical care. This opened my eyes to look around and to recognize the social injustices. Being a girl, I did not understand and normalize inequities.  In the community where I grew up everyone had the same issues: extreme poverty, no access to water drinking water, no access to electricity, housing problems, lack of food, precarious jobs, lack of education, no access green spaces, lack of parks. I was “content” as a child but when I got older I started to disagree with this inequities. I wanted to know why there is this injustice and in that moment I began to be an activist in order to transform my community conditions. I started to take action. For example working in something basic like every human should have access to drinking water in their homes, and access to electricity.
  • Q: What do you view as the greatest need now? How do you incorporate health equity in the work you do?
  • A: My participation in the community is at the ground grassroots level. I understanding the contested general health of community members in South Lawndale Little Village community. I want to promote health and positive impacts in communities of color. Investments in reinvesting programming will gain potency and clarity in my community practice, culture and advocacy. My scope is health and my vision is equity through health improvement with education and access to health. Improving mental health has been a heavy aspect to navigate during the daily lives of the community members. I am involved in various programs that support the mental health of families. Cancer prevention and educational programs, and working together with the community in regards to violence prevention alternatives. I also assist the homeless population access to services. We have begun exploring programs for older adults population this has been key to this intergenerational context of immigrant experience. Other goals we have are to build an environment for the older population where we introduce aspects such as nutrition, physical activity and stress management. My passion to meet the needs of community in disseverment through strong investments in individual lives community and academia, civic officials, legislators and media import support.
    Programs around the arts (music, art, writing) has an impact in violence prevention in this area. After many years of work I can see more clearly the strong connections between art and writing and then potential for healing.
    I look at all that encompasses human experience for immigrants in Chicago which can range for joblessness, hunger, poverty, violence, domestic abuse, chronic conditions, housing, unsafe neighborhoods and the role of faith.
    Some many people live in silence and diminished wellness and quality of life leads to poor health. Consider someone who is also undocumented and told they don’t deserve health care, aid support anything. They don't deserve to be treated like humans.
  • Q: How can other hidden figures collaborate to amplify their impact on health equity?
  • A: There are several people who are Hidden Figures, who do the work and are not recognized. However, the work that is done by grassroots is so important. The people who work in the ground understand health equity because we live it every day with the members of the community. It is part of our history and equity is in our skin. For that reason the work that is done in the ground is very important to recognize.
  • Q: What does being recognized as a Health Equity Hidden Figure mean to you? Who are your Hidden Figures?​
  • A: It is important to recognize those who are the people behind the scenes who are    promoting Health in disadvantaged communities. For example, when resources are made on several occasions, only professionals are recognized but often the people 
    who are on the ground are not recognized working with the community.  There are many Hidden figures in the communities but they are not recognized by the fact that they do not have the educational credits to be recognized
     My Hidden Figure is my mother because she taught me to work hard and follow my dreams.  And in her memory I will do it, Josefina Lule.
Welcome Chicago Cancer Health Equity Collaborative (ChicagoCHEC) 2019 Fellows

The ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows program is a comprehensive learning experience for undergraduate and postbaccalaureate students at Northeastern Illinois University, University of Illinois at Chicago, Northwestern University, the City Colleges of Chicago, and other Community/ Junior Colleges in the Chicago metropolitan area who are planning to apply to graduate or medical school. This program is focused on the development of academic, technical, and professional skills in preparation for careers in social, behavioral, and biomedical research and in healthcare. ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows will spend the summer in seminars and research rotations learning from leading researchers. Following the summer intensive program, ChicagoCHEC Research Fellows will have the option to be matched with a research mentor and research project (depending on mentor and project availability) during the academic year.
Health Equity Footprint
Help us develop a registry of current health equity research, programming, training, funding, and staffing across Northwestern University, collaborating medical centers, and community partner organizations by sharing your work with us! 

Please use this form to tell us more about what you are doing to impact health equity! 

We will use your responses to grow an expansive list of health equity happenings aimed at advancing current and future health equity efforts, supporting new innovative partnerships, and to leverage already-existing resources to the wider Northwestern University community.
CHET is excited to co-sponsor Bias in Big Data: Advancing the Conversation on Sexual and Gender Minority Health. This is a free half-day workshop on big data, bias, and health justice, hosted by Northwestern University's Institute for Sexual and Gender Minority Health and Wellbeing. This event will take place on Wednesday, July 17th, 2019 from 11am - 5pm. Learn more here
CHET's monthly newsletter, Voices, provides up-to-date information on local and national initiatives, highlighting health equity research, resources, funding opportunities, and events.  If you would like to have your work or event featured in Voices please email

Continue the Dialogue

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The Center for Health Equity Transformation is a joint center between the Robert H. Lurie Comprehensive Cancer Center of Northwestern University and
the Institute for Public Health and Medicine.

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