Meet Jasmine Powell, equity specialist shifting culture

Jasmine Powell’s grandmother was an elevator operator and patient escort at UCSF in the 1970’s. Her mother worked hospital administration. Now, as a third generation San Francisco native and UCSF employee, she’s bringing her personal history rooted in this community and her deep experience working for equity to a new position as Equity and Justice Specialist for the Bixby Center and the ZSFG Hospital Division of Obstetrics, Gynecology & Reproductive Sciences. San Francisco General and the community surrounding it are home to her. “Having a hand in creating change for marginalized communities including the people I love most is my passion,” she says.

In her new role, Jasmine oversees activities to advance equity, inclusion, structural change, and anti-racism (EISCA) in our clinical care, research education, and advocacy work. With the clinical teams at ZSFG, Jasmine is working on ambitious equity and structural change plans to improve the clinical care provided, with input from the communities they serve. She’s working with the Bixby Center to implement equity recommendations developed by Bixby members and external experts to ensure that anti-racism is integrated into all aspects of our work, and that Bixby members have the resources needed to thrive.

Jasmine was actively involved in anti-racist and equity work at various levels at UCSF prior to joining the Bixby team. She led several DEI task forces, anti-racist book clubs, DEI focused trainings, restorative circles, and co-creating an affinity space for people of color. Like many people of color, Jasmine experienced the need to create a work identify separate and often in opposition of her authentic self. This burden of needing to be someone else to feel safe at work, coupled with witnessing other BIPOC colleagues experience harm fueled her to act. Jasmine helped form a POC Affinity Group to offer a safe environment for colleagues of color to bring their authentic selves, be in community with others with shared experiences, and find ways to heal together. “I had many fears about speaking up and sharing the harm I witnessed and experienced, but it got to a point where the need outweighed the risk.” She began using her voice and power as a senior staff member to ensure her peers voices were heard, to raise important issues to leadership, and to help identify ways to create a truly inclusive workplace. Now she’s bringing that expertise to shifting culture in the Bixby Center.

As recent reckonings over structural racism have highlighted once again, this kind of transformational change isn’t easy. Tackling systems steeped in white supremacy requires identifying new and creative ways to change or abolish them. Jasmine sees accountability as a key component—we must move beyond learning to actions that shift behaviors and the culture. This work takes humility, vulnerability, curiosity, and consistent practice to see improvements. That means everyone carrying their own weight and avoiding harmful patterns of putting the burden for equity and justice work on people of color. “We need for everyone to realize that anti-racist work is everyone’s job. Every person needs to understand that by creating more equity for all, we’re creating a better environment for us all.”

With support from the Bixby community, Jasmine is carrying out the mandate to make our efforts concrete, meaningful and enforceable. Her top priorities include centralized training to build a shared language and understanding; reporting systems so problems can be addressed, with clear measures for accountability; and improving hiring and retention for existing employees. Meaningful change that improves people’s lives is what she considers her life’s work. “I want to see a world where folks are able to communicate effectively across differences, where there’s power shifting and power sharing toward people of color, and where we value the lived experiences of others and lift those up.”