The Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) Committee helps us better serve communities of color, Native communities, individuals living with complex and rare epilepsies, and communities marginalized through social, economic, and political barriers as well as health care providers working most directly with these populations. Mark Devaraj is the chair of the DEI Committee, and answers a few important questions below.
Q: What is your relationship to epilepsy?
MD: My daughter was diagnosed with epilepsy at 18 months. She is now 18 years old and still lives with seizures.
Q: Why do you serve on the DEI Committee?
MD: I was asked to speak in my capacity as a member of the board of directors and a parent of a child with epilepsy at the first community outreach event put together by the newly formed DEI Committee. I found that experience very rewarding. I see the role of EFMN as primarily one of creating a supportive community for those affected by epilepsy. The DEI Committee is central to that role.
Q: What do you want people to know about epilepsy?
MD: Epilepsy still seems to be poorly understood by most people. I would like people to know that epilepsy is not one specific disease but rather a broad term encompassing any tendency to have seizures. The underlying causes for seizures are broad and varied and sometimes unexplained. More people are affected by epilepsy than many realize.
Q: What EFMN program or service do you want to highlight to someone who is new to the organization? Why?
MD: I would start with our Seizure Smart Schools initiative. In connection with the first aid training EFMN offers to any organization looking for education on how to respond to seizures in a safe and thoughtful manner, EFMN is currently working on passing legislation that brings such trainings to our schools, which will protect the well-being of all students who experience seizures as well as those who witness them.
Q: Tell us something about yourself that others may find interesting – either personal or professional, something that shows the audience who you are.
MD: I have been an attorney at the Hennepin County Public Defender’s Office for almost 30 years, exclusively representing indigent clients. I also perform and record music with a number of bands and solo artists.