Department Chair Offers New Independent Study Course on Racial Equity in Health Care

Posted in News Story

October 20, 2020 – This semester, Dr. Christopher King, chair of the Department of Health Systems Administration at the School of Nursing & Health Studies, is offering an independent study focusing on racial equity in health care that he hopes will grow into a regular course.

“The course addresses a critical skills gap in health care management and policy curricula, which will distinguish our students in the market,” said King, who recently authored Health Disparities in the Black Community: An Imperative for Racial Equity in the District of Columbia. (Learn more about the report.)   

Dr. Christopher King in a formal portrait-style photo wearing a suit
Dr. Christopher King

“Moreover,” King added, “it builds on the department’s capacity to make a meaningful contribution to the local community, employers, and the Georgetown University Racial Justice Institute.”

Reflections and Solutions

The course, King said, consists of two phases. The first involves understanding the effects of institutional and systemic racism on health and health care. The second, an experiential component, centers on engagement in health care settings and providing “resources that help health care executives and practitioners operationalize racial equity concepts.”  

Karan Buddala (NHS’23) is a health care management & policy major and is the first student to take this independent study, which he calls, “one of the most rewarding experiences at Georgetown.”

Buddala took some time to answer questions about the independent study and his overall Georgetown experience.

‘Urgent Nature’

Question: How did you become interested in the course topic and working with Dr. King?

“The independent study I am currently doing with Dr. King is about racial disparities in health care, and it has been, by far, one of the most rewarding experiences at Georgetown. As a person of color, racial justice has always been an issue of personal importance because of its urgent nature. When racial inequities persist – especially in health care – the cost is a person’s life. 

“When I was in high school, my AP U.S. government and politics class drafted and advocated for the Civil Rights Cold Case Records Collection Act, a bill that expedites the release of documents relating to civil rights cold cases in an attempt to publicize information, which could be used to solve certain cold cases and provide closure for the families of victims. It took four years of phone calls, meetings with Congresspeople, and patience, but in January of 2019 the bill was finally passed by both chambers of Congress and signed into law. 

Karan Buddala stands in front of a mural of the globe, graduation cap, apple, trumpet, and diploma scroll.
Karan Buddala (NHS’23)

“The law, however, was only one step in the right direction. Racial injustices unfortunately permeate all aspects of our society and by applying a racial justice lens to what I was interested in studying (medicine and health care policy), I thought I would be better equipped to have a meaningful impact outside of school. I truly resonate with Dr. King’s belief that racial equity is achieved when race is no longer a predictor of  health outcomes.”

Experiential Learning

Question: What have you learned so far and what have or will you be working on this semester?

“Racial inequality exists at a systemic level due to long-standing biases and practices. The more I researched, the more I learned about the resilience of the Black community and the more appalled I became at America’s ugly history, which often goes under-discussed. 

“What I love about this independent study and working with Dr. King is that it’s not just about researching racial disparities in health care, but also developing resources and testing interventions for change. This includes drafting educational materials to advance practice, observing and transcribing focus groups with members of the community to help hospitals compose their community health needs assessments, and shadowing Dr. King at presentations with executive boards of different hospital systems – supporting their efforts to apply racial justice concepts in management and patient care. 

“In the future, I hope to research more about the impact of race in conjunction with other social determinants of health, such as sexuality or socioeconomic status.”

Proud Hoya

Question: How are you enjoying Georgetown and your major?

“I love Georgetown and am so proud to be a Hoya. The HCMP program is really about understanding nuances and learning to analyze topics from multiple perspectives, which is invaluable. 

“My favorite part, though, is probably the people. From the minute I stepped on campus, I understood what people meant when they told me beforehand that the NHS was a tight-knit community. The faculty have been nothing but supportive, and I have met so many amazing students and brilliant minds who push me to be better every day!”

By Bill Cessato