CoP Blog #1: Meet Dr. Suzanne Wenzel, Communities of Practice Member


Meet Suzanne L. Wenzel, Ph.D.
Welcome to the Communities of Practice BLOG at the National Center for Medical Education, Development and Research at Meharry Medical College. This week our Communities of Practice Director, Katherine Y. Brown, EdD had the opportunity to interview our Communities of Practice Member, Suzanne L. Wenzel, Ph.D. who serves as the Richard and Ann Thor Professor in Urban Social Development, and Chair of the Department of Adult Mental Health and Wellness in the Suzanne Dworak-Peck School of Social Work at the University of Southern California.




KB: Thank you, Suzanne for taking time out of your schedule to be featured on our Communities of Practice BLOG. We are excited to interview you. As one of our Communities of Practice Members, we appreciate the contributions that you make to the National Center for Medical Education, Development and Research to help us in our goal to transform medical education.

SW: Thank you.

KB: Each member of our Communities of Practice has a diverse background. Can you share your educational and professional background and the skills that you bring to the Communities of Practice?

SW: Katherine, first let me say that I so much appreciate the opportunity to contribute to the Communities of Practice. My doctorate is in community psychology, and I am in a school of social work. These are two professions with strong underpinnings in social justice and equity, and with commitments to work with communities to achieve goals such as health equity. My professional background is primarily as a researcher. I have been sponsored by the National Institutes of Health over the past two decades to conduct research to understand and address health-related needs and other disparities among persons who are experiencing homelessness and housing insecurity. These issues include HIV/AIDS risk and prevention, substance use, and victimization by violence.

KB: As a participant at the 1st and 2nd Annual Communities of Practice Conferences held in Nashville, TN can you share with me thoughts on the overall conference?

SW: Something that has very much stood out for me at the conference is actually how morally and ethically uplifting the experience is. The coming together in the pursuit of our objectives – the coming together of medical and other professionals and persons with lived experiences to talk about critical changes in the medical curriculum to promote health equity and justice – this is both uplifting and effective.

KB: What are your thoughts about how the Communities of Practice have grown over the past year?

SW: What I noticed this time is even greater involvement of persons with lived experiences. This partnership with the community is so fundamental to making meaningful changes. We have to work in partnership to get it right for people whose right to thrive in society hasn’t yet been fully realized.

KB: What did you enjoy most about the breakout sessions?

SW: The breakout sessions are a great way to get work done – to address specific points — with colleagues (and I count persons with lived experiences among those) based on the information shared in the larger conference.

KB: During the Communities of Practice presentation in the large group, we shared our products which include the video vignettes. Please share with me your thoughts about the vignettes as they relate to medical education and any insights that you would like to share.

SW: I thought the vignettes were incredibly enlightening and impactful. These stories convey real experiences among real persons who are trying to get health care, and some of the obstacles they are facing in the process. Very engaging stories that must be heard; and, given the honesty and passion of the persons telling their stories of everyday experiences, I think they will be educational and influential.

KB: Would you recommend the Communities of Practice Conference to others?

SW: Yes, for anyone with the knowledge base and skills to contribute to advancing the objectives, and the commitment to make a difference in the way that makes sense for them, yes. It also an incredible experience for everyone to learn from each other.

KB: How to you see your role as a CoP Member in the year to come? What ways would you like to increase your involvement?

SW: I have seen my role as lending knowledge and insight wherever helpful on the issues that the leadership and team are addressing, for instance in the areas of homelessness, HIV/AIDS, and victimization. Just however I can be helpful. I would like to continue in those ways that I can best be helpful as a community psychologist and a professor in social work who brings a strong research background and a deep commitment to equity and social justice.

KB: How can people learn more about you and the work that you are doing?

SW: That is a good question! Right now the best ways are the fairly traditional ways, including literature searches and my school’s website. I do not have a social media presence – maybe it’s time I get on board and work on that!

KB: What are your thoughts on the utilization of social media to engage our Communities of Practice?

SW: I think it is a very significant approach to engage the Communities and to also let people outside of the Communities know what we are doing and achieving.

KB: Is there anything else that you would like to share that I have not asked you?

SW: Thank your for the opportunity – so glad I have been able to contribute and spread the word!

KB: Thank you again for your time, we look forward to working with you.