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Project ARIISE Summary

The University of Utah, School of Medicine’s LIFT Simulation Design Lab, in collaboration with the Department of Educational Psychology, has been awarded a three-year Board Grant from the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation. Established in 1930, the Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation is the only national foundation dedicated solely to improving the education of health professionals. The Foundation’s guiding principal is that “Health education has at its core a strong social mission: to serve the public’s needs and improve the health of the public”. This grant will fund Project ARIISE: Addressing Racial Inequities through Interprofessional Simulation and Experiential Learning.

Project ARIISE will create an interprofessional learning program that aims to improve patient care by training faculty, residents, fellows, and students to recognize their bias and repair relationships through respectful communication and dialogue. By leveraging the power of simulation and experiential learning, the project will equip learners to address the multilayered dimensions of implicit bias and how it affects maternal health care quality and outcomes. Project ARIISE places the patient experience at the center of student learning. Community engagement sessions will invite women and families from communities of color to dialogue about their experiences accessing maternal health care. The stories, messages, and solutions shared during these storytelling and listening sessions will become the foundation of training workshops.  In addition to simulation experiences, participants will engage with an arts-based experience that synthesizes the community engagement sessions and promotes further discussion and action toward real change.

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Project ARIISE Team

Karen Tao is an Associate Professor in Counseling Psychology in the Department of Educational Psychology and is the Director of the Clinical Mental Health Counseling Program. Karen’s teaching, clinical and research interests are guided by an overarching goal to reduce disparities in the access, service, and quality of mental health and education for historically marginalized groups. She is interested in the questions, “How do people negotiate conversations about difference and culture?” “How do children understand and talk about race?” and “Why does multicultural competence matter?” Karen is a licensed psychologist and conducts research in counseling and school settings, utilizing qualitative and quantitative methods to identify cultural factors related to client improvement and student academic persistence. She teaches courses on multicultural counseling, social psychology of diversity, provides clinical supervision for masters and doctoral students, and directs the Culture, Well-being and Diversity Lab. Dr. Tao is inspired by her students, colleagues, friends, and family who teach her something new every day. Her children, Jiajia and Lulu, constantly remind her learning is a messy process and that it’s ok to color outside of the lines.

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Gabriela García, MHA

LIFT Lab Manager

Gabriela (Gaby) García is a first-generation Mexican-American and is the LIFT Simulation Design Lab manger. She earned her bachelor’s in healthcare administration with minors in Spanish and French from Weber State University and master’s in healthcare administration from the University of Utah David Eccles School of Business. She holds a project management fundamentals certificate from the University of Utah. As manager of the LIFT Simulation Design Lab, she wholeheartedly agrees with one of the core beliefs being that an experience is worth a thousand lectures.

She has participated in Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Outreach committees and was on the hiring committee for the first Associate Dean of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at the University of Utah College of Nursing. She is currently serving on the Latinx Advisory Council for the University of Utah. She is responsible for planning and executing the Lab’s mission of elevating conversations and bringing systems change, and maintaining the stories of the historically unheard in the core of the projects and grants she serves. She strives to improve access to Latinx and historically underrepresented communities, with an interest in maternal health and family planning.

Cristi Creal is an Assistant Professor at the University of Utah-College of Nursing. In May of 2022, Cristi earned a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree, specializing in Nurse-Midwifery, and a Graduate Certificate in Nursing Education from the University of Utah. She is passionate about doing all that she can to help correct race-based health disparities, especially for birthing people of color. In part of completion of her doctorate degree, Cristi launched a quality improvement project entitled, Improving Provider Comfort in Discussing Race-Based Health Disparities in Pregnant and Birthing People. Throughout her DNP program, Cristi worked as a graduate research assistant for BirthCare HealthCare, a midwifery practice primarily located in Salt Lake City, Utah. Before graduate school, Cristi worked as a labor and delivery nurse for over eight years.

Dr. Case has taught arts and humanities to students, residents, physicians, and other health care providers for almost ten years. Dr. Case is co-PI with Dr. Sydney Cheek-O’Donnell on the CRiTICS (Coached Rehearsal Techniques for Interpersonal Communication Skills) project, including a randomized controlled trial to assess the effectiveness of a rehearsal framework to improve the interpersonal communication skills of medical learners. This study is funded by a Research Art Works grant from the National Endowment for the Arts.  Dr. Case was also appointed an expert consultant in addressing rural health through theatre and performance on a study funded by the National Endowment for the Humanities. She is the playwright and performer of several published works related to medicine and oral history, including “Tic(k)” and “Apoptosis Is My Favorite Word.” She earned a PhD in Performance Studies from the University of California, Berkeley, and received her BA and MA degrees from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Case has taught performance studies, theatre, academic writing, and medical/health humanities at UNC-Chapel Hill, UC-Berkeley, Florida State University, Northwestern University, Duke University, and the University of Utah.

Susanna Cohen, CNM, DNP is a Certified Nurse Midwife, Associate Professor at the University of Utah College of Nursing, Adjunct Associate Professor in the Family Planning Division of the Department of OBGYN, and co-founder of PRONTO International. She received her Bachelor of Science at the University of California, Davis, her Masters in Nursing at the University of California, San Francisco, and her Doctorate in Nursing Practice at the University of Utah. Susanna is a Certified Healthcare Simulation Educator and a global expert in the field of low-tech high-fidelity simulation facilitation, debriefing, facilitation, and curricular development. Susanna has collaborated with PRONTO on implementation trials in Mexico, Guatemala, Kenya, Uganda, and India. She has collaborated with Dr. Tao since 2018 on several projects and workshops on clinician implicit bias, calling-in strategies for microaggressions in the workplaces, and disparities in maternal healthcare. She is the PI on Project ARIISE. She received the 2016 Excellence in Innovation Award and the 2017 Hayden Vangard Award from The International Nursing Association for Clinical Simulation and Learning. Susanna lives in Salt Lake City with her partner, 2 children, and 6 chickens.


Erica Torres, MPH

Community Outreach and Training Specialist

Erica Torres is the Project Facilitator with the Family Planning Elevated Program within the Division of Family Planning in the OB/GYN Department at the University of Utah School of Medicine. A transplant from California and a proud daughter of migrant farm-working parents from Mexico, she is a first-generation college and graduate student, currently completing her Master's degree in the Public Health program.

Jeelan Fall is a first-generation graduate with a life-long calling to the world of childbirth and women’s health. She has a particular passion for maternal health disparities and how they tie into increased rates of morbidity and mortality among mothers and neonates who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC). Jeelan received a BSN at Westminster University in Salt Lake City, Utah, and a Doctorate from the University of Utah. She is currently working as a Certified Nurse Midwife and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner for the BirthCare HealthCare midwifery practice at the University of Utah.

Dr. Debbink received her MD and PhD from the University of Michigan in 2013, after which she completed Obstetrics and Gynecology residency at the University of Michigan. She completed her Maternal-Fetal Medicine Fellowship at the University of Utah, and subsequently joined the MFM Faculty in the School of Medicine in July 2020. She currently serves as the Co-chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusive Excellence Task Force, which seeks to generate a culture of enthusiastically embracing the value and importance of diversity and inclusive excellence in the Obstetrics and Gynecology department, with an eye toward diversifying the women’s and reproductive health work force to better care for our patients, communities, and colleagues. Her academic research focuses on reproductive justice, in particular on understanding the community and neighborhood drivers of racial and ethnic disparities in perinatal outcomes such as low birthweight, infant mortality, and maternal mortality and morbidity using qualitative and quantitative approaches.

Yumna "Yumi" Malik was born in the Bronx, NY to parents who hail from the Kho Nation in the Hindu Kush range of the Himalayas. Giving birth to her son in a freestanding Birth Center empowered Yumi to finally return to school. Receiving her BSN from Westminster College, she currently works as an RN on Maternal Newborn at the University Utah. She is a single mother to Noah, aged 14. Working in the Bronx and Brooklyn opened her eyes to horrible maternal mortality rates for BIPOC birthing people, and the systemic racism in the healthcare field. She is currently a DNP student in Midwifery and Women's Health at the U of U College of Nursing. She advocates for the equity and liberation of Black, Indigenous, Asian, Pacific Islander, and Latino/a/x people.