The Institute for Healing Justice and Equity

The Institute for Healing Justice and Equity was co-founded by Ruqaiijah Yearby, J.D., M.P.H., professor of law and executive director of the Institute; Amber Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of communication; Kira Banks, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology; and Keon Gilbert, DrPH, associate professor of behavioral science and health education

Saint Louis University has invested more than $1.7 million to establish the Institute for Healing Justice and Equity (IHJE) to help eliminate disparities caused by systemic oppression and to promote healing.

Its co-founders are Ruqaiijah Yearby, J.D., M.P.H.; Kira Banks, Ph.D., associate professor of psychology; Keon Gilbert, DrPH, associate professor of behavioral science and health education; and Amber Johnson, Ph.D., associate professor of communication.

“Like the other co-founders of IHJE, I have dedicated my career to improving the lives of vulnerable individuals by eradicating the systems and structures of oppression that prevent individuals from attaining equal access to health care, employment, education, and housing,” said Yearby, J.D., M.P.H., its executive director.

“This institute is noteworthy because our work is grounded in the concept of Humanizing Equity, which we developed to illuminate the need to incorporate healing practices into equity measures as a means to address the psychological and physical harms of oppression.”  

Through research, training, community engagement, and public policy development, the institute intends to help build equitable communities by assessing and promoting best practices that foster healing from social injustice, trauma, and oppression. 

The co-founders are working on the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation grant entitled, Are Cities and Counties Ready to Use Racial Equity Tools to Influence Policy?, and recently issued a report, “Racism as a Public Health Crisis,” in partnership with the Justice Collaborative Institute and Data for Progress.  

 “When confronted with the greatest challenges in society, such as systemic racism, poverty and health disparities, the enormity of the issue sometimes leads individuals and institutions to question the impact their actions can ever have — and ultimately leads to inaction,” said Fred P. Pestello, Ph.D., president of Saint Louis University.

“Then, there are others, like Drs. Banks, Gilbert, Johnson and Yearby who have dedicated their careers to the research and application of knowledge that contributes to dismantling the foundations of those oppressive systems.” 

The Institute will research: 

  • The efficacy of governmental and institutional equity initiatives and processes, using the findings to promote policy change, addressing and eventually eliminating systemic, community, and individual level inequities locally and nationally; 
  • Existing healing strategies, their impact on community health and well-being, and disseminate those methods to promote robust and healthy individuals and communities; and 
  • Best practices for community-engaged research that ensures community members are treated in ethical ways and will create new community engagement frameworks and tools. 

The origins of this new Institute lie in an internal Big Ideas competition to define university-wide strategic research priorities. IHJE is the latest major initiative supported by the Saint Louis University Research Institute. The Geospatial Institute (GeoSLU) was launched in 2019, followed by the WATER Institute in June 2020.  

For more information on IHJE, visit the Institute’s website.  

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