Nya Griffin, staff
Header Image: Gail Carter Hamilton via Lasalle.edu
On April 28, La Salle University announced that Gail Carter Hamilton, an alumni of La Salle in 1998 and 2009 will address the health disparities in Philadelphia, as the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) appointed her to be the first Chief Racial Equity Officer in Jan. 2022.
Hamilton’s overwhelming passion for nursing and public health laid the foundation for her career. After extensive coursework, and training in epidemiology and faculty taking out time to help make sure that she not only understood the information but would succeed beyond her own expectations in nursing.
“Our close-knit classroom style allowed for a more intimate learning environment,” she said. “Where more one-on-one time with our professor helped prepare us for the rigors of bedside nursing. I truly believe that it is because of this unique atmosphere I was more than ready to face the challenges that lay ahead.”, said Hamilton. Reflecting on her time at La Salle, her participation in Student Nurses Association of Pennsylvania and the Organization of Latin American Students (OLAS) makes her connection to the La Salle community honorable.
According to Phila.gov, this newly created position is intended to centralize efforts to ensure racial equity in Health Department operations and activities. Also, this position is to help guide planning to address health inequities in Philadelphia. Hamilton describes this role in healthcare terms, that the officer is meant to listen to the community, diagnose a problem, and then prescribe a solution, while keeping community members involved, instead of telling them what will be done. “The purpose of the role is to make sure that our department has equity at the center,” she said.
Hamilton having the foundational background from La Salle and the initiative and willingness to help our community is remarkable. “I am committed to working to address health equity and health justice in Philadelphia,” said Hamilton. “So many of our communities are struggling under the dual burden of systemic racism and the pandemic, which led to much worse outcomes in communities of color. I look forward to ensuring that racial equity is at the heart of our operations and that we are able to build sustainable partnerships throughout the city in order to maintain robust public health programs,” she said.
Hamilton hopes that through her role she will accomplish mobilization and community engagement. “Many times, what happens is, people in government see the problem and they say, ‘A-ha, this is what will fix it.’ That’s not equity,” she explained. “Equity in part means that we’re bringing in the people who have the problem, to tell us how to help them fix the problem. What we really want is to decolonize the work to allow everybody to feel like they have a say in what happens to them in their communities.”
As a Philadelphia native, Hamilton said framing its citizens as assets and embracing its diversity will help improve its public health strategies.
As for her La Salle roots, Hamilton said she hopes to stay connected to her alma mater and hopes to include nursing graduates that will be able to work within the framework of the Philadelphia Department of Public Health (PDPH) as new initiatives are implemented beginning summer 2022 and beyond.
“My job is to help shape and change the future of how public health is delivered,” she added.