Fundamentals of Race and Racism

October 18, 2021

History and Health: Racial Equity Speaker Series

VCU Health Sciences and the VCU Health System, like most medical institutions, have engaged in and benefited from slavery, segregation, and racism. Join panelists Dr. Meera Pahuja (VCU Health), Melanie Rouse (Virginia Department of Health), Rev. Benjamin Campbell (St. Paul's Episcopal), Theresa Riley-Teekah (African-American Breast Cancer Support Group), and Sheryl Garland (VCU Health) as they share their stories and experiences, reflecting on how race and racism have been foundational to the institution of medicine and how structural racism impacts health and healthcare. The panel is moderated by Jason Callahan, MDiv, MS, BCC, and is part of the History and Health: Racial Equity series. Co-sponsored by the Humanities Research Center.

Jason Callahan, MDiv, MS, BCC

Jason Callahan is the chaplain for the Thomas Palliative Care Unit at Virginia Commonwealth University’s Massey Cancer Center and also serves as an instructor for the Departments of Patient Counseling and Pastoral Care at VCU. Jason was the first chaplain endorsed by The Humanist Society to become a Board Certified Chaplain through the Association of Professional Chaplains.

Jason is a public voice for humanism, and has appeared on podcasts and radio programs discussing humanism and chaplaincy work. He has served as a plenary speaker at national conferences for both the Association of Professional Chaplains and the Spiritual Care Association. He has been a celebrant and chaplain of The Humanist Society since 2015 and on its board since 2020. His ultimate goal is to put professional chaplains in every community in the country.

Rev. Benjamin P. Campbell

The Rev. Benjamin P. Campbell is an Episcopal priest, Pastor Emeritus of Richmond Hill, and a Pastoral Associate at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church. He is author of Richmond’s Unhealed History, a book on the history of Richmond since before the European settlement. He currently chairs the Board of the Greater Richmond Transit Company. He is a long-time member of the Richmond Slave Trail Commission and a founding director of the National Slavery Museum project in Shockoe.

For three decades he helped develop non-profit corporations supporting the Richmond Public Schools, including the Armstrong Leadership Program, the Micah Association, Communities in Schools, the Armstrong Priorities Freshman Academy, the RPS Educational Foundation, and the RPS High School Future Centers. He served three parishes in Richmond and as Communications Director for the Episcopal Diocese of Virginia. He directed two non-profit corporations -- the Richmond Urban Institute and Home Base, Incorporated, a neighborhood-based low-income housing corporation.

Sheryl Garland, MHA, FACHE

Sheryl Garland is the Chief of Health Impact at VCU Health System and is the Exexcutive Director, VCU Office of Health Equity. Sheryl is responsible for building programs and partnerships to improve the health of populations and communities served by VCU and VCU Health System. Sheryl is the recipient of several awards including the American College of Health Care Executives Regent’s Early Career Healthcare Executive Award, the VCU Presidential Award for Community Multicultural Enrichment (Administrator Award), VCU/MCV School of Medicine Dean’s Award for Community Service, YWCA of Richmond Outstanding Woman of the Year Award in the field of Health/Science, the VCU Department of Health Administration Alumni of the Year Award, and the First African Baptist Church Community Leader’s Award.

Sheryl is a fellow in the American College of Health Care Executives and a member of SisterFund, an African American Women’s Giving Circle. She serves on the boards of the MCV Foundation, University Health Services-Professional Education Programs, Institute for Public Health Innovation, and The Community Foundation for a greater Richmond. She is past chair of Vizient’s Vulnerable Patient Population Network and is currently President of the American Heart Association, Mid-Atlantic Affiliate.

Meera Pahuja, MD

Meera Pahuja became passionate about social justice and palliative care working in South Africa with patients living with HIV and extremely drug resistant TB during her infectious disease training. At VCU, she is course director of the Patient, Physician, & Society longitudinal course for all first and second-year medical students. The course is focused on professional identity formation and social medicine, covering topics such as: social determinants of health, cultural humility, caring for the dying patient, medical ethics, historical trauma, and systemic racism. In this capacity, she has received the Outstanding Teaching Award for PPS and inducted into the Alpha Omega Alpha Society at VCU. Dr. Pahuja was also appointed to the School of Medicine's first Inclusion Council and has served on the VCU Hospital Ethics Committee since 2018. In the community, Dr. Pahuja serves as Board Secretary for the Virginia League for Planned Parenthood.

Melanie Rouse, PhD

Melanie Rouse has been with the Virginia Department of Health since September 2015. She began her career at VDH as the Maternal Mortality Projects Coordinator. She currently serves as the Virginia Maternal Mortality Projects Manager in the Office of the Chief Medical Examiner. In this position, she manages the Virginia Pregnancy-Associated Mortality Surveillance System and the Maternal Mortality Database. She also coordinates all activities for the Virginia Maternal Mortality Review Team (MMRT). Dr. Rouse was instrumental in establishing a partnership between the MMRT and the Virginia Neonatal Perinatal Collaborative to support in the implementation of recommendations made by the MMRT.

Dr. Rouse has been named a Government Expert on addressing the drivers of maternal mortality by the Alliance for Health Policy, and she is an Executive Committee Member for the Virginia Neonatal Perinatal Collaborative and actively participates on the VNPC Data Projects Subcommittee. Dr. Rouse also volunteers on the March of Dimes Virginia Maternal and Child Health Committee.

Theresa R. Teekah

Theresa R. Teekah is a former registered nurse, CIS coordinator at the Massey Cancer Center, and public health worker. She is the Founder and Lead of the African-American Breast Cancer Support Group, which she started in 1993 while employed at the Massey Cancer Center. Although retired, she continues to work with the group through Zoom.