Visiting professor drops the knowledge of cultural humility on Colorado’s public health students
Google “drop that knowledge” and your search results will include an urban dictionary entry and book, co-authored by Dr. Vivian Chávez, a visiting professor sponsored by the Preventive Medicine Residency through a grant to Dr. Carolyn DiGuiseppi from the U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration.
Dr. Chávez is a professor of community health education at San Francisco State University (SFSU) in California. Her book, Drop that Knowledge, stems from a colloquial term meaning “to give advice, to share wisdom,” a philosophy she actively promotes in her classroom.
Students in Dr. Chávez’s SFSU public health courses are active members in the teaching and learning environment. “[They] come to class already knowing about health, disease, social determinants and this knowledge builds throughout the semester,” says Dr. Chávez. Throughout the semester students are exposed to expressive arts and popular education, as well as multiple peer-learning sessions. Dr. Chávez believes that the process of peer-learning not only provides a holistic approach to understanding public health but a systematic approach that improves critical thinking and problem solving.
As visiting professor Dr. Chávez brings her approach to Colorado through her new course Cultural Humility in Public Health Practice.
Cultural humility “Is about ‘starting where the people are,’” says Dr. Chávez. “Cultural Humility in Public Health Practice emphasizes the need to gain a greater awareness of and sensitivity to our own worldview and the implications of our own group membership.”
Dr. Chávez emphasizes cultural humility over models of cultural competency. She believes culturally appropriate care suffers from a failure to develop self-awareness and a respectful attitude toward other points of view and diverse ways of living, rather than knowledge of those views.
“Health professionals are called to be better listeners, open and flexible. Yet, our training and backgrounds often sets us apart from the communities we are trained to serve,” she says. ”We become well versed in speaking and skilled in doing rather than being present and developing awareness.”
The summer course on cultural humility provides students an educational space to develop this awareness by focusing on peer-learning, diversity, relationship development and common values. The course topics include primary prevention, human rights, empowerment and non-violence. By the end of the course, students will develop personal mission statements, learn community mapping and develop media messages.
Media messaging is a core area of Dr. Chávez’s professional expertise and may be one of the strongest foundations to her teaching style.
In the 1970’s Dr. Chávez participated in YouthRadio. “As a journalist-in-training, I had the power to ask questions, to be creative and become civically engaged. As a first generation Latina, it was empowering to understand how people connect through their stories. Stories of struggle, stories of survival, stories of wanting something and not being able to get it, stories of failure and triumph over adversity,” she explains.
These stories are central to Drop that Knowledge. Co-authored by Dr. Chávez and Dr. Elisabeth Soep, Drop that Knowledge compiles the stories of other YouthRadio participants and serves as the metaphor for the learning-style that Dr. Chávez promotes in her classroom.
“Joining Youth Radio was about learning from others as well as from myself. My teaching philosophy mirrors the way I was taught, weaving my own voice with historical documents, community members’ perspectives, and other forms of artistic and scientific data to produce complex life stories that make a difference.”
After leaving YouthRadio, Dr. Chávez went on to earn a BA in La Raza Studies, then a master and doctor of public health. She previously served as local health department public information officer and traveling faculty in Boston University’s International Honors Program for Community Health. Dr. Chávez currently teaches courses in public health, community organizing, promoting positive health, training and education, and global health.
Dr. Chavez will be in Colorado through the month of June before returning to San Francisco. Individuals interested in meeting Dr. Chavez are encouraged to contact her at email@example.com.