Photo of Dexter Voisin
Dexter Voisin

5 questions with… the Mandel School’s new dean Dexter Voisin

As part of his lineup of speaking engagements at Case Western Reserve University, Dexter R. Voisin, the new dean of the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences, will give the 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month keynote address.

Voisin will take inspiration from Dr. King’s quote: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhumane,” exploring what it means to work alongside communities to promote health equity among racialized groups.

This topic is at the crux of his research on the complex interplay of racism, violence and health. He is an active scholar leading two National Institutes of Health grants—one examines the impact of syndemic violence on health outcomes and the other assesses COVID-19 testing uptake among Black residents of Chicago. Some of these findings are published in his 2019 book, America The Beautiful And Violent: Black Youth And Neighborhood Trauma In Chicago, along with recommended approaches and programs to promote resiliency in the face of structural inequality.

Prior to beginning his tenure at the Mandel School last month, Voisin served for two and a half years as dean of the Factor-Inwentash Faculty of Social Work and the Sandra Rotman Endowed Chair in Social Work at the University of Toronto, where he also co-chaired the Anti-Black Racism Task Force. Before that, he spent two decades at the University of Chicago. He has authored or co-authored more than 155 articles in peer-reviewed journals and secured more than $11 million in external research support.

“I am thrilled to be a part of this community of lifelong learners,” he said of joining Case Western Reserve. “I very much look forward to learning alongside all of you.”

Voisin’s lecture, hosted by the School of Medicine’s Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusive Excellence, is titled “Promoting Racial Equity in Healthcare Alongside Communities” and will be held Thursday, Feb. 10, from 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. in hybrid format.

Register to attend the 2022 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Black History Month keynote lecture. Dean Voisin also will sign copies of his book at the event.

Learn more about Voisin in this week’s five questions.

1. Where’s your favorite travel destination?

I enjoy traveling internationally and I have had the fortunate opportunity to have visited more than 45 countries, so it is hard to narrow my favorite destination down to one place. However, I would say that Istanbul, Jerusalem, London and Beijing are among my favorite cities in the world. They are all filled with rich histories and linked to some aspects of the cultures I was exposed to in my childhood.

2. What’s up next on your reading list?

I admire the power of the narratives and an author’s ability to tell stories in ways that challenge, inspire and illuminate. Several years ago, I read The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson, a compelling and complex story of America’s great migration, and I am looking forward to reading her latest book, Caste: The Origins of Our Discontent.

3. Being new to Cleveland, what’s one local spot you’re looking forward to checking out?

My move to Cleveland occurred during the late summer, and I spent most of that time unpacking and working remotely with the University of Toronto completing my tenure as their dean. So, I have not had much time to explore the city yet. However, I am looking forward to exploring the unique neighborhoods that make up Cleveland like Ohio City, Tremont, Little Italy and others.

4. If you could have one superpower, what would you choose?

As a social work scholar and licensed practitioner, we often refer to the “talking cure,” or the power of words during emotionally charged helping relationships to “heal” or bring relief. I am moved to ease human pain and suffering and this is one of the reasons I became a social worker. Therefore, my superpower would be to heal illnesses.

5. What’s your favorite thing about Case Western Reserve?

I have seen several beautiful campuses during my time in the academy and I think CWRU has an amazing campus elevated by all the museums dispersed throughout—it’s simply beautiful.

The phonetic spelling of “Voisin,” which means “neighbor” in French, is waz-zin or vwah-zan. Listen to a phonetic pronunciation here.

Significant increases in COVID-19 cases nationally and in our region require Case Western Reserve to enhance efforts to reduce transmission risks on campus. Masks must be worn indoors—preferably KN95s or at least surgical ones; cloth masks are strongly discouraged. In addition, only those who are fully vaccinated (i.e., have received the booster, if eligible) should attend any campus event. Leaders continue to monitor pandemic developments and will adjust health protocols as circumstances warrant.