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We have been shaken as a community, a state, and a nation by the coronavirus pandemic and, more recently, by the tragic death of George Floyd and the widespread protests that have followed. Both of these have exacerbated and been exacerbated by social disparities. Both are public health issues.

As reported by CNN on June 1, the American Academy of Pediatrics, the American Medical Association, and the American College of Physicians emphasized that racism negatively impacts the physical and mental health of communities of color, creating chronic stress and leading to higher rates of comorbidities and lower life expectancy. Statistics show that COVID-19 has disproportionately impacted communities of color, African Americans in particular, with higher rates of hospitalization and death. We also know and sadly have too frequent reminders that communities of color and especially African Americans are disproportionately impacted by police violence, George Floyd being the most recent name added to a list that includes Breonna Taylor, Eric Garner, and so many more.

The College of Applied Health Sciences is absolutely and unwaveringly committed to eradicating disparities in the availability of and access to safe and healthy communities, effective and high-quality health care, educational opportunities, and leisure services that promote well-being. It is our mission to promote and support optimal living for individuals, families, and communities throughout the lifespan and across a diverse society. As a college, we strive to ensure that we respect the lived experiences of those whom we touch through our educational, research, and outreach activities. We expect everyone affiliated with the college to be similarly committed as individuals to respect and compassion for all.

I hope that recent events bring a dawning of realization to even the most hard-hearted that we are all in this together. We all want to be treated with dignity. We may have our differences, and we all have our problems, but never should those differences or those problems mean that we are treated as though our lives don’t matter.

AHS is proud to be one of the most diverse colleges at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. We celebrate the richness that diversity brings to our teaching and learning, our research, and our community engagement. We know as a college, and we all must come to know as a community and a nation, that we are not diminished by diversity but exalted, not threatened but strengthened. We will continue to welcome and nurture students from all backgrounds, to give them a safe space to pursue their dreams, and to help them develop into outstanding professionals who are committed, as AHS is, to justice, fairness, opportunity, and access for all.

Cheryl Hanley-Maxwell
Dean, College of Applied Health Sciences