In the spring 2023 issue of CATALYST magazine, we sat down with the equity, diversity, and inclusion (EDI) associate deans for six of the seven schools at the University of Maryland, Baltimore. The University of Maryland School of Nursing had recently hired a new EDI associate dean, Yvette Conyers, DNP, MS, RN, FNP-C, CTN-B, CFCN, CFCS, CNE, who began her new role in June.
Conyers is an assistant professor in the Department of Family and Community health at UMSON. She has held faculty appointments at George Washington University School of Nursing in Washington, D.C.; St. John Fisher University Wegmans School of Nursing in New York; and the University of Rochester School of Nursing in New York.
In this conversation, Conyers shares her background as a nurse practitioner, being a community nurse, and the importance of social determinants of health in her work. Conyers also shares her vision as the associate dean for EDI at UMSON.
“I have been a nurse for 20 years, a nurse practitioner for 10 years, and I have worked in all areas of nursing. I fell in love with nursing when I started doing home health, which is a form of community health nursing. It was at that time that I discovered my true passion and my true calling in understanding social determinants of health and how place matters, and how someone’s place — their environment — truly impacts their health care.
“My vision for the Office of Equity, Diversity, and Inclusion is to make this place more inclusive. That’s a pillar that I want to stand: Where are we when someone walks through these doors? Do they feel like they belong here, as I do at this moment?
“I think another pillar is continuing to diversify the nursing workforce, because we know that having a more diverse workforce leads to better patient outcomes.
“It is about elevating the voice of the historically marginalized and historically oppressed, whether that be among students, staff, and faculty; whether you are looking at race, ethnicity; whether you are looking at sexual orientation. Where are the voices that have been historically left out, and how do I ensure in this office that those voices are heard, and that the voices are at the table of the decisions that are being made that are going to ultimately impact this community.
“As far as that inclusivity, it’s about having opportunities for us to gather. It’s about having conversations. So when I look at the opportunity for us to do that, there aren’t too many. And so how can I create a place where people feel included and where they feel like they belong, but that also means creating the space to do that?
“I think coming to Baltimore, specifically, I’m a person who loves to be boots on the ground, community-oriented. And for the School of Nursing to be in a position where you are in West Baltimore, it is our opportunity to engage with the community, and not just go out to the community and say, ‘This is who we are’ but also for them to teach us and how can we learn from Baltimore? And so I think the opportunity for me in this role is that, how can we create space for our students to learn from the experts in what they do, which is in West Baltimore? And then how can we further embed faculty into the areas in West Baltimore as well. I think the School of Nursing is in prime position to be a leader — and it is a leader nationally — among those who are doing the work in community engagement and also collectively with other diversity officers in our six other schools. And I think we are stronger together.
“And so part of me loving the work but also coming here is realizing that I can do both: I can continue with community engagement work in Baltimore, and I can also build upon the equity, diversity, and inclusion by bringing more folks or exposing more folks to that work as well.”