BOSTON, MA—Fenway Health announces today that Mark Brimhall-Vargas, Ph.D. will join the organization as its first Executive Vice President of Racial Equity and Social Justice. Brimhall-Vargas brings 25 years of experience in change management, organizational development, and training and programming around systemic inequities, most recently at Brandeis University, where he was Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.
“Mark has the perfect combination of professional background, knowledge, and lived experience to shape this inaugural role into a force for change at Fenway Health,” said Fenway Health CEO Ellen LaPointe. “Throughout his career, Mark has woven vision, strategy, thoughtfulness, and humility together to drive meaningful and measurable change in large, complex institutions. Mark will play a key role in helping Fenway Health navigate a transformative process that will enable us to reach and serve everyone who stands to benefit from the care, services, research, education, and advocacy we provide.”
This is a new position for Fenway Health. Priorities for this leadership role include cultivating a courageous culture and capacity to overcome the disparities and inequities that exist in the services Fenway Health provides, the people it serves, and the outcomes it achieves. The Executive Vice President of Racial Equity and Social Justice will also advance Fenway Health’s investment in community-based partnerships to inform decision making and foster full community participation to advance racial equity and social justice.
“I’m proud to join Fenway Health as its first Executive Vice President of Racial Equity and Social Justice to expand capacity to deliver the highest quality health care to all people across identity and circumstance,” said Mark Brimhall-Vargas, Ph.D. “Fenway’s commitment to grow and learn is rooted in its history of providing care to people with AIDS from the very earliest days of the epidemic, and is nurtured by its culture of on-going reflection and self-assessment to meet existing and emerging needs in underserved communities and minoritized populations. I’m excited to support collaboration and co-creation throughout the organization to achieve our shared goals, and also to shape the ways in which Fenway Health shares its learnings about racial equity and intersectional LGBTQIA+ care and research with the rest of the world.”
Brimhall-Vargas is a leading scholar and practitioner within the field of diversity, equity, and inclusion. As Brandeis University’s first-ever Chief Diversity Officer and Vice President of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion, he led efforts to build an equity infrastructure across all areas of Brandeis University. These efforts included establishing an Office of Equal Opportunity, Office of DEI Programs, Training, Education, and Development, an Ombuds Office, and fully establishing the Gender and Sexuality Center. He led efforts to create and engage with a DEI Standing Committee on the Brandeis Board of Trustees, a DEI Social Justice committee on the Brandeis Faculty Senate, and a Student Advisory Council of the DEI division. When he and his staff learned from students, faculty and staff of South Asian backgrounds that caste-based discrimination was occurring on campus, they engaged a process to add caste to the list of protected classes at Brandeis University – the first institution of higher education in the United States to do so. He secured ongoing university funding and commitment to provide legal services to Brandeis students with Deferred Action Against Childhood Arrivals, Temporary Protected Status, or those who are undocumented without other forms of work authorization.
“In establishing the Office of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Brandeis, Mark launched and promoted numerous initiatives in support of our diverse community,” said Ron Liebowitz, President of Brandeis University. “We are immensely grateful for all that he accomplished and wish him all the best in this important role at Fenway Health.”
Brimhall-Vargas’s professional work is informed by his personal experiences as the son of a Peruvian immigrant mother and Mormon father.
“Feminist leaders taught us that the personal is political. DEI experts will tell you that the personal is professional,” Brimhall-Vargas said. “Our personal experiences interact with our professional experiences all the time, and I do this work because of my own family’s experiences.”
Brimhall-Vargas grew up in Albuquerque, New Mexico eating his grandmother’s saltado and escabeche for lunch and speaking Spanish at home. Although there were many conservatively religious white families, few were Mormon; of the many Latino families in his neighborhood, nearly all were Mexican. He waited until college before coming out as gay. Today, he lives in Saugus with his husband.
“Do I experience white privilege? Absolutely—even though my mother, a US citizen, is occasionally told by strangers to ‘go back to your country,’” Brimhall-Vargas said. “Do I experience the social privilege of a heterosexual man? No. But do I have cisgender privilege? Yes. Through the intersecting diversity of my background, I have been doing DEI work my whole life, and this is how I show up to the work.”
Prior to working at Brandeis University, Brimhall-Vargas was Chief Diversity Officer and Associate Provost at Tufts University. He is a contributing editor to Occupying the Academy: Just How Important Is Diversity Work in Higher Education? He has consulted as a mediator in conflict resolution for the US Institute of Peace in Medellin, Colombia; Yangon, Myanmar; and Ramallah, West Bank. He holds a Doctor of Philosophy in Education Policy and Leadership from the University of Maryland where he worked from 1997 through 2015 in a variety of progressively more senior positions in the university’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion.
Brimhall-Vargas will begin work at Fenway Health on July 25.