My unique experiences as an African-American woman and nurse have shaped my passion for promoting health among vulnerable populations.
I was born in the United States to hardworking, low-income Haitian immigrant parents. As a child, my family lost our housing in the United States and we moved back to Haiti where I attended school and learned so much about my heritage and culture. While there, I identified with my extended family and community, recognizing the struggles and the obstacles we faced on a daily basis. Returning to the Unites States after several years, I personally experienced the hardships of having English as a second language and dealt with the expectation of acculturation from my peers, teachers, and community.
Historically, Haiti has had many public healthcare challenges and it remains the poorest country in the Western Hemisphere. Then the earthquake in 2010 destroyed most of the capital city and surrounding communities and exacerbated its existing public health challenges to a critical level. Today, Haiti’s healthcare priorities are slowly shifting from communicable diseases to addressing chronic illness.
Cardiovascular disease is identified as a leading cause of morbidity in Haiti, as well as other public health concerns including high maternal mortality and poor access to clean water and sanitation. As a child in Haiti and a returning diaspora, I have personally experienced and witnessed the impact of these problems on the health of individuals, families, and communities. It is for this reason I have focused my scholarship on addressing social determinants of health and promoting cardiovascular health among vulnerable populations.
The promotion of diversity, equity, and inclusion is evident in my published work, teaching, and academic and community service. As an educator, I consistently incorporate concepts of diversity, inclusion, health equity, and cultural humility into my PowerPoint presentations, exam questions, and course content.
Diversity within the U.S. population is rapidly progressing, and it is imperative that our students learn how to deliver quality care for all populations. In my academic service, I have led the continuous discussion on diversity while serving on the Diversity and Inclusion Taskforce, Bylaws committee, and as faculty advisor for the Black Student Nurses Association and the LatinX student group. In my early scholarly work, I learned that African-American patients were more likely to develop heart failure, and would do so at a significantly younger age in comparison other racial groups. It is well known that disparities exist in minorities; however, little is known about how to develop tailored strategies to address these disparities within the respective groups, underscoring the need for culturally tailored interventions. I have made a commitment to continue seeking feasible interventions in efforts to reduce these health disparities, specifically among ethnic minority groups.
I believe that like healthcare, inclusion and equity are human rights. Growing up, I learned to acknowledge and respect the experiences of others. Over the course of my career, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked with patients, colleagues, and students of various ethnicities, gender identities, sexual orientations, mental and physical abilities, and socioeconomic backgrounds. Through these interactions, I learned that diversity is defined beyond demographic descriptions but also includes the individual’s experiences, which make them unique.
My respect for diversity and inclusion is grounded in my research, ethics, civility, and moral values, with the goal of fostering safe learning environments for students and positive relationships with patients, families, and communities.
A registered nurse for more than 20 years, Diana Baptiste specializes in cardiovascular care and prevention. Her sustained scholarship focuses on cardiovascular health across the care continuum for underserved populations, grounded in responding to social justice issues influencing health outcomes.