UNM Law Professor Laura E. Gómez has taken a leadership role in the new Institute for the Study of "Race" and Social Justice at UNM's Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Center for Health Policy. She serves as co-director with Professor Nancy López, of the UNM Sociology Department. Gómez also is on the faculty of UNM's American Studies Department.
The national institute seeks to promote the establishment of empirical, theoretical and methodological clarity about "race" that draws on cutting-edge thinking from multiple disciplines and diverse empirical traditions. The co-directors place “race” in quotes to underscore its nature as a socially constructed category rather than as a category that is fixed.
"The institute is one of several initiatives within the RWJF Center to address the pressing social and economic issues that affect the health and well-being of all Americans," says Robert Valdez, executive director of the RWJF center.
The institute will convene scholars in diverse fields spanning the social sciences and health sciences to collaborate with policymakers at the national, tribal, state, county and local levels to share empirical expertise and to promote social justice in varied spheres such as education, criminal justice and health care.
During the first year, Gómez and López will bring together scholars in a study group to discuss the topic of how to approach the scientific study of race. They also plan to organize two future conferences and subsequent publications: "Does 'Race' Still Matter in New Mexico?" and "Best Practices for Conceptualizing and Researching 'Race.'"
The RWJF Center for Health Policy is the only national health policy center dedicated to increasing the number of leaders from Latino and American Indian communities who will help shape the future of our nation's health and health care.