News Center for Dissemination & Implementation Health Equity Infectious Disease

D&I Spotlight: Postdoc leverages passion for racial equity & justice to “Make the science care”

Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager for the Institute for Public Health

”Not everything that is faced can be changed; but nothing can be changed until it is faced.”

James Baldwin, American author and playwright
Being a “post-doc” (a person engaged in postdoctoral research) comes with all kinds of responsibilities, transdisciplinary collaborations, and community-based time commitments on top of a mountain of research. This isn’t a bad thing. Just ask Cory Bradley, PhD, MSW, MPH, a post-doctoral research associate in WashU’s Division of Infectious Diseases and collaborator with the Center for Dissemination and Implementation (D&I) at the Institute for Public Health. At a recent Institute for Public Health gathering of faculty, staff and colleagues, Bradley’s impactful presentation on his post-doctoral work and history at WashU show that, even though his time here will soon come to a close, he hasn’t—and doesn’t plan to—slow down.

“I think I must be in the running for the person logging the most years as a WashU post-doc!” Bradley quipped as he introduced his presentation—just one witty example of what makes Bradley so approachable and successful in each of his endeavors, be it as a pastor, the co-chair of the Fast Track Cities St. Louis Initiative, or as a “knowledge broker” using D&I science as a tool for driving forward racial equity and justice projects.

Some of the “movements” of Bradley’s work—as he describes them—include using implementation science as a tool for “justice-making.” A lot of his work is firmly rooted in Critical Race Theory (CRT), the theory that race is a social construct, and that racism is not just individual bias or prejudice, but also something embedded in legal systems and policies. For purposes of health intervention research and implementation science, Bradley asserts that CRT can “interrogate the practices of health systems (public health, health care, community based organizations, health policy and health law) to detect the ways that racialized socialization may be reproducing inequality.”

Bradley’s work with Carl May, a sociology professor at London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, advances the idea that implementation science is not just about innovation and change of practice at the individual level, but it is also “placing that evidence in culture so that it becomes a new part of practice.” To this end, Bradley has created a concept paper (a brief written to describe a project idea) as a way to “prime the field to get at the issues behind the racial inequalities we see in health.” The material examines using CRT to develop tools to achieve equitable implementation.

I do not understand how dissemination and implementation science and practice could be about anything other than other than equity and ensuring the fair, unbiased, just distribution of resources and access to health.

Cory Bradley, post-doctoral research associate, Division of Infectious Disease, Washington University in St. Louis

Bradley explains implementation as a “tool for justice-making” this way: “The scientific method needs to be appropriated in a way that produces outcomes of justice. I think we have to pay attention to that in implementation science. Implementation science provides an opportunity to realize a different world; it implies that implementation is pivotal in the kind of world where people have access to health care, where resources are distributed to provide capability and can take action instead of being obstructed from well-being. Implementation connects to intervention research and the notion that these interventions are developed to make people’s lives better.”

During his graduate training, Bradley has written 10 publications including a complete intervention framework for patient-centered and justice-oriented project design. There is so much more that could be written about Bradley’s work. This post covers only a fraction. 

Just a few of his additional activities include:

  • He is an embedded Health Equity Scholar for the City of St. Louis Department of Health
  • He is an implementation support specialist & co-chair for Fast-Track Cities St. Louis,  a collective partnership between the City of St. Louis and St. Louis County aimed at eradicating HIV-AIDS by the year 2030
  • He is the host of “Catch the Power”, a podcast supported by the Consortium for Cancer Implementation Science for implementers of health justice 

When asked what advice he might have for other post-doctoral students, being a preacher, Bradley quotes scripture. As a scientist, he also imparts the following:

Care about community and those who are disenfranchised and disadvantaged. Make the science care and respond to those realities. Use your work and ability to work to define a greater reality that is inclusive and don’t forsake the importance of philosophy and theory in applied science. Take it on and go with it. Don’t allow what seems like the barriers and constrictions to restrain you.

Cory Bradley

Sound advice from someone who lives the motto, “Practice what you preach.”