About Us

Who we are at the Institute for Healing Justice and Equity

About the Institute for Healing Justice & Equity

The Institute for Healing Justice & Equity (IHJE) is a Big Ideas initiative of the Saint Louis University Research Institute at Saint Louis University (SLU). The Institute was founded by Ruqaiijah Yearby, JD, MPH; Amber Johnson, PhD; Kira Banks, PhD; and Keon Gilbert, DrPH. 

The Institute is a multidisciplinary group of faculty, staff, collaborators, and partners working together to eliminate disparities caused by systemic oppression through systems change and deep community partnership. Through research, training, community engagement, and public policy development, the Institute focuses on building equitable communities by assessing and promoting best practices that foster healing from social injustice, trauma, and oppression.


Community Led, Informed, and Driven

Our work in communities is about partnering with those who know best what they need. Our initiatives are driven by needs that communities themselves articulate. We also strive to center communities in implementation of our work.

Dismantling and Healing

Communities must heal from systemic injustice because it has caused individual, community, and vicarious trauma. In order to do so, we have to acknowledge the harm systems have caused and commit to dismantling and interrupting inequitable patterns, including finding different ways of doing things.

Transformation, Not Transaction

Our focus is partnerships and work that is sustainable, which will lead to true transformation. We want to help systems, organizations, and communities operate in truly equitable ways by promoting healing justice. Simply put, we don’t do one-off engagements or diversity trainings.

Community Capacity Building

We center community in our work and believe that people in actual communities have wisdom, solutions, and are best positioned to effect change. Thus, we focus on bringing the tools and material support that help communities achieve transformation and sustainable change for themselves.


In order to eliminate disparities caused by systemic oppression, three major areas of work at the Institute are equity and policy, healing justice, and community research ethics. These foundations ground the Institute’s work to support curation and dissemination for community capacity building, systems change for training, knowledge creation for research, and innovation for policy change. Experienced and upcoming leaders in each of these areas collaborate with one another.


Equity is a state of being where race, sex, class, and other social identity categories can no longer predict life outcomes and where outcomes for all groups are improved. Equity and Policy projects will assess whether current equity initiatives, laws, and policies lead to changes in the social determinants of health and improvements in individual and community health and well-being.

Healing Justice consists of culturally, historically, and context relevant practices, services, and resources that foster individual and collective recovery and resilience in the face of trauma and other harm caused by oppression. Healing Justice projects will address the root cause of oppression, by supporting practices that foster individual and collective healing and connecting this to structural changes in governments and institutions.

Community Research Ethics consists of practices that center community in the design and implementation of research studies to ensure that the community will benefit from the research. Projects will create local and national frameworks that lead to community-engaged research activities, promote strong relationships with community members and local and national organizations, and facilitate data sharing with community.


Our logo is inspired by the Mpatapo (“Knot of Reconciliation”), the 7th century Ghanaian Adinkra symbol of reconciliation and peacemaking, represents the bond or knot that binds parties in a dispute to a peaceful, harmonious reconciliation. It is a symbol of peacemaking after strife.