It’s a balmy August evening on the West Side of Providence. Sitting across from me in an outdoor cafe is a woman who has pushed against many assumptions plaguing public health and social services.
Indeed, Tonya Glantz has challenged many assumptions about how to address health care at the macro level, so it’s not surprising that she is the director of the Education in Healthcare Institute at Rhode Island College. She’s held the job since 2016.
The institute is “... focused on collaborative, interdisciplinary, patient-centered methods of care delivery that have a strong potential for improving health outcomes and reducing costs for all Rhode Islanders,” according to its pages on the Rhode Island College website (www.ric.edu/educationinhealthcare/Pages/default.aspx).
This fits nicely into the work Glantz has done during a lifetime of challenging how health-care systems inform public policy.
Specifically, Glantz has worked extensively in researching how men perceive fatherhood; how men perceive one another as fathers (“They were vicious in their assessment of one another,” she says); and in helping men, particularly incarcerated men, to think about how they string together stories, assumptions and observations about what being a father means to them. While this kind of identity-building has long been part of the female experience, it has not been commonly accepted and/or discussed in male communities, particularly the lower-income communities of color in the prison system.
It seems Glantz has her hand in many policy-building initiatives that challenge common assumptions: most recently her work has brought a community board of people living with HIV to the forefront of undergraduate experience at RIC, establishing opportunities for students to work on behalf of people living with the virus.
She has also worked extensively in the field of child welfare and published on a number of issues related to supporting foster youth, building organizational change in youth-serving organizations and recidivism of incarcerated men who have experienced trauma.
With Glantz, this work is an imperative: “I couldn’t do work that wasn’t about community, empowerment and social justice,” she says.
“For me, that’s what it means to be a good Jew and one of the reasons I chose to convert.”
LEAH BOURAMIA is an educator who lives in Warwick.