Recap of Health Equity Week 2018 Event: Join the Conversation: The Strategic Vision for Achieving Health Equity

By Corrinne Fahl

By Dominique Alexis

On Monday, April 02, 2018, The Office and Inclusion and Diversity partnered with Graduate Medical Education to host Health Equity Week 2018's first event, entitled Join the Conversation: The Strategic Vision for Achieving Health Equity.

 Moderator Eve J. Higginbotham, SM, MD, Vice Dean of the Office of Inclusion and Diversity sat down with leaders from different disciplines across the university. The panel included: PJ Brennan, MD, Chief Medical Officer and Senior Vice President of the University of Pennsylvania Health System and Professor of Medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine and the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, Joan Gluch, PhD, RDH, PHDHP, Division Chief and Professor, Clinical Community Oral Health, and Associate Dean for Academic Policies and Penn Dental Medicine, John L. Jackson, PhD, Dean of the University of Pennsylvania's School of Social Policy & Practice and Penn Integrates Knowledge Professor, and Lisa Lewis, PhD, RN, FAAN, Assistant Dean for Diversity and Inclusivity, Calvin Bland Fellow and Associate Professor of Nursing.

Dr. Higginbotham opened the discussion asking the panelists to first define health equity. Responses to this question included the idea that health equity is social justice, and is minimizing structural barriers, preparing leaders, and improving how we take care of our patients; understanding the why of biases and the choices and decisions in how we treat patients. Diving deeper into the discussion, some of the successes accomplished so far in achieving health equity were discussed. Dr. Lewis stated one major success has been having the infrastructure to support this kind of important work and to be in a space that has many resources. Panelists like Dr. Gluch and Dr. Brennan discussed success as identifying issues and then working to decrease them. For example, Dr. Brennan stated that Penn Medicine has tried to understand how it performs and looks at both its strengths and weaknesses. Years ago, one weakness was poor performance as a result of lack of respect. Leadership groups were then created and it laid a foundation to perform in better ways. Dr. Gluch discussed the need to reconceptualize what dental education means. In doing so, Penn Dental Medicine created ways to meet community needs such as Sayer Health Center and dental buses that go into the school districts of the community. This provided a different dimension of education. Dr. Higginbotham then asked the panelists, “What lessons have you learned from past successes in working with the community to address social determinants of health?” Dean Jackson affirmed that there is no individual that walks into our office or clinic with just themselves. They walk in with themselves, their experiences, their family, etc. “It is our job to place the individual into the widest spaces,” he stated. Dr. Lewis said that there has to be an intentionality of addressing social determinants of health. The challenge is how to address them and how to then train the faculty. Dr. Brennan stated that while Penn Medicine still remains an institution of specialty medicine, it is taking a different view which is moving primary care to the forefront.

As the event drew to a close, each panelist left us with final comments. Dr. Brennan stated that the youth and their ideas are important drivers for achieving health equity. Their ideas can have a great impact and push the faculty into places they have not been before, often into zones of discomfort. The youth provides a bottom up approach and there's still more that we have to do to get more support from the levels above. Dean Jackson left us with simply stating that talking across disciplines is a necessity and it's something that has to be done intentionally to think innovatively. Dr. Lewis believes that we have to continue to engage the community in these discussions on achieving health equity, because they too have a level of expertise. Lastly, Dr. Gluch stated that the continued efforts of reconceptualizing dentistry are needed ensure we make oral health equitable for everyone to meet the needs of our community.

Watch Join the Conversation: The Strategic Vision for Achieving Health Equity. You will need a pennkey and login to view the video.