We have had many great training together as National Health Corps members, but one in particular really fostered our togetherness as a group as well as our connection with those we serve. Mario Browne, the director of the Office of Health Sciences Diversity at the University of Pittsburgh, was scheduled to talk about cultural competency and awareness. I anticipated his training to be straight-forward and lecture-style as that is how most training goes. I was pleasantly surprised when he sat down in the circle with us and became a part of our group.
In an effort to open up conversation among us about cultural awareness, Mario guided us through a discussion focused on two commercials. Each portrayed people, representing various cultures, through different lenses, allowing us to reflect on and critique aspects of both. We talked about the tone in each video and what kind of message they were trying to convey as well as the commercialization of culture and the social situations that led to the creation of these ads. We delved into the thought processes that others might go through while watching them and how perspectives are shaped. Our different responses surrounding these videos allowed us to open up about our struggles and personal biases and how they affect us and the people we serve. Mario helped us to understand how our biases impact our daily lives by allowing us to come to our own realizations and emboldened us to make brave changes.
As Mario prepared to leave, he left us with a task: communicate. He told us to break up into small groups, no bigger than two or three people, and just talk. Each group had the opportunity to take the conversation in any direction they wanted. My group courageously opened up about hard things in our lives, how we perceive certain social stigmas, and how to learn from others respectfully.
You might be wondering how this registers as a training, as I also struggled to piece this together myself at first. Mario didn’t just teach us something new; he gave us the tools to recognize our own biases and develop not only cultural awareness, but also self-awareness. These skills are so important because they allow us to connect with others who have cultural or societal differences. Mario also motivated us to think more deeply and critically about what we see in ads, social media, public discussions, and anything else we see in our day-to-day lives. His absolute focus on making us look further into ourselves and share empowered us to come together as a Corps and as parts of the community we serve.
My discussions with fellow NHC members helped open my eyes to the kinds of connections I can make with the people I serve. I walked away from Mario’s training feeling much more competent in interacting with people from all kinds of backgrounds, cultures, and walks of life.
This post was written by NPHC member Rachel Good.
Rachel serves at the Greater Pittsburgh Community Food Bank as a Health Educator.