UofL Health and Social Justice Scholars launch plans to improve health equity

L. to R.: V. Faye Jones, M.D., Ph.D., M.S.P.H., Ashton Green, Jade Montanez, Diana Kuo, Mallika Sabharwal and Katie Leslie, Ph.D.
L. to R.: V. Faye Jones, M.D., Ph.D., M.S.P.H., Ashton Green, Jade Montanez, Diana Kuo, Mallika Sabharwal and Katie Leslie, Ph.D.

The first cohort of the University of Louisville Health and Social Justice Scholars is ready to begin implementing strategies to improve health equity in the Louisville community.

The four Health Sciences Center students, who began the program last summer, presented project plans to a group of faculty members, program directors and future scholars that include research and action aimed at improving the health of Louisvillians. Each of the students worked with a faculty or community mentor to develop a plan for a project to be completed throughout the next two years. Their projects focus on improvements in access to fresh food, community trust in health care providers, dental care for HIV patients and diversity in the health care work force.

“The diversity of the projects speaks volumes. Although they receive guidance from mentors, this is truly their work, based on their vision for a more equitable Louisville. I can only imagine where these initiatives will lead,” said Katie Leslie, PhD, program director in the UofL HSC Office of Diversity and Inclusion and director of the Health and Social Justice Scholars program.

The HSJS cohort includes one doctoral student from each of the four schools on the UofL HSC campus: School of Dentistry, School of Medicine, School of Nursing and School of Public Health and Information Sciences. The students are selected based on their commitment to social justice and health equity to engage in a three-year program designed to help them learn techniques for working interprofessionally and with community members to improve the overall health of local residents. Their projects are to include community-based research conducted along with a faculty mentor and a report prepared for scholarly publication. In addition, they participate in community service projects and attend monthly discussions.

Students include:

Ashton Green – School of Dentistry                               

Mentor:  Karen Krigger, MD

“Improving Access to Dental Care and Resources for Individuals Living with HIV”

Oral signs are often the first indication of larger health problems, and related oral conditions occur in 30 to 80 percent of HIV-infected individuals. Green hopes to improve dental care compliance in this population by developing and testing educational materials that will reinforce the importance of oral health and encourage them to seek and continue dental health care.

Diana Kuo – School of Public Health and Information Sciences

Mentor: Brandy Kelly Pryor, PhD

“Examining and Addressing the Effects of Food Systems on Health Outcomes in Louisville”

Neighborhoods with limited access to healthy food, known as food deserts, are associated with reduced health among residents. A number of areas in central Louisville have been identified as food deserts. Kuo plans to evaluate whether neighborhood international markets are good sources of fresh food for the community.

Jade Montanez – School of Nursing

Mentor: Vicki Hines-Martin, PhD

“Confronting Health Disparities Through Post-Secondary Health Sciences Degree Attainment”

Montanez hopes to support an increase in the number of underrepresented minorities in nursing by strengthening a program that prepares junior high and high school students for post-secondary education. She anticipates that a more diverse health-care workforce will benefit not only the students themselves, but also the community through reduced health disparities.

Mallika Sabharwal – School of Medicine

Mentor:  Theo Edmonds, JD, MHA, MFA

“Understanding Medical Mistrust in Smoketown”

Mistrust of the medical community can prevent individuals from receiving care and cloud interactions with health-care providers. Sabharwal plans to survey residents of Smoketown and UofL students and providers to assess mistrust of health professionals. She then will develop tools to improve cultural competency among providers and improve communication between providers and Smoketown residents. She hopes to include a focus group for creative expression by Smoketown residents, providers and students, possibly resulting in a creative project.

In developing the HSJS program, V. Faye Jones, MD, PhD, MSPH, associate vice president for health affairs – diversity initiatives at UofL, hoped to tap into the students’ interests and aptitudes while instructing them in techniques for addressing community issues.

“Our original vision for the program was to educate our students of the complexity of the problems facing our communities,” Jones said. “Each one has found a unique avenue for integrating their passion into a community project to address health disparities. Although each project has a connecting theme of social justice and health equity, the diversity in the approaches ignites excitement for the program.”

New scholars announced

The second cohort of Health and Social Justice Scholars has been selected and will begin matching with mentors and developing their projects this summer.

  • Morgan Pearson – School of Dentistry
  • Devin McBride – School of Medicine
  • Charles (John) Luttrell – School of Nursing
  • Tasha Golden – School of Public Health and Information Sciences

Source: UofL Health and Social Justice Scholars launch plans to improve health equity (UofL News, July 3, 2017)