CSCG hosts panel on inequality in public health

Sophie Worthington-Kirsch

On Sept. 12 Ursinus’s Center for Science and the Common Good hosted three prominent public health researchers who addressed inequalities in health care and access to it in the United States. The discussion was the first of a three-event series on the issue.

Dr. Said Ibrahim is the co-director of a program called CHERP, or the Center for Health Equity Research and Promotion, which is run by Veteran Affairs. He presented his studies on different expectations about knee and hip replacement across races. Dr. Giang Nguyen runs Student Health Services at the University of Pennsylvania and researches public health, particularly of Asian Americans and the LGBT community. Dr. Nicole Vaughn is an assistant professor in the School of Public Health at Drexel University. Vaughn focuses on a program that has been piloted in two churches to help people lose weight and prevent Type 2 diabetes.

              Alexa Beacham, a sophomore and fellow of the Center for Science and the Common Good, was encouraged by the speakers. “I’m really interested in addressing the issue of inequalities in access to healthcare in general…For me, it opened it up. I didn’t realize how powerful the field of public health was,” she said.

Beacham’s double major in biology and ethics tied her in well to the talk, and she was happy to have had dinner with Nguyen before the panel started. Nguyen told Beacham that little research has been done about whether LGBT medicine or trans medicine is different. She was encouraged that Nguyen was addressing that discrepancy through his own research.

              Nguyen’s presentation was very appealing to others as well. “I was really most interested in Dr. Nguyen’s talk about both Asian American and LGBT health,” said Ally Lu, a student. “Asian American health is really pertinent, not only to me [as an Asian-American] but also to my mother, who is a doctor. Where we live in New York there are a lot of Asian Americans who are first generation or are immigrants, so there’s a really low level of health education among them.”

Nguyen’s talk addressed how Vietnamese-language newspapers discuss health problems that are not pertinent to the population, but avoid mentioning issues that are particularly prevalent in that community. Lu has seen that in her mother’s practice at home. “It’s really hard to get them to hear the new sort of Western treatments because a lot of them will still turn to traditional-style treatments,” said Lu. “Sometimes, that can affect how they listen to their doctors.”

              After the three presenters each gave a twenty- to forty-minute presentation, the students broke for an intermission and came back for a question-and-answer session. Throughout the lectures, they had emailed their questions into a designated email address, and their questions were put up on the screen.

Beacham particularly enjoyed the questions that the students asked. “A lot of the students asked how they could make a change in reducing healthcare inequalities,” she said. “A lot of times we see these panels and it’s great and all, and then it ends and everyone goes about their normal business. This, if anything, seems like evidence that at Ursinus we take these things seriously and are looking forward to continuing these efforts.”

Lu said that this opened up her perspective on the community. “It’s been an interest since the start for me, but I didn’t really have a chance to hear about that in a lot of the earlier panels we’ve had at Ursinus,” said Lu.