Kenniebrew Awards 2023

2023 Kenniebrew Awards

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At the 2023 Alonzo Kenniebrew Lecture on February 16, a pair of awards were announced to honor an individual and a group who continue the groundbreaking work that Dr. Kenniebrew modeled.

Charlene Aaron, PhD, and SIU’s Center for Human and Organizational Potential (cHOP) received the Kenniebrew Equity Awards, in recognition of their efforts to actively promote inclusive excellence and equitable practices. Wendi El-Amin, MD, assistant dean for equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI) at SIU School of Medicine, presented the awards.

Dr. Charlene Aaron is chancellor and professor at St. John’s College of Nursing in Springfield. She has dedicated much of her work to promote diversity, inclusion and cultural development at the college, at the Hospital Sister’s Health System, and in the surrounding community. 

Among her achievements, she initiated a diversity and inclusion plan for the college that focused on recruitment strategies for diverse students. She started outreach for first generation college students to identify learning needs, implement support resources and offer recognition awards. Under her leadership the school’s diversity level has increased from 3% to 13%. 

Aaron was instrumental in initiating the development of an LPN to BSN Transition Pathway that is the first and only one in the State of Illinois. She also created the Nursing Pipeline Preparatory Program (NP3) for the development of future nurses to enter the Springfield area workforce. The after-school program invites Sangamon County high school students to learn about health conditions that nurses manage in the hospital, in the community and in patient’s homes.

The Center for Human and Organizational Development (cHOP) at SIU School of Medicine was launched in 2019 to advance professional development for our faculty, learners, staff and the local community. Well-being and belonging are central to its mission, so cHOP group leaders made equity, inclusion and belonging foundational at the outset. They formed a key partnership with the Office of EDI, and the two teams regularly collaborate, resulting in a myriad of projects and accomplishments. 

CHOP’s ‘local’ success stories include: An internal grant program focused on measures to enhance EDI on campus and in Sangamon County; broadening the medical school’s Employee Engagement survey to encompass questions on bias and racism; active participation on SIU Anti-racism Task Force, P4 Advisory Committee and Anti-bias Curriculum Committee; strategic partnerships with Human Resources to address diversity, equity and inclusion in recruitment and retention as well as challenges faced in working relationships and the work environment. CHOP also partners with several medical student affinity groups to bring cultural awareness and humility to SIU Medicine. 

Off-campus, they have partnered with and hosted Latin dance parties, worked with Enos Park residents to develop a cookbook, and made scholarly and professional presentations at local, regional, national and international conferences on fostering and creating inclusive environments and on gender equity. Collectively, cHOP’s work has facilitated external relationships, partnerships and collaborations to enhance knowledge and share resources that strengthen and amplify the medical school’s EDI work. 

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