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Alpha Epsilon Delta Forms Conference To Amplify Diversity In Health Care

Alpha Epsilon Delta, Penn State’s national health preprofessional honor society, will hold a Diversity in Health Care conference at 10 a.m. on Sunday, April 3.

Penn State is tasked with training hundreds of nurses, doctors, surgeons, dentists, and more, while simultaneously introducing them to parts of health care not many are willing to face. Diversity in the health care system is lacking, but that’s where key Penn State students come into play.

This isn’t your ordinary conference. President and senior biology major Shravan Asthana and his officers formed the forum to be a “design thinking” conference where students receive real-world cases to work through.

“We know that there are problems within our health care system. It’s something we learn continuously,” Asthana said. “During the COVID-19 pandemic, these issues became extremely obvious and visible.”

Because of these realizations, Asthana and his team reflected on what they were witnessing and wanted to do something as not only an extracurricular educational opportunity but “a way to raise awareness and advocacy.”

Cases, discussions, and themes covered are racial and ethnic disparities, gender and sexual disparities, health care workforce diversity, socioeconomic disparities, ableism, linguistic and cultural disparities, and disparities with age and elder abuse.

AED’s Diversity in Health Care task force originated after the summer of 2020 as a reaction to the COVID-19 health care diversity issues. The mission of this task force is to “empower peers, to learn, to discuss, and to make changes within society the future health care professionals will be a part of.”

“This specific conference is our main way of acting on our mission, which is bringing people outside of AED and our task force, to join in the discussion and actively think about in an interdisciplinary setting how we as professionals are going to impact the systems tomorrow,” Asthana said.

Because this conference is interdisciplinary, it doesn’t matter what major or academic college you’re in. As long as you want to make an impact in health care one day, you are able to join the conference. The event will focus on making students equal when working together.

The design thinking format will place students in a room to brainstorm creatively and apply their solutions to actual cases to see if they work. AED believes this method can be applied to any pre-health scenario. Most importantly, it can “bring people across disciplines together to solve issues.”

AED acquired six different Penn State sponsors for this conference: College of Medicine, College of Health and Human Development, Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing, Educational Equity, Eberly College of Science, and Schreyer Honors College.

“[The sponsors] understand how important this type of event is,” Asthana said. “It’s bringing out of students what we aim to do in our education, which is to think critically and ask ourselves, ‘How can I make a difference?'”

Sponsors boost the event’s credibility and even provide funds for necessary equipment. Because this is a new event, Asthana said their intellectual support has been the most impactful.

“They are able to offer advice on how we are going to carry this out, what the obstacles are going to look like, and help us market ourselves,” Asthana stated.

Marketing chair freshman Kareena Pandya emphasizes that this conference is open to anyone willing to make a difference, create solutions for current problems health care society is facing, and apply critical thinking.

“We are working with medical and nursing students, as well as collaborating with fellow undergraduates across different majors that can all contribute to making you feel like you can make a difference in your community,” Pandya said. “Eventually, it will impact the society of health care.”

The conference will be held in two parts. The in-person portion will begin in the HUB on April 3. To follow, there is an optional case study solution phase that will continue on Zoom. Once you have completed the first segment, you are able to continue working in teams and test the solutions formed. This section will be led by Penn State medical students and senior nursing students.

Depending on how your team does after you present your case solutions, you have the opportunity to win a cash prize.

The top priority for AED is to have participants walk away “feeling that they can be the changemakers in our society.”

“When you think about health care, it’s huge,” Asthana said. “It’s flawed and unequal.”

The purpose of this conference is to show that AED and the task force is a part of a community of health care providers, professionals who are committed to making a difference and acting on society’s responsibility.

“Students are not just walking away with a new academic aspect of health care, but the importance of inclusion, diversity, and empathy,” Pandya said.

To attend the Diversity in Health Care conference, you can register here. There will be an information session within mid-March. You can find more information about AED’s conference on Instagram.

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About the Author

Larkin Richards

Larkin is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism. The only words that leave her mouth are "yinz" and "dippy eggs." Luckily, her writing has much more substance than that. As a Steelers and Pirates fan, sports can become a hot debate. Share your thoughts on dogs (specifically Boston Terriers) with her at: [email protected]

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