Donald Zimmerman, a professor of healthcare management at the University of New Orleans, was honored last month by the Nepali Ambassador to the United States for his work on caste-based human rights issues. Zimmerman was presented with a certificate of appreciation at a ceremony in Washington, D.C.
Zimmerman is the director of the undergraduate healthcare management program in the College of Business Administration at UNO. He’s also the co-chair of the board of directors of the International Commission for Dalit Rights, an independent and impartial advocacy, networking and development organization dedicated to promoting the rights of Dalits around the world. Dalits is the term for the nearly 300 million of the world’s most marginalized people who have been discriminated against based on their caste status in South Asia, parts of Africa, the Middle East and elsewhere around the world.
Zimmerman said he first became involved in Dalit issues several years ago through the work and interests of one of his Southeast Asian students. He said that sparked his own research on the subject.
“As I learned more and more, I became convinced that the Dalit issue was, in fact, not just an issue of importance in South Asia, but a universal human rights issue faced by anyone who had experienced personal hardship due to their unchosen characteristics at birth,” Zimmerman said.
He joined the International Commission for Dalit Rights (ICDR) in 2010 and became co-chair of its board of directors in 2013. In 2015, the commission sponsored the first global conference focused on Dalit human rights. The series of meetings in Washington, D.C. brought together a number of key policy leaders from around the world to identify and examine strategies for combating caste-based discrimination.
Zimmerman said his views on health are aligned with the definition outlined by the World Health Organization in 1948. In the preamble, world leaders agreed that good health is not just the absence of disease, but a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being.
“This means that good health is only possible when there are no social, political or economic barriers that may prevent each and every person living out their full potential as an equal member of the human family,” Zimmerman said. “The ICDR is a tremendous vehicle to work on improving the health of Dalits and other groups of people who suffer undue violence and oppression because of who they are when they are born.”
Zimmerman joined UNO in 2015 as the director of the new undergraduate program in health care management. He previously led the Health Care Administration Program at the University of Maryland University College and the Center for Healthcare Management Studies at Fairleigh Dickinson University in Teaneck, NJ. He holds a doctorate from Stony Brook University in New York.