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'A shared desire to do right:' A conversation with RAMmalogues facilitator Archana A. Pathak, Ph.D.

Oct 18, 2022

Archana A. Pathak, Ph.D.

The VCU Massey Cancer Center Goodwin Research Laboratory is hosting RAMmalogues, a facilitated discussion series that provides a braver and safer space to talk about social identity. During four sessions between August and November, participants have the opportunity to read and discuss the VCU Common Book, “The Organ Thieves: The Shocking Story of the First Heart Transplant in the Segregated South.” 

The facilitator is Archana A. Pathak, Ph.D., special assistant for special projects and director of the Q Collective in the Office of Institutional Equity, Effectiveness and Success at VCU.

It is now October and the halfway point of the RAMmalogues series at Massey. What have been your takeaways from the first two sessions, and what do you foresee at the next two?

Pathak: My takeaway from the first two is that we collectively -  andMassey, in particular - have a community with a shared desire to do right. People want to have the harder conversation and figure it out together. My other takeaway is that we don’t have a lot of space and skill to do that currently. So where we are going is the idea that this type of dialogue matters. Let’s structure it, give people that space and provide facilitation. It matters a lot to so many people, so my hope is that the next two sessions continue forward in that process.

Why is it important for an institution like Massey to host this type of dialogue?

The only way we are going to build trustworthy relationships is by engaging in our own growth. Accountability is incredibly important and necessary. We can't want trust and a good relationship with the community if we haven’t done our work. Doing the work  because it is the right thing to do goes a long way to build those relationships and make them better. We are not just better practitioners and providers; we are better people.

How rewarding has it been for you to facilitate this type of program?

I love this type of work. It is my heart work, my purpose and my passion. The ability to create space and hold space for people to be in conversation and vulnerable and honest and committed is why I do what I do. It is holding up a mirror for people to be able to see themselves, so they can be on this journey in braver ways.

For anyone who has not been able to participate in this RAMmalogues series, why would you still encourage them to read the VCU Common Book?

Discomfort is hard and in no way fun, yet the rewards we get from it are exponentially powerful. It is not an easy thing to look in the mirror and say, ‘We didn’t get it right. What are we going to do about it?” But when we do reflect, where it takes us is really beautiful and meaningful. I hope everyone reads the book and is able to realize the living experiences of others. We deny ourselves our own humanity when we don’t see the humanity of others.

RAMmalogues is the beginning. It is not the end all, be all. It is not the quick fix. It is an invitation that I hope everyone takes to have conversations with each other and build a community with each other. Step into that area of accountability, vulnerability and bravery.

Interview by: Amy Lacey

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