Anti-Racism and Social Justice Initiatives at AHS

Show up. Stand up. Speak Out.

The UIC College of Applied Health Sciences is at the forefront of many issues in the headlines today:

  • racial and social economic barriers to health care
  • the need for greater focus on prevention and wellness
  • the inefficiencies in our health care delivery system
  • the importance of educating the public about health
  • training the next generation of educators, discoverers, collaborators and educators.

We reaffirm our commitment to social justice, equity and anti-racism, and we will continue our work toward creating a world in which every person can live a healthy and self-determined life.

Committees and working groups

  • AHS Inclusive Excellence Task Force
    This college-wide task force of faculty, staff and students identifies specific goals, action plans/steps and strategies for enhancing diversity and inclusion across the AHS academic enterprise and culture.

  • DHD Diversity Committee
    This committee in the Department of Disability and Human Development is developing a proposal to hire more post-doctoral candidates and faculty of color.
  • OT Inclusion, Diversity and Equity Academic Committee (IDEA)
    The main goals of this Department of Occupational Therapy committee are to recruit and sustain a skilled, highly-engaged and diverse faculty and student body, and to cultivate an inclusive academic environment that respects and nurtures diverse perspectives and addresses issues of racial and social justice.
  • PT Diversity and Inclusion Advisory Board
    The advisory board, which includes a diverse representation of Department of Physical Therapy  faculty, staff and students, recommends initiatives to promote a culture of diversity, equity and inclusion across the department.

Community services

  • Physical Activity Clinic at the Physical Therapy Faculty Practice
    The Physical Therapy Faculty Practice is committed to helping individuals “move more, sit less.” We believe that any increase in physical movement is beneficial, using evidence-based approaches to increase physical activity for people where they work, live and learn. Services are available free for patients from UI Health clinics through referrals from their primary care physician or physical therapist. The clinic is student-facilitated; student counselors receive training on behavior change counseling methods, cultural literacy, cultural responsiveness, anti-racist research methodologies, health and physical literacy, and active listening. Individuals are connected to community fitness programs for free services that promote lifelong physical activity.
  • UIC Health and Wellness Academy
    The Health and Wellness Academy is an independent study course offered in fall and spring semesters. Our mission is to empower Chicago youth to become ambassadors of health and wellness by taking ownership over their lifestyle choices, and building positive relationships with food and movement. UIC students and Chicago youth form relationships that motivate learning beyond the classroom and into the community. UIC students facilitate hands-on learning as students from Altus Academy engage in meaningful physical activity and learn to cook healthy and delicious food.

Faculty and staff recruitment, training and professional development

  • OT Bridge to the Faculty fellowship
    The Department of Occupational Therapy was awarded a 2020 Bridge to the Faculty fellowship as part of the Bridge to the Faculty recruitment program to attract underrepresented postdoctoral scholars, with the goal of direct transition to a tenure-track junior faculty position after two years. This campuswide competitive program provides three years of funding (two as postdoc, one as faculty) for an individual from Black or Latinx background.

Research and discovery

  • AHS research labs and centers
    AHS has over two dozen research labs and centers that drive discovery at the intersection of health, disability, rehabilitation and advocacy, including the Entrepreneurship for Youth with Disabilities research lab that works with youth with disabilities from low-income communities.
  • Institute on Disability and Human Development
    The Department of Disability and Human Development, and its Institute on Disability and Human Development, has a primary social justice mission of breaking down barriers for people with disabilities. It aligns with anti-racism in all its courses and initiatives, with a focus on underserved populations.


  • Healthy living and social justice
    A team of UIC Department of Physical Therapy researchers outlined the disproportionate impact the combination of unhealthy lifestyle behaviors, chronic disease and COVID-19 infection have on Black and Hispanic individuals in underserved communities.
  • Racial and social justice throughout the curriculum
    All Department of Occupational Therapy faculty are asked to identify and implement strategies in every class they teach to bring racial and social justice awareness. These include: case studies and problem-based learning to facilitate discussions on implicit bias; guest speakers to talk about microaggressions; case studies to discuss trauma and stress caused by racism; and a panel of diverse speakers centered around the lived experience.
  • Cultural humility and implicit bias training and diversity series
    This series includes a three-hour interactive training workshop for first-year MS in OT students. The workshop covers the diversity of the United States; participation and health disparities experienced by people of color; cultural humility; implicit bias and microaggressions; and strategies for preventing implicit bias and promoting equity and inclusion.
  • AHS courses
    Anti-racism and social justice scholarship is woven into many of our college courses. View the complete AHS course catalog here and here.

Student-led initiatives

  • Coalition of Occupational Therapy Advocates for Diversity
    The coalition is an occupational therapy student-led organization that promotes inclusion, equity and an anti-racist academic environment. The group sponsors panels, conversations and training for OT students, faculty and staff. The most recent event, an OT town hall to promote racial justice, took place in October 2020 and will be held every year.

Student recruitment, admissions and retention

  • Inclusive Excellence Task Force Subcommittee on Holistic Admissions cross-departmental recommendations
    Cross-departmental recommendations
  • Urban Health Program
    The Urban Health Program in AHS recruits and supports students from underrepresented minority groups, specifically African Americans, Latinx and Native Americans, into graduate and professional degree programs leading to health care-related careers.  The program develops a pipeline of underrepresented health professionals dedicated to improving the quality and availability of health care in underserved urban areas.
  • OT holistic admissions model
    The Department of Occupational Therapy embraces a holistic admissions model to increase student diversity. Several important qualifications are considered in addition to GPA and GRE, including work experience, leadership and volunteer experience.  In a profession that is 83 percent white, about 50 percent of our OT students are from Asian, Black or Latinx backgrounds.
  • MS in OT underrepresented student mentoring research assistant position
    The Department of Occupational Therapy offers a one-semester research assistantship, with tuition waiver and close mentoring from a faculty member, to a Black or Latinx student.
  • AHS Assistant Dean for Recruitment
    Our assistant dean for recruitment actively develops partnerships and programs with high schools and community colleges to create a pipeline of students from traditionally underrepresented minority groups.
  • Financial support for students
    We are committed to creating a more diverse and inclusive student body.  Thanks to the generosity of our donors, we have established nine scholarship funds to financially support students from historically marginalized communities.
  • Kinesiology program guiding values