Paths to achieving health equity


Published March 1, 2022

“At every point during the pandemic, our societal structures churned out brand new health and social inequities as we all watched, and as we all lived it.”

“Centering Community Engagement to Achieve Health Equity” will be the topic of the keynote address of the University at Buffalo Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) Annual Forum on March 16.

Philip M. Alberti, PhD, Founding Director, Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC) Center for Health Justice, and Senior Director, Health Equity Research and Policy, will focus on partnership solutions in order to achieve health equity. Register here to watch the forum live on March 16 from 12:30 to 4:45 p.m. on Zoom.

“We are excited to have Dr. Alberti as our keynote speaker,” says UB CTSI Director Timothy F. Murphy, MD. “The overarching theme of the CTSI is to achieve health equity in our community through our clinical and translational research. Engaging populations who have been excluded from the benefits of participating in clinical research connects people with healthcare professionals, leading to increased access to healthcare and to the latest advances in healthcare. The forum will be a great opportunity to learn more about Dr. Alberti’s pioneering work in health justice and health equity, enabling us to advance our work in these areas.”

Alberti’s previous roles included leading health equity research and evaluation efforts for the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and working as a graduate research assistant with Columbia University and the National Center for Children in Poverty. He founded the Center for Health Justice to continue his focus on eliminating inequities in health and healthcare.

“Our center aims to co-develop — with communities across the country and the multiple sectors that serve them — an evidence base of solutions to health inequities that can be embedded in policies at all levels to create sustainable, structural changes that promote justice and opportunity,” he explained during a recent interview.

‘A national reckoning is underway’

“For those who weren’t convinced before COVID, and there are still many, many people who are not convinced, I think the lesson has been that our systems, structures, and policies are inequity-creating machines,” Alberti says. “At every point during the pandemic — likelihood of exposure, infection rates, care access, clinical trial participation, testing access, vaccine access, economic impacts, education impacts, morbidity, mortality — our societal structures churned out brand new health and social inequities as we all watched, and as we all lived it.”

Alberti believes health inequities are “more real for people now. A national reckoning with those systems and what is to be done about them is, hopefully, underway.”

When asked whether he believes there has been progress in increasing awareness of racial and health justice, Alberti answers that it “depends on which echo chamber we are talking into. There has been a sustained national conversation about social and racial injustice that I did not expect, and have not heard before, and that gives me hope.”

Alberti adds that “it is easier than ever for any of us to see, learn about, and engage in justice-focused efforts. But I also think it is easier than ever for any of us to block out and/or attack anything that does not fit with our own beliefs. I think the backlash to that sustained national conversation — new, racist voting restrictions, the ‘Don’t say gay’ proposals, etc. — reflects that.”

The move from awareness to action

Alberti believes it is time for institutions to move from raising awareness to taking action with partners in the kinds of multisector collaborations required to achieve health equity requires two building-block fundamentals:

  • Getting the internal house in order
  • Demonstrating an organization is worthy of the community’s trust

Alberti calls attention to the AAMC Center for Health Justice’s “Principles of Trustworthiness” as a tool for starting the process of earning community trust, and says he will discuss both building blocks during his Annual Forum keynote on March 16.

“We will also discuss different ways we think about and define equity and how a health justice agenda can get us to community health equity,” he says. “In addition, I am eager to learn more about the incredible work already underway in Buffalo and to identify ways we can work together and amplify efforts toward that common goal.”

In addition to Alberti’s presentation, the Annual Forum will include:

  • “Career Perspectives and Vision for Clinical and Translational Research,” a presentation from Allison Brashear, MD, MBA, Vice President for Health Sciences, University at Buffalo, and Dean, Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Brashear, the former dean of the University of California, Davis, School of Medicine, began her leadership roles with the university in December. She is an internationally renowned researcher and an advocate for promoting diverse leaders in medicine.
  • “State of the CTSI,” an address from UB CTSI Director Timothy F. Murphy, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor, Senior Associate Dean for Clinical and Translational Research, Jacobs School.
  • 2021 Clinical Research Achievement Awards and presentations, featuring an introduction from Clinical Research Achievement Awards Oversight Committee Chair Anne B. Curtis, MD, SUNY Distinguished Professor, Charles and Mary Bauer Professor and Chair, Department of Medicine, Jacobs School. Presentations will follow from (Top Award) Liise K. Kayler, MD, Program Director, Kidney and Pancreas Transplantation, Chief of the Division of Transplant Surgery, Department of Surgery, Jacobs School; (Finalist) Brian Clemency, DO, MBA, Professor, Department of Emergency Medicine, Jacobs School; and (Finalist) Steven E. Lipshultz, MD, A. Conger Goodyear Professor and Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Jacobs School.

For the complete Annual Forum agenda and registration, click here.