Danica Fulbright Sumpter, PhD, RN, was washing dishes in her kitchen when a report on NPR about maternal mortality rates aired, and the story of a young Black woman who had died during childbirth, caused her to stop what she was doing.
“I was stunned. The woman in the story was highly educated and healthy and this should never have happened,” she said. “The mother of the woman was asked what she thought led to her daughter’s untimely death, and when she remarked ‘racism,’ my heart sank. In that moment I realized that as an educator of future nurses, I had a role to play.”
Dr. Sumpter, a clinical assistant professor at the UT Austin School of Nursing, believes a key solution to such unnecessary death lies in the education system.
“As instructors, we need to tap into the curriculum with the objective of teaching anti-racism content that cuts across every course so that it becomes the norm rather than the exception,” she said. “I decided I could intervene at the intersection of the need to address racial inequity and the barrier of faculty not always feeling comfortable talking about it through curriculum development.”
Dr. Sumpter was recently selected as a member of the tenth class of the Josiah Macy, Jr., Faculty Scholars, joining four other health care professionals from across the nation. Scholars in the two-year program engage in activities to enhance their career as an educator while pursuing a mentored educational innovation project at their home institution.
As a Macy Faculty Scholar, she is developing a Toolkit for Anti-Racist Teaching (T-ART). The T-ART aims to equip health professions faculty with resources and education to promote best practices for teaching about the enduring nature of systemic racism as a significant “pre-existing condition” underlying numerous health inequities.
“I’m interested in how we help our students see the world in a different way so that they can make meaningful and sustainable changes,” Dr. Sumpter said. “Our teaching strategies need to address racism so that students leave the classroom with an ‘equity lens’ that will allow them to recognize and dismantle embedded racism in order to make systems more equitable.”
The toolkit will be a resource for faculty providing teaching strategies through online modules with educational resources and videos demonstrating “Dos and Don’ts.” The objective is to empower faculty to infuse every course with anti-racist instruction that is “baked into the content and structure,” asking them the critical question “How are you maintaining or disrupting the status quo of systemic racism?”
“It will be an ‘unlearning journey’ for both faculty and students,” she said.
Dr. Sumpter has previously been recognized for her innovations in teaching and was named a University Provost’s Teaching Fellow in 2019. Her work as chair of the Family, Public Health, and Nursing Administration Division and co-chair of the Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Committee at the School of Nursing, as well as with the Black Mamas Community Collective, an Austin-based organization seeking to reduce and eliminate rising maternal mortality rates among Black women, has fueled her aspirations of becoming an expert in anti-racist teaching praxis.
The Macy Faculty Scholars Program is designed to identify and nurture the careers of promising educational innovators in medicine and nursing and to ensure that health professional education has at its core a strong social mission to serve the public’s needs and improve public health.