Akila Ka Ma'at, PhD (publishing as Jennifer R. Warren)
CEO/Executive Director/Principal Investigator
"When you leave this life make sure you followed your purpose and did something meaningful with it. Something that lifted the spirit of folks, even if it is just one person."
Recruiting a New Board of Directors
In her position as CEO/Executive Director and Principal Investigator since the inception of CAAHDER in 2017, Dr. Ma'at stands as an emblematic paragon of transformational leadership. Her fervor for advocacy, pioneering change, and nurturing the capacities within the diverse, underserved, and vulnerable African American communities stems from passion and life experiences, having dedicated over 24 years to serving Black communities nationwide.
During her graduate studies, she was cautioned by a White male mentor that specializing in African American experiences might impede her academic success. Yet, on that very day, she embraced her focus with even more determination, having confronted the ubiquitous specters of White privilege and power in educating and training researchers and throughout her life. Dr. Ma'at's observations led her to recognize the underpinnings of intersectional racism within American institutions at the individual, systemic, environmental, and structural levels, and its chronic and cumulative impacts.
After enduring racial affronts (direct/indirect) throughout her life, one day Dr. Ma'at began to write. She knew the power of journaling. What was at first cathartic emerged as an exercise in deconstructing and evaluating the impacts of racism on her sense of self and self-worth, abilities, worldview(s), and her access to structural, environmental, and institutional resources to build and increase her and family's capacity to act and thrive in America.
Over time a book emerged (in publication) as a testimony of her experiences and personal and professional growth.
Understanding the violence of racism, Dr. Ma'at is committed to engraining practices at CAAHDER that resonate with affirmation, support, and a celebration of genuine authenticity.
Dr. Ma'at has been graced with numerous accolades, not only from academic quarters but also from community organizations, lauding her for her commendable research and community engagement. This is bolstered by her acquisition of several funding awards. As CAAHDER's steward, international recognition has been bestowed upon the center's research. Her contributions to academia and CAAHDER comprise more than 30 peer-reviewed publications and an impressive tally of 70 scientific presentations on both national and international platforms.
A connoisseur in professional development, Dr. Ma'at champions the mentoring of students across various Health Professions—be it medicine, public health, or nursing. At CAAHDER, Dr. Ma'at implemented a program to grow and diversify the domestic graduate pipeline as reported by the National Science Foundation in 2021. In the realm of academia, while the report predominantly illuminated the facets of computer and informational science and engineering, it must be underscored that African American Health stands as a distinct and eminent field of scientific inquiry.
The domain of African American Health necessitates an intricate blend of scientific skills and acumen to probe its depths and, in the ideal scenario, unearth definitive solutions. The act of formulating these solutions parallels the sophistication of engineering, where one architecturally designs, constructs, and implements structures, such as community health interventions and digital health platforms. It is this confluence of methodical investigation and creativity that affords CAAHDER the capacity to investigate and address health concerns with precision, effectiveness, and sustainability.
Diversifying the domestic graduate pipeline is not only about the growth of the representation of different ethnic/racial, gender, and socioeconomic groups, it includes epistemic inclusivity. Dr. Ma'at elucidates the intricate health and well-being narratives of African Americans who grapple with limited structural support due to the haunting legacy of chattel slavery. She equips students with profound insight into the disproportionate burden of health inequities.
It's a vista that demands a culturally nuanced and ethical approach to discern efficacious interventions across myriad sectors.