Published September 6, 2023
Since 2018, the annual Igniting Hope Conference has brought together community leaders, community members, University at Buffalo faculty, and trainees from multiple UB schools to focus on addressing health equity and the social determinants of health. The 2023 conference, titled “Building a Healthy, Just Community for All,” will be held in person on Saturday, September 30, at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Register here to attend.
Igniting Hope is supported by the NIH National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences under award numbers R13 TR003486 and UL1 TR001412. It is co-sponsored by the Buffalo Center for Health Equity, the University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI), the University at Buffalo Community Health Equity Research Institute, and the Erie County Office of Health Equity. Additional conference sponsors include M&T Bank, Cicatelli Associates, Inc. (CAI), Delta Dental, Highmark, Independent Health, Buffalo Niagara Medical Campus, and Health Foundation for Western & Central New York.
“This, our sixth annual conference continues our focus on improving health outcomes in Buffalo through learning and planning,” says Rita Hubbard-Robinson, JD, Chief Executive Officer, NeuWater & Associates, LLC; Associate Director, UB Community Health Equity Research Institute. “As we reflect on our progress, what occurs to me is how much is to be done. Igniting Hope and keeping a spark alive in our hearts is important. Taking care of ourselves and each other while many are still healing and grieving from losses and traumas continues to be a challenge. So, we will continue our systems work by using the principles of Sankofa and move upstream, while learning from our downstream experiences.”
The morning keynote speaker is Natalia Chalmers, DDS, MHSc, PhD, Chief Dental Officer, Office of the Administrator, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. Her talk is titled “Oral Health: An Evidence and Data-driven Approach to Achieve Better Health, Equity, and Fiscal Responsibility.”
An afternoon panel will include the family of Henrietta Lacks, who “was one of a diverse group of patients who unknowingly donated cells at Hopkins in 1951 [when she was being treated for cervical cancer]. The donation of Henrietta Lacks' cells began what was the first, and, for many years, the only human cell line able to reproduce indefinitely. Her cells, known as HeLa cells for Henrietta Lacks, remain a remarkably durable and prolific line of cells used in research around the world” (quoted from “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks,” Johns Hopkins Medicine).
In addition to the keynotes, breakout sessions will focus on five important topics: Food and Elders, Medical Mistrust, Neighborhood Restoration, Mental Health, and Black Lungs Matter. The breakout sessions in past years have had a direct impact on the community. As outlined in last year’s preview article, conference breakout groups have spawned working groups that are helping to mitigate some of the inequities in Buffalo. (A Fines and Fees working group contributed to a new state law and new policies that have reduced the disproportionate ticketing for traffic violations and resulting driver license suspensions for residents of East Buffalo.)
"The Igniting Hope conference has become an influential event for UB and our community,” says CTSI Director Timothy F. Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor and Director, UB Community Health Equity Research Institute. “There are so many good things about the conference, including outstanding nationally recognized speakers and engaging breakout groups. But the part that I like the most is how people from many walks of life and career stages are all together and actively engaging with each other with the common goal: ending race-based health disparities and achieving health equity in Buffalo.”
The full 2023 conference agenda is:
Plenary Session 1
Plenary Session 2
Plenary Session 3
Following the Conference — Book Signing by the Lacks Family (Atrium)
“So many conversations around health focus on the individual level, on people’s individual health behaviors and choices,” says Kelly Wofford, MS, Director, Office of Health Equity, Erie County Department of Health. “Unfortunately this overlooks the systems, forces, and community conditions that drive health disparities. Igniting Hope is an opportunity for us to gather as a community to discuss health at the community level and focus on ‘Building a Healthy, Just Community for All.’”
Watch for an upcoming story in UBNow with additional details on the 2023 Igniting Hope Conference.