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GCSW Associate Professor Appointed Humana Endowed Chair


October 16, 2020

(HOUSTON, TX) –The Graduate College of Social Work is proud to announce that Associate Professor Sheara Williams Jennings has been named the Humana Endowed Chair in Social Determinants of Health beginning October 2020.

The establishment of this endowed chair is the result of last year's historic partnership between Humana, one of the nation's premier health and wellness organizations, and the University of Houston. The establishment of the Humana Integrated Health System Sciences Institute at The University of Houston is a direct result of this partnership. 

"Dr. Sheara Jennings is excellently qualified to serve in this important role," said Dean Alan Dettlaff. "As the University of Houston continues its work collaborating with Humana to address the health and well-being of our surrounding communities, Dr. Jennings will ensure that this work is done using a social justice lens."  

Institute Director, Dr. LeChauncy D. Woodard, will work collaboratively with Dr. Sheara Jennings and the four other designated chairs from the UH Colleges of Medicine, Nursing, Optometry, and Pharmacy. Together, they will further the Institute's vision, mission, and strategic goals to advance research development, interprofessional teaching/training, and comprehensive healthcare.

"I see this appointment as an opportunity for me to influence the involvement of social work in efforts to bridge gaps in healthcare systems through interprofessional education, training, practice, interventions, and research," said Jennings. "As the Humana Endowed Chair in Social Determinants of Health, I hope to leverage and expand my research projects and knowledge with minority communities in ways that support the mission of the Humana Institute and the College of Medicine in working with underserved populations." 

Dr. Jennings, whose research has primarily focused on the family structure of minority groups (African-American and Hispanic) and its effect on children's well-being, education, health, and development, regarded the Institute as critical. 

"The collaborative approach in which the Humana Institute for Integrated Health System Sciences has been established and structured places value on social work as one of the important components necessary to promoting health equity, patient-centered care, and addressing health disparities. Social work has a long-standing commitment to addressing such issues," Jennings said. "The Humana Endowed Chair in Social Determinants of Health allows me to do so in the critical spaces of health and healthcare, on behalf of the GCSW." 

Jennings joined the university in 2004 and has served many roles, including Associate Dean of Doctoral Education and Interim Special Assistant to the Provost. She has continuously engaged in teaching, mentoring, research, shared governance, and community engagement/service to benefit both the GCSW and the broader community. Earlier this year, Mayor Sylvester Turner appointed Jennings to the City of Houston's Health Equity Response Task Force to address the disproportionate amount of African-Americans dying from COVID-19 and provide the most impacted communities with additional information, supplies, and services. 

"It is with this insight and understanding that we, as social workers, offer to apply our values of service and social justice to helping those in need, addressing social problems, and pursuing social change, particularly for those who are disadvantaged and vulnerable," said Jennings. "I am incredibly excited about the opportunities for innovation in improving population health and health outcomes through this exciting strategic partnership between academia and the private health sector."