The Office of Equity Diversity and Inclusion is committed to devising strategies and overseeing initiatives within SIU School of Medicine that will celebrate our diverse campus populations. We work to assure a mix of students, faculty and staff that mirrors the census demographics for central and southern Illinois.
Our overarching responsibility is to help students successfully complete their medical education, while providing support to them and the diverse faculty and staff who make up our workforce. We strive for an organizational culture that respects individual differences, where persons of various backgrounds can flourish in a harmonious, secure, nurturing environment.
The Alonzo Homer Kenniebrew, MD Forum on Health Inequities and Disparities is an annual discussion of health disparities and other factors that impact population health. It commemorates the life of a ground-breaking central Illinois physician.
A native of Warrior’s Point, Alabama, Dr. Alonzo Homer Kenniebrew was the first African-American physician in the United States to build and operate a surgical hospital, the New Home Sanitarium in Jacksonville, Illinois, established in 1909. At its peak in the 1920s, New Home had 67 rooms, three laboratories, three surgeons and eight associated physicians. It served patients from 20 states and Canada. Kenniebrew founded the hospital because he could not obtain medical privileges at area hospitals. The son of a former slave, Kenniebrew was educated at Tuskegee University and was a friend, colleague and personal physician to Booker T. Washington. After relocating to Illinois, he persevered despite repeated road-blocks from the Jim-Crow world of the early 20th century. His annual lecture sheds light on the history of health disparities, suggesting solutions to the resistant problems that negatively affect the lives of so many in the United States. HSHS St. John’s Hospital, Memorial Health System and the SIU Foundation help support the cost of the annual presentation.
I endowed the Jim Franklin Todd and Keiko Uehara Todd fund to support the Department of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion because my parents’ stories are powerful reminders to me of what can be achieved when Diversity, Equity and Inclusion are hardwired into institutional culture.
My father’s story unfolds through the names of his grandfather, Jefferson Davis Todd, and his father, Franklin Pierce Todd. My father’s family came from the county in Kentucky where Jefferson Davis, the President of the Confederacy, was born. His grandfather’s name tells you what side of the Civil War his family aligned with. Franklin Pierce, the President after which his father was named, was the president who preceded Lincoln and was pro-slavery. My dad grew up taking field trips to Jefferson Davis’ birthplace and seeing confederate money in his father’s wallet. As an adult, he voted for Barak Obama and wore a Black Lives Matter Button on his jacket. He was happy to share how this transformation happened: it happened because he joined the Navy. Jim experienced equity and inclusion through the hierarchy of the military. There were transparent rules about how to move up the ladder and they were blind to race and socioeconomic status. He went all over the world on nuclear submarines and met all sorts of people from all sorts of countries and through being exposed to this diversity learned that humans have so much more in common than they have differences. In short, the Navy showed him a different culture than the one he grew up in, and he saw that it was better. The power of an institution is immense.
Through my mother, an immigrant from Japan, I experienced the common racism, microaggressions and prejudice that minoritized people in our country cope with on a daily basis. I also experienced her great faith in the values of this country and her fierce pride in being an American citizen. Her ability as an outsider to question our culture as well as her determination to find ways to make it better have been an inspiration to me all my life.
In their names, I want to motivate all of us to make SIUSOM a better place.
- Christine Todd, MD, '93