The Minority Health Conference is an annual event organized by medical students in the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA, Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science and the Keck School of Medicine at USC. For more than a decade, the event has addressed health disparities and raised awareness about minority health issues in and beyond Southern California.
Each year, this conference is spearheaded by four second-year medical students (MS2s) — two from UCLA/Charles Drew and two from USC — all of whom have an interest in health issues that affect underserved communities. The expo provides opportunities to discuss the challenges facing physicians and patients in these communities, especially as they relate to Asian-American, Latino, LGBT and African-American populations.
Social injustice as a public health crisis
In 2015, the theme of the 14th Annual Minority Health Conference was "Social Injustice as a Public Health Crisis." Sessions included:
Co-chair Felisha Eugenio, a student in the Drew/UCLA Medical Education Program, says the organizers chose the conference theme shortly after the on-campus Black Lives Matter "white coat die-ins" in early 2015, which garnered extensive media attention. "We wanted to create an atmosphere where social justice could continue to be discussed in a medical setting," she says. "We came to the conclusion that injustices come from social determinants of health, and we feel that, maybe, these are not discussed enough in our formal curricula."
All are welcome
Conference attendees have traditionally been undergraduates, as well as medical students and physicians who are members of groups that are most underrepresented in medicine, but the organizers look to change that. "We want all students to come, including those from majority populations," Eugenio says. "It's predictable that those students who identify personally with these topics are more inclined to come, but we want to reach the broadest possible audience."
Buzz is building about the minority health conference. For the first time, organizers had to cap attendance at 250 due to room capacities. Then they created a waitlist, which ballooned to 350 names.
Eugenio's proudest moment came when a Caucasian physician attendee commented, "I wish there were more of us here. These are important ideas and relevant to us." It reinforced her commitment. "As more and more people enter health professions, minority health issues are finally reaching the forefront, and it's exciting and inspiring," she says. "These are the kind of people I would want to be my doctor."
By Darcy Lewis