Health Equity Strategic Map to be implemented at Dell Medical School

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Photo Credit: Courtesy of Linda Burns | Daily Texan Staff

Dell Medical School is implementing the Health Equity Strategic Map, a five-category plan focused on reducing health inequalities in medical education and research, according to its website. 

Health inequities are differences in health status or in the distribution of health resources between different population groups, according to the World Health Organization

According to the health equity map, the plan focuses on five categories: optimizing health care in communities most impacted by health inequity, better aligning research agendas with health equity goals, integrating health equity into medical education, collaborating with the community to reduce inequities and building internal health equity understanding and support, as well as subcategories of how the five main goals can be implemented. 

Part of health equity includes analyzing clinical data to assure quality of and access to care does not vary by race, ethnicity or language, and creating accessible health care spaces for people who are older or disabled, according to the website. 

Jewel Mullen, associate dean for health equity at Dell Medical School, said she was hired specifically for this role and emphasized the ways health equity can create optimal health for all communities. 

“We are now at the point where the work groups are assembled,” Mullen said. “We have co-leads for each (category). The map doesn’t have the first list of accomplishments yet because the groups are defining them themselves in collaboration with members from my team so we’re all on the right track.” 

The work groups, composed of students and faculty, provide ideas about how to implement the categories into Dell Med’s research and curriculum, Mullen said.

“We wanted to focus ourselves on what we considered the most essential strategies or approaches to assuring that we were actually building equity into all elements of the medical school, so education, research, clinical and community-basing,” Mullen said. 

Faculty and hired experts from partner organizations such as Central Health and Ascension Seton worked on each part of the plan. Student task forces made up of those who expressed their interest to Mullen have also been working on the map. 

“I had been aware of these issues peripherally but didn’t have formal academic knowledge of the history of racism in American medicine,” said Natasha Dass, a Dell Medical School student. “A group of us students were really passionate about it, but we really just started talking to the faculty and people who supervised the curriculum and asked for more education that was mandatory rather than elective.”

Dass said she took an elective the first year that Mullen taught, which made her more interested in racism in medicine. She now works on a task force developing health equity education. 

“Whether you are a medical student or even if you are not in (the) medical field at all … everyone comes to the table with a different background,” Dass said. “Having compassion for ourselves and each other will help us hold each other for a better future.”

Stephen Strakowski, vice dean of research at Dell Medical School, said the United States has a long-standing systemic racism problem, and this map can utilize people's recent heightened awareness on this issue by engaging more students with solving health inequity. 

“I think being transparent about (the map) is the first step,” Strakowski said. “If we knew how to fix (health inequities) right this second, it would be fixed. So a lot of this work is trying to engage as many people as we can as constructively as possible.”

Strakowski said in general, all workplaces will be stronger with more diversity. 

“As we encourage people to think about this as a career, how do we make sure we do that?” Strakowski said. “Hopefully, Dell Med will be an example of how the University on a larger scale will also tackle the problem.”