Region I: Diversity of Thought — A Prerequisite for Heath Equality

The Conference Overview

“Maintaining the Pipeline: Ensuring Our Success from Pre-Med to MD and Beyond.”

The path to medicine is an amazing, inspiring and daunting task; particularly important for those underrepresented in medicine.  Many studies have shown that minority physicians are much more likely than others to work in underserved and low-income communities. Thus, as is stated in a 2006 report by the Field Research Corporation, increasing diversity in the health workforce is critical and “advances cultural competency in health care and on the educational process itself; increases access to high-quality health care services; strengthens the medical research agenda; and ensures optimal management of the health care system.” Our role in health care cannot be overstated.

Despite the imperative role underrepresented groups play in combating health disparities, we continue to represent small percentages of medical trainees.  As we climb the ranks to faculty, junior and senior administration, our numbers dwindle even further.  In addition to the effect on our patients, this harsh truth affects all of us in medicine; as we are too often left with few to no mentors who identify with our struggle, understand our journey, and who remind us that we are needed and that we belong.  The “pipeline” in medicine is a metaphor for this endeavor; as we continue on our path in medicine, at each step, we reach back to those who are walking in our same steps, making sure they have the information, support and inspiration needed to traverse this path.  It is only when we truly strengthen and maintain the pipeline in medicine that our numbers, talents and impact will multiply.

Conference Events & Speakers

From our amazing keynote to our diversity roundtable discussion, the conference was filled with engaging sessions for both medical and pre-medical students.

Dr. Eugene Washington began by giving an inspiring message to all students, reassuring us of our limitless potential and our needed place in the field of medicine.   Dr. Juanita Watts, a board-certified Family Practice physician at Kaiser Permanente’s Glendale Medical Office in Southern California, has dedicated her medical career to health disparities. She specifically discussed her passion in advocating for women’s health. Her commitment to improving the lives of women is demonstrated by her tireless effort to increase awareness, eliminate barriers, provide health education, and implement prevention strategies in her field.

The Physicians Medical Forum led conference attendees in a challenging discussion around diversity in medicine.  After PMF presented the problem of under-representation of minorities in medicine, students astutely proposed several ideas to tackle this issue, including trainees holding training programs more accountable in their role in increasing diversity.

In keeping with this year’s theme, Region I brought over 50 excited community youth, ages 6-12, to take part in a mini-medical school session to learn about the heart and its important role.  The event was successful at achieving our goals of providing a fun and nurturing experience for these students, fostering their interest in science, and introducing them into the fascinating world of medicine!

Uchenna B. Okoye
Region I Director 2011-2013
University of California San Francisco
School of Medicine
Harvard School of Public Health
2014 MD, MPH Candidate

Filed Under: Inside SNMA

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