S2, Episode 4

In This Episode

April 7, 2022: Ruby Mendenhall on Trauma, Wellness, and Community-Centered Solutions

Potrait image of Ruby Mendenhall

Episode 4’s featured guest recently received the Pearl Birnbaum Hurwitz Award for Humanism in Healthcare, which honors a woman who exemplifies humanism and has advanced the well-being of underserved or vulnerable populations in the healthcare arena. It’s a fitting honor for Dr. Ruby Mendenhall, whose extensive interdisciplinary research and publicly engaged work focuses on building healthy, equitable communities—with those communities solidly at the center, working together on solutions.

In this episode, Mendenhall discusses the interconnection of racial oppression, trauma, and violence with both physical and mental health. Learn about her current projects, including a MacArthur-funded initiative to create programming and wellness tools (such as art and a forthcoming wellness store) to foster healing from racial trauma in Black and Latinx high school students and young adults living in Chicago. Along the way, she highlights the scholars, works, and mentors who informed her path forward.


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About the Guest

Ruby Mendenhall, who holds the Kathryn Lee Baynes Dallenbach Professorship in Liberal Arts and Sciences, is a professor in Sociology, African American Studies, Urban and Regional Planning, and Social Work at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. She is also the assistant dean for diversity and democratization of health innovation at the Carle Illinois College of Medicine.

Mendenhall is an affiliate of the Institute for Genomic Biology and the Institute for Computing in Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. In 2004, Mendenhall received her Ph.D. in Human Development and Social Policy program from Northwestern University in Evanston, Illinois. For her dissertation, Black Women in Gautreaux’s Housing Desegregation Program: The Role of Neighborhoods and Networks in Economic Independence, she used administrative welfare and employment data, census information, and in-depth interviews to examine the long-run effects of placement neighborhood conditions/resources on economic independence.