Raja Staggers-Hakim

Professor Staggers-Hakim Teaches Course on Health Inequities in Boston

What do you teach at Simmons? 

I joined the faculty of Simmons in the Department of Public Health in September 2016. 

What made you make the move to teach at Simmons?

My background is in public health and medical sociology. I’ve spent a big part of my career working in public health settings where I was able to directly observe the impact of health inequities. Over the last several years, in my academic career, I’ve spent more time researching health disparities and health inequities. I'm excited to join the Public Health Department at Simmons where I can be a part of the development of the Masters of Public Health Program which focuses on health equity.

Tell us about Unnatural Causes: A Story of Racial and Ethnic Health Inequities in Boston

This course takes students on a tour through racial and ethnic communities in Boston to uncover why diverse and less advantaged communities experience more sickness than more affluent communities. In addition to documenting their experiences through journaling, students have the opportunity to explore historic and ethnic communities and visit community health and social service programs. Students are introduced to public health language such as epidemiology, social determinants of health, prevalence and incidence rates, and health equity.

What inspired you to teach a course on this topic?

I thought about a course that would allow me and my students to not just read about health inequities but to see them play out in Boston. This course has really allowed me to explore Boston with my students (my students literally help to lead and direct travel to the sites) and to understand how the political history of Boston shapes the current lingering inequities.

What skills will students gain from this PLAN course?

First year students are learning the language of public health and health equity and gaining skills in participant observation and technical writing. Students are also learning about disadvantaged populations in Boston.

Do you have any hidden talents?

Supermom!!! I'm a hands-on mom, so when I am not teaching, I'm spending time with my son or thinking about and planning research that will address health inequities.

What's your favorite thing about your students?

My students are analytical, reflective and hungry for knowledge.

What's your Simmons moment?

My Simmons moment occurred when I attended the Friars Leaders Program featuring Janaya Khan, activist and Co-Founder of #Blacklivesmatter Toronto. The energy was amazing. The students were super excited about the lecture and I certainly felt a strong sense of community in that space. Prior to the lecture, in the background, you could hear Beyonce’s "Formation," which can be described as a protest song, and the chatter and laughter of students as they intermingled with faculty. I loved sitting in what felt to be a transformative space. 

I left feeling that there is a place for me at Simmons – that I belonged – and that was certainly my Simmons moment. 

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