Through ODEI's Moments of Reflection, Strong Friendships were Made

Early in the COVID-19 pandemic, physical distancing helped mitigate spread of the virus. But a consequence was that it eliminated opportunities for in-person team building. In a year of trials and tribulations, the restrictions made coping with distressing events more difficult.

To build community during the challenging year, the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion hosted Moments of Reflection, virtual events that allowed faculty, staff, and learners to connect over Zoom and openly discuss national events that might have caused grief, sadness, anger, and fear.

Clinical research assistant Markeda Yarbrough initially attended to converse with others who felt the same pain she felt following the police killing of George Floyd. For Yarbrough, this particular Moment of Reflection would offer more than just a place to share her feelings. She also gained a friend.

She connected with administrative assistant Sabrina Brewer during a breakout discussion. Brewer said she was inspired by Yarbrough “pouring her heart into what she was saying.” Brewer was so touched that she reached out to Yarbrough after the event.

“She let me know that she heard my pain, and we check in with each other consistently,” Yarbrough said.

“I have truly met a special person,” Brewer said. “I look forward to building our friendship.”

Yarbrough and Brewer exchanged phone numbers and have kept in touch ever since, sending each other uplifting and encouraging texts. Brewer even nominated Yarbrough for Staff Senate, which Yarbrough joined on July 1.

Moments of Reflection are hosted by Stephanie White, MD, MS, associate for diversity and inclusion, and Brian Hamilton, MEd, director of the Office for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. Events have addressed the trial of Derek Chauvin, the riot at the U.S. Capitol, and the second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic in India. Whether attendees felt overwhelmed, angry, exhausted, hurt, confused, concerned, scared, or uncertain, they were able to connect with one another and share their emotions.

Since the first event, Yarbrough has attended at least six Moments of Reflection. She said they “have served as a resource and a way to exhale in a place that feels safe.” Brewer also has attended additional events.

“I was so thankful that I joined that first Zoom when I did,” Brewer said. “Brian and Dr. White are great to work with, and their work is making a difference.”