HEATHER NYMAN, PharmD (she/her)
Assistant Dean for Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the College of Pharmacy
Areas of Focus: Affordable Care, Student Pathways, Equitable Hiring Practices
Tell us a little about yourself.
I’m originally from North Carolina; my family’s always lived in the South, and I’m the first generation to leave. I’m a pharmacist by training and studied in both Utah and North Carolina. I’m a divorced mom of three elementary-aged kids. I love cooking, trail running, and my favorite place on the planet is the forest of western North Carolina. That’s my happy place.
How did you first get started in EDI work?
To be honest, this wasn't a natural fit for me. I was recommended for this position by a coworker, though I never considered it for myself.
I’m passionate about people being seen as people. I’ve experienced bias myself: as a female scientist with a southern accent, a divorced mom. There are a lot of labels and expectations that come with that.
I look at our students and their experiences—the same way I look at my own kids—and I just want to make things in our little world better for them. I don’t know if I’ll ever feel satisfied that my effort is enough, but I really just want the folks who come through the College of Pharmacy to feel like they belong, like they matter, and to feel free to do their best work.
What’s an EDI issue you’re passionate about?
I currently practice at University Hospital where we provide care regardless of ability to pay. I’ve not always worked in settings like that. The main place where I see disparities now is in what people have access to before they come into the hospital and what we can send them out with after leaving the hospital. But while they're in the hospital, there's drastically fewer inequities, which is a wonderful place to work.
What projects are you proudest of?
In what’s now been our first year, we’re focused on getting our committee fully constituted with representation from across the college. We really wanted to take it slow from the beginning and get feedback from folks across the College of Pharmacy before we embark on any initiatives.
Looking to the future, what’s your vision for the College of Pharmacy?
Our first goal is to look at the curriculum and incorporate EDI competencies throughout so that students are constantly being educated in equity. We need training for our faculty as well. If we’re going to change our curriculum and hold students accountable, our teachers also need exposure to some of the same concepts. It is powerful for students to interact with faculty mentors who are also on their own personal journey to become more inclusive and advance health equity.
Our other initiative focuses on outreach. We want to evaluate our faculty hiring processes to see if there are changes we can make to improve hiring and recruiting a diverse group of folks. That goes for student pathways too. We have a relatively diverse class that gets more diverse each year. But we are always trying to do more, especially in supporting students once they’re here.
What do you find most fulfilling about this work? Most frustrating?
Across both my patient care and teaching experience, I’ve realized that there are highs and lows. The highs are usually meaningful, individual experiences and the lows are when the bureaucracy makes you feel like you’re not being efficient or making progress. I’ve learned to ride those waves, knowing that it fluctuates.
One of the hardest parts of this work is seeing the big picture. It’s easy to get overwhelmed in the details, so stepping back and looking at the whole picture helps when you need to adjust your focus. Even as I say it, I get lost in the details all the time. But you can always step back and say, “These are the people. This is the work. This is what matters.”
NATASHA OVUOBA (she/her)
Associate Director of Equity, Diversity, & Inclusion at Huntsman Cancer Institute (HCI)
PALOMA CARIELLO (she/her), MD, MPH
Associate Professor of Infectious Diseases and Associate Dean for Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the Spencer Fox Eccles School of Medicine
BART TAFT WATTS, DDS (he/him)
Associate Professor of Patient Communication and the Associate Dean for Health Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion at the University of Utah School of Dentistry