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Equity-Centered Leadership (ECL) is a validated model developed by an interdisciplinary team at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Equity-centered leaders are better equipped to lead successful, scalable and sustainable efforts for systems change for better outcomes for all.

Adobe stock graphic. Leadership as a brightly colored illustration showing people sharing information and resources across levels and siloes in a collaborative way to advance health equity.

Equity-Centered Leadership for Healthcare Providers

One national program using this model is Clinical Scholars, funded by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

Since 2016, 162 healthcare providers across 28 U.S. states and territories have led community efforts that are:

  • Successful in reducing health disparities.
  • Scalable towards public health impacts.
  • Sustainable for continued impact.
A row of panelists sit at a cloth-draped table. Multiple rows of seated audience members are facing the panelists.
Clinical Scholars National Advisory Committee Member Amy Locklear-Hertel answers question from Co-Director Giselle Corbie during the panel on Health Equity: How To Sustain & Scale Successes.

Equity-Centered Leadership for Community-Academic Partners

One North Carolina program using this model is Whole Community Connection, funded by the William R. Kenan, Jr. Charitable Trust.

Since 2022, 44 community-academic partners across two rural counties, Edgecombe and Robeson, have led community efforts that are:

  • Successful in advancing health equity in rural North Carolina.
  • Scalable by increasing local power to focus on priorities by and at the community level.
  • Sustainable through stronger relationships for collective and community-led actions.
Two rows of people, with the tallest on the far left and right of the rows, face the camera.
Whole Community Connection Cohort 2023 gathers for rural equity centered leadership programming in Pembroke, NC.

Collaborative Work at UNC

ECL Resources and Publications

In 2015, Giselle Corbie, M.D., M.Sc., and Claudia Fernandez, DrPH, brought their decades of research and leadership experience together. Along with a team, they worked to answer: How do we equip leaders with tools centered in equity, diversity and inclusion to transform both their careers and the health of their communities?

Below is a list of resources and publications describing their findings for others looking to do similar work.

Leading Community Based Changes in the Culture of Health in the US – Experiences in Developing the Team and Impacting the Community

Image of the cover of the book "Leading Community Based Changes in the Culture of Health in the US - Experiences in Developing the Team and Impacting the Community."Co-edited by Claudia S.P. Fernandez, DrPH, and Giselle Corbie, M.D., M.Sc., healthcare experts from nurses to social workers present a way forward which shifts away from our fragmented and often judgmental approach to health in this new book. This book is intended for individuals committed to working collaboratively to reconstruct policies and practices to support health equity, especially in communities traditionally labeled as high-risk and hard to engage. Community leaders, public health officers, county commissioners, healthcare system administrators and others will gain insights from real-world implementations to apply to their own work.


Evaluating Leadership Development Competencies of Clinicians to Build Health Equity in America

This study describes the self-reported ratings of fifive cohorts of health care professionals trained in the Clinical Scholars program across 25 leadership development competencies. Through this hands-on, equity-centered training, the participants further developed leadership skills and applied learnings in real-time to advance health equity within the organizations and communities where they work.


Leadership Development to Advance Health Equity: An Equity-Centered Leadership Framework

Current crises require examining and reorienting the systems that have, for decades, produced health inequities. The authors offer an equity-centered leadership framework to support the development of visionary leaders for tomorrow with the mindset and skill set to challenge the paradigms that lead to inequity and health disparities.


Clinical Scholars: Six Core Conclusions for Training Healthcare Professionals as Leaders Impacting Unbounded Systems

Leaders face emerging and evolving challenges of unbounded systems. This article offers six conclusions to offering leadership training to healthcare professionals.

  1. Dedicated leadership training is powerful and there is a dose-response return on investment.
  2. Leaders prepared to practice in unbounded systems are equipped with equity-centered leadership that braids traditional leadership tools with EDI.
  3. Inclusive leadership development creates a cadre of colleagues from diverse professions, racial and gender backgrounds to collaborate within and across  systems.
  4. Interprofessional team-based leadership development prepares leaders to work collaboratively to respond to complex issues.
  5. Leaders that implement action learning projects (implementation science) while strengthening individual and team-based adaptive leadership skills that are applicable across Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous (VUCA) conditions.
  6. Funding support dedicated to leadership learning and action learning projects enable deep engagement and collaboration.

Advancing Health Equity Through Equity-Centered Leadership Development with Interprofessional Healthcare Teams

This article describes the Clinical Scholars conceptual framework and the 25 competencies and four domains (personal domain, interpersonal domain, organizational domain, community and systems) of the curriculum. The evaluation framework applies the Kirkpatrick to measure learning, behavior change and results across for the first Clinical Scholars Cohort of this three-year program. Significant changes were demonstrated in learning and behavior change across the four domains including eight equity, diversity and inclusion competencies.


Responding To Youth Mental Health Crises By Building Resilience And Healing

By applying equity-centered leadership skills and working in an interdisciplinary way, health care providers are transforming clinical approaches to improve youth mental health. Three teams share their stories of working in and with communities to care for youth since COVID began.


Training “Pivots” from the Pandemic: Lessons Learned Transitioning from In-Person to Virtual Synchronous Training in the Clinical Scholars Leadership Program

The COVID-19 pandemic forced rapid conversion of in-person learning into distance-based instruction. This article describes adaptations to continue Clinical Scholars Leadership development programming and create/maintain a sense of community among participants during COVID-related travel restrictions.


Equity-Centered Leadership Training Found to Be Both Relevant and Impactful by Interprofessional Teams of Health-Care Clinicians: Recommendations for Workforce-Development Efforts to Update Leadership Training

Interprofessional team-based leadership training is presented as a resource for mental health professionals and the extended healthcare workforce focusing on social determinants of health. This article presents and compares leadership participant response, learning, and self-efficacy across two cohorts. Results suggest interprofessional leadership development is applicable across a wide range of health equity issues.


Catalyzing “Cohortness” in Leadership Programs Pivoting to a Virtual Environment

This article explores a sense of cohortness across two leadership programs, Clinical Scholars and Food Systems Leadership Institute, temporarily adapted to virtual environments during COVID-19.


Learn More

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