Health profession students at the OU Health Sciences Center are holding their annual Bridges to Access Conference on Feb. 13 via Zoom. This year’s event will focus on the numerous ways that the COVID-19 pandemic has affected health beyond the disease itself, particularly how it has exposed societal inequalities that overwhelmingly impact minority populations.
The conference is organized by the OU Community Health Alliance, a medical student organization that seeks to uplift, educate and empower patients through volunteer activities and understanding the numerous social determinants of health. The Bridges to Access Conference shares that goal by bringing together students from all seven colleges at the OU Health Sciences Center to hear speakers from around the nation and to discuss issues affecting health.
“Issues like food deserts, income and employment inequality, as well as access to health insurance, have only worsened since the pandemic began,” said OU College of Medicine student Jan Bian, chair of this year’s conference. “Redlining and a racist criminal justice system have ensured that marginalized communities, especially Black and Indigenous people of color, bear the brunt of the consequences of the global pandemic. These issues are not new, but they have been greatly exacerbated by the pandemic.
“As future healthcare providers, it is our responsibility to care for our patients’ health,” she added. “In order to do so effectively, we must have a basic understanding of the systemic racial and socioeconomic issues that affect their lives. Furthermore, we should be actively seeking out and advocating for solutions to these problems.”
Keynote speakers for this year’s conference and their topics are:
* Arline T. Geronimus, Sc.D., Professor of Public Health, University of Michigan, “Weathering,” the effect of racialized stressors on the health of marginalized communities
* Oklahoma City Council Ward 7 Councilwoman Nikki Nice, “Solutions for Health Equity”
Other speakers include:
* Keeley White, MPH, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, “Food Insecurity in Oklahoma”
* Michael Osterholm, Ph.D., MPH, Centers for Infectious Disease Research and Policy, “Pandemic Preparedness”
* Halley Reeves, OU Health, “Redlining and Health Outcomes”
* Damion Shade, Oklahoma Policy Institute, “Criminal Justice Reform in Oklahoma”
* Jenna Morey, “ReMerge Oklahoma,” an alternative to incarceration for women
* Priya Samant, M.D., MPH, “The Response of Free Clinics to COVID-19”
* Jabraan Pasha, M.D., OU Health, “Unlocking Implicit Bias”
* Caylee Dodson and Julie Garner, RestoreOKC, “Fixing the Cycle of Poor Education, Lack of Sustainable Jobs, and Unaffordable Housing in Oklahoma City”
The Bridges to Access Conference is one of numerous ways that OU Health Sciences Center students are working to improve the health and quality of life of the patients they will serve in their careers.
“There is a national imperative and sense of urgency that we have to do better in addressing the healthcare inequities that continue to persist,” said Robert Salinas, M.D., Assistant Dean for Diversity in the OU College of Medicine. “A conference like this helps prepare the next generation of physician leaders who, in working across other healthcare disciplines, will help create the change that is needed.”
For more information about the Bridges to Access Conference and to register, visit