Innovators in Health Equity and Racial Justice

Health Sciences Webinar Series
in Health Equity
and Racial Justice


This speaker series, hosted by the Department of Health Sciences, highlights innovative approaches to advance health equity and racial justice across a range of disciplines. This ongoing series will examine the role of health equity, racial justice, and social justice in the context of current public health issues and trends by engaging experts in science, technology, humanities, and arts.

Upcoming Events

Past Webinars

Re-imagining Public Health in Boston

Wednesday, April 5, 2023

Dr. Bisola Ojikutu — Public Health Commission, Boston Massachusetts
Triniese Polk

Hosted by:

Bouvé College of Health Sciences


Dr. Bisola Ojikutu, MD, MPH
Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC)

Bisola Ojikutu MD MPH is a nationally recognized physician leader, health equity researcher, community advocate and expert in the prevention, care, and treatment of infectious diseases. Dr. Ojikutu was appointed Executive Director of the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC) in July 2021.

As Executive Director of the BPHC, the City’s health department, Dr. Ojikutu manages a budget of $162M and leads more than 1,300 employees to protect, preserve, and promote the health and well-being of all Boston residents, particularly the most vulnerable. Dr. Ojikutu is a key advisor to Boston’s Mayor on health issues and builds innovative partnerships across city departments and within Boston’s communities to positively impact the health of all city residents. Among other public health priorities, she is committed to addressing racism as a public health crisis and advancing health equity.

Dr. Ojikutu is an Associate Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School and a faculty member within the Division of Global Health Equity at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. She also holds appointments within the Infectious Disease Division at Massachusetts General Hospitals and is an adjunct faculty member at The Fenway Institute. She has led research and developed programs focused on increasing access to health care among marginalized populations funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Patient Centered Outcomes Research Institute and the Health Resources and Services Administration (HIV/AIDS Bureau). Most recently, Dr. Ojikutu served as Director of the Community Engaged Research Program and the Associate Director of the Bio-Behavioral and Community Science Core for the Harvard Center for AIDS Research. She is widely published in peer-reviewed journals including, the New England Journal of Medicine and the American Journal of Public Health, and is the co-editor of two comprehensive textbooks detailing strategies to address the ongoing HIV epidemic with Black and Latinx communities, HIV in US Communities of Color. In recognition of her efforts, she was named a Hero in Action by AIDS Action Committee of Massachusetts and a Community Hero by Action for Boston Community Development (ABCD).

Read her full biography

Triniese Polk, MS
Director of the Office of Racial Equity and Community Engagement (BPHC)

Triniese is a Boston native and director of the Office of Racial Equity and Community Engagement at the Boston Public Health Commission (BPHC). For more than twenty years, Triniese has advocated for racial and social justice – leading many transformative initiatives in Boston and Public Health. While in her current role, Triniese established the Health Commission’s first community-driven Anti-Racism Policy which operationalizes cross-departmental equity and inclusion standards of practice.

In response to Boston’s Racism as a Public Health Crisis Declaration, Triniese and her team established the BPHC Generational Health Scholarship program for BIPOC identifying students seeking careers in fields including public and mental health, medical, and dental. Triniese holds a Bachelor of Arts degree in Human Services from Springfield College and a Master of Science degree in Health Communication from Boston University.

Achieving Excellence in Public Health by Promoting Equity

Tuesday, March 8, 2022

Thea James, MD

Co-hosted by:

Department of Health Sciences and the Center for Community Health Education Research and Service (CCHERS)


Dr. Thea James, MD
VP of Mission, and Associate Chief Medical Officer at Boston Medical Center and Boston University School of Medicine,
Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine,
Co-Executive Director of the BMC Health Equity Accelerator

Dr. Thea James is Vice President of Mission and Associate Chief Medical Officer at Boston Medical Center. She is an Associate Professor of Emergency Medicine and Director of the Violence Intervention Advocacy Program at BMC. Dr. James is a founding member of the National Network of Hospital-Based Violence Intervention Advocacy Programs (NNHVIP). In 2011 she was appointed to Attorney General Eric Holder’s National Task Force on Children Exposed to Violence.

As Vice President of Mission Dr. James works with caregivers throughout BMC. Additionally, she has primary responsibility for coordinating and maximizing BMC’s relationships and strategic alliances with a wide range of local, state, and national organizations including community agencies, housing advocates, and others that partner with BMC to meet the full spectrum of patient needs. The goal is to foster innovative and effective new models of care that are essential for patients and communities to thrive. Integrating upstream interventions into BMC’s clinical care models are critical to achieving equity and health in the broadest sense.

Dr. James served on the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine 2009-2012, where she served as chair of the Licensing Committee. She is 2008 awardee of Boston Public Health Commission’s Mulligan Award for public service, and a 2012 recipient of the Suffolk County District Attorney’s Role Model Award. She received The Boston Business Journal Healthcare Hero award in 2012 &2015. She was 2014 recipient of the Schwartz Center Compassionate Care Award. The Boston Chamber of commerce awarded Dr. James with the Pinnacle Award in 2015, which honors women in business and the professions.

Dr. James’ passion is in Public Health both domestically and globally.
She is a Supervising Medical Officer on the Boston Disaster Medical Assistance Team (MA-1 DMAT), under the Department of Health and Human Services. She has deployed to post 9/11 in NYC, Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans in 2005, Bam, Iran after the 2003 earthquake, and Port-Au-Prince Haiti after the earthquake of 2010. For years Dr. James has traveled to Haiti, with colleagues and emergency medicine residents, and with MA-1 DMAT one day after the 2010 earthquake.

Originally from Alexandria, Virginia, and a graduate of Georgetown University School of Medicine, Dr. James trained in Emergency Medicine at Boston City Hospital, where she was a chief resident.

Addressing Racial Inequities in Public and Community Health

Wednesday, December 1, 2021
Noon – 1 PM (EDT)

Speaker Michael A Curry — National NAACP Board of Directors, President & CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers

Co-hosted by:

Department of Health Sciences — The Social Justice Steering Committee
The Center for Community Health Education Research and Service (CCHERS)


Michael A Curry
National NAACP Board of Directors
President & CEO of the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers

Born and raised by a single mother in Lenox Street Housing Projects and a product of the Boston Public Schools, Michael’s life experiences provided the motivation for his over 30 years of work in civil rights. From his leadership of the Black Student Union on the campus of Macalester College in St. Paul, MN in 1989, where he successfully led an effort with the Dean of Admissions to recruit more students of color, to his return to Roxbury in 1992 to lead the Million Man March Mobilization Committee (1995), he has embodied the W.E.B. DuBois quote, “Nothing can be solved that can’t be faced.”

In his various roles, there are recurring themes—a commitment to social justice and health equity, as well as a pursuit of justice and the elimination of racism. Michael Curry was elected President of the Boston NAACP and under his leadership, the branch launched an annual discrimination training, in collaboration with several investigative and enforcement agencies.

Michael Curry also serves as President & CEO for the Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers, a statewide Primary Care Association that serves 52 community health centers throughout Mass, serving over 1 million patients out of over 300 practice sites. Since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic, Michael has spearheaded the statewide response of the Mass League on behalf of its members, and centered “equity” in every conversation.

Michael Curry is a frequent Political Commentator on WBUR’s Radio Boston, Morning Edition and Week in Review, Boston Public Radio WGBH with Jim Braude and Margery Eagan, WGBH’s Greater Boston, and New England Cable News, as well as frequently requested to provide reactions to breaking news, presidential and mayoral debates, and state of the union/city addresses.

Art at the Crossroads of Health and Racial Justice

Thursday, April 7, 2021
Noon – 1:30 PM (EST)

André Robert Lee

Co-hosted by:

Department of Health Sciences
Department of Theatre
Department of Art + Design
Department of Communication Studies
Institute of Health Equity and Social Justice Research
Center for the Arts
Office of City and Community Engagement


Join award-winning filmmaker André Lee, Northeastern faculty, and community leaders for a keynote address and panel discussion highlighting the power of bringing public health and the arts together to advance health equity and racial justice.

André Lee’s film Virtually Free, which won the Jury Award for Impact at the 9th Annual Social Impact Media Awards, will be available for screening to all participants.

This film will also be the focus of a panel discussion which will include:

  • André Lee, Director of Virtually Free
  • Sid, youth ambassador for Virtually Free
  • Rebekah E. Moore, Assistant Professor of Music and Faculty Scholar, Institute for Health Equity and Social Justice Research
  • Lisa Simmons, Director of the Roxbury International Film Festival
  • Dev Luthra, Artistic Director of And Still We Rise
  • Alisa Lincoln, Professor of Health Sciences and Sociology, Director of Institute for Health Equity and Social Justice Research

The panel will be moderated by Amy Halliday, Director of the Northeastern Center for the Arts. This event celebrates National Public Health Week and is a part of Department of Health Sciences Innovators in Health Equity and Racial Justice speaker series.


André Robert Lee
Filmmaker and activist

André uses his art as a medium for laying bare the need for equity and justice. His message is at once candid and hopeful. He encourages his audiences to face history as a reality, to recognize our own participation — for better and for worse — in both the perpetuation of what was, as well as in the construction of what is.


Introductions and Opening Remarks
Short Keynote with André
Film Summary and Panel Introduction
Panel Discussion
Open Discussion / Q&A
Closing Remarks Follow Up

Driving Equitable Innovation in Health and Technology

Thursday, March 25, 2021
12:00 – 1:00pm EST

Co-hosted by Khoury College

Guest speaker, Donald Martin Jr


Recent research on algorithmic fairness has highlighted that the problem formulation phase of systems that use machine learning can be a key source of bias that has significant downstream impacts on the fairness outcomes, both in health and in the use of computers more broadly. However, very little attention has been paid to methods for improving the fairness efficacy of this critical phase of AI system development. Current practice neither accounts for the dynamic complexity of high-stakes domains nor incorporates the perspectives of vulnerable stakeholders. This talk will explore the application of community based system dynamics during the product development process in order to foster the development of equitable, inclusive products based on machine learning and artificial intelligence.


Donald Martin, Jr.
Sr. Staff Technical Program Manager and Social Impact Technology Strategist

Donald focuses on driving innovation in the spaces where Google’s products and services intersect with society as well as understanding the intersections between Trust and Safety, Machine Learning (ML) Fairness and Ethical Artificial Intelligence (AI).

He holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the University of Colorado at Denver and founded its National Society of Black Engineers (NSBE) chapter.

Donald has over 30 years of technology leadership experience in the telecommunications and information technology industries. He has held CIO, CTO, COO, VP of IT and product manager positions at global software development companies and telecommunications service providers. Donald holds a US utility patent for “problem modeling in resource optimization.”

His most recent publication is the Harvard Business Review article “AI Engineers Need to Think Beyond Engineering.”