Health Equity: A Dream or An Achievable Goal?

By Eve J. Higginbotham, SM, MD

On January 27, 2016 PSOM will welcome Dr. Richard Carmona to campus as our second MLK Health Equity Keynote Speaker.

As the 17th Surgeon General, Dr. Carmona made significant contributions in the areas of prevention, health disparities, health literacy, global health, and health diplomacy during his tenure.  His keynote presentation will be augmented by our own Penn faculty: Dr. Jerry Johnson, Jaya Aysola MD, DTMH, MPH, Tiffani Johnson, MD, MSc, Shreya Kangovi, MD, MS and C. Neil Epperson, MD.  At the end of this two hour discussion of challenges and solutions associated with achieving health equity, each of us will be enriched in our understanding of the barriers associated with achieving health equity, and more importantly inspired to do more in our shared journey in contributing to the health care landscape both locally and globally.

As we approach this date, we are reminded of the inspiring words and life of Dr. Martin Luther King. His commitment to social justice contributed to the acceleration of a movement that transformed this nation. There are two quotes that are particularly relevant at a time when the security of the world is so uncertain. “All men are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality."[1]  World events have underscored how connected we are to each other, as poverty and economic inequality contribute to inescapable forces that drive discontent.  In this country, we have witnessed the disparities in health that lead to preventable chronic diseases and shortened life expectancy. The second quote that shapes the theme of our discussion on health equity on January 27, 2016: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane." [2]

You may ask, how can I make a difference?  Each of us has the capacity to contribute to reducing the tension that separate us.  Understanding one's own bias, being inclusive in our interactions with each other, and supporting initiatives that will lead to greater transparency and authenticity in our culture are concepts that lead a list of critical strategies. Creating your own list leveraging your own professional and personal perspectives is an important first step. A recent article entitled, “Inclusion as a Core Competence of Professionalism in the 21st Century"[3] underscores the need to overtly be inclusive as a professional, given the opportunities we have to collectively solve the complex societal challenges we all share. We hope to see you at 11:30 AM on January 27.  Don't forget to stay for the reception that follows at 1:30 PM.

[1] ., Accessed November 18, 2015

[2] . Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. March 25, 1966, 2nd National Convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights

[3] . Higginbotham, Eve J. Inclusion as a core competence of professionalism in the twenty-first century. The Pharos. 2015; 78(4): 6-9