On October 28th and 29th in Boston, MA, over 200 people with a commitment to improving the health and well-being of all people gathered for The Albert Schweitzer Fellowship (ASF)’s 5th Annual Fellows for Life Conference: Achieving Health Equity Together.
With a thought-provoking keynote speech from interprofessional education champion George E. Thibault, MD; a stirring plenary session from health disparities expert Roderick K. King, MD, MPH (one of ASF’s newest board members); and breakout sessions on everything from care for recently-released prisoners to cultural factors in health equity work, the conference was dedicated to deepening attendees’ understanding of the role they play in the broader movement to achieve health equity—and providing them with both the impetus and the tools for interdisciplinary community collaboration and coordination.
To view a full photo album from the 2011 Schweitzer Conference, visit ASF’s Facebook page.
Conference weekend kicked off on Friday night with the presentation of the 2011 Albert Schweitzer Prize for Humanitarianism to Eunice Kennedy Shriver (1921-2009) and Sargent Shriver (1915-2011), two respected and beloved leaders whose life examples inspired and empowered millions.
“My grandparents were so passionate about the Special Olympics and Peace Corps and so many other efforts that they both created to make the world a more just and peaceful place,” said Samuel Kennedy Potter Shriver, who accepted the award on his grandparents’ behalf. “I know that many of you, as Schweitzer Fellows and Fellows for Life, share that passion for creating change and moving us toward a better and more just world. It means so much to know that a new generation of emerging leaders is inspired by my grandparents’ example.”
On Saturday morning, that new generation of emerging leaders sat rapt as George E. Thibault, MD delivered a keynote address hailing interprofessional education as the new paradigm for developing an effective health workforce. (He was introduced by conference master of ceremonies Timothy Johnson, MD, Vice Chair of the ASF Board of Directors and former chief medical editor for ABC News.)
“We have strong evidence that health care delivered by well-functioning teams leads to better outcomes, but we still educate our health professionals in silos,” said Thibault, who is president of the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation, the conference’s key sponsor and the only national foundation solely dedicated to improving the education of health professionals.
After a post-keynote round of breakout sessions on the built environment, health equity across the globe, PhotoVoice, and healthcare reform, attendees reconvened for lunch and an afternoon talk from Roderick K. King, MD, MPH, who is Senior Faculty at the Massachusetts General Hospital Disparities Solutions Center.
“It’s all about how we frame the issue,” said King, who spoke on achieving health equity through a leadership lens. “Many times, with the leaders we need to bring on board, we tend to frame health disparity as a moral issue—which of course it is. But for certain audiences, that’s not enough. We need to frame disparity as a risk issue, a cost issue, a quality issue.”
Attendees then participated in two more rounds of breakout sessions on topics including African American women and breast cancer, the diabetes crisis, oral health, and care for LGBT people. Closing out a jam-packed day of thinking long and hard (and creatively!) about achieving health equity together and moving from talk to action, attendees gathered to reflect and connect at an evening reception.
“After the conference, my brain was spinning for days on end about the work that the Schweitzer Fellows for Life [program alumni] are doing on local, national, and global levels,” said Schweitzer Fellow for Life Kimberly DeQuattro, who traveled from Los Angeles to attend the conference. “I hope to be able to continue to attend FFL conferences despite entering my residency, because the palpable electricity in the breakouts, plenaries, and conversations are—well, let’s just say I’m hooked!”
“Our conference programming emphasized the fact that achieving health equity for vulnerable populations is not just the responsibility of doctors, nurses, and dentists,” said ASF Executive Director Sylvia Stevens-Edouard. “Achieving health equity will require coordinated, comprehensive, and culturally competent efforts from health providers, social workers, lawyers, politicians, community organizations, and community members themselves—all working together toward the same goal.”
“We are so grateful to our Key Sponsor, the Josiah Macy, Jr. Foundation; our Lead Sponsor, DentaQuest Foundation; and our Sponsors, Summit Press, Inc. and the MGH Institute of Health Professions for their generous support,” Stevens-Edouard added.
Slides from plenary and breakout presentations may be available upon request. Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to inquire. To make a gift in support of ASF’s Fellows for Life programming, visit www.schweitzerfellowship.org/giving.