The School of Medicine’s (SOM) Office of Diversity and Inclusion co-hosted its third annual HeLa Diversity and Inclusion conference, along with Westchester Medical Center Health Network, on March 19. This year’s theme was “Creating Healthy Communities: Collaboration. Innovation. Transformation,” with topics covering social determinants of health, unconscious bias, LGBT issues in health care, health equity and social justice, leveraging data analytics to create healthier communities and community partnerships. View the Diversity and Inclusion Conference photo gallery.
The conference was named for Henrietta Lacks, a Baltimore mother of five, who was diagnosed with cervical cancer and died at the age of 31 in 1951. Her cancer cells—code named HeLa—were taken without her knowledge and became one of the most important tools in medicine. It was the first immortal cell line, or group of tissue samples that could survive in a lab and reproduce indefinitely, leading to advances such as the polio vaccine, cancer treatments and in vitro fertilization, to name a few. The topic continues to impact research ethics today and fuels discussions on informed consent, privacy and compensation.
Camille A. Clare, M.D., M.P.H. ’11, left, associate dean of diversity and inclusion in the School of Medicine and associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology, welcomed participants to the meeting. “The significance of naming this conference after Mrs. Lacks is that it reminds us of the disparities in access to health care and research benefits, especially for people of color and underserved communities, which is still present today,” said Dr. Clare.
The day concluded with the presentation of the 2018 New York Medical College Diversity and Inclusion Awards. Jenean Castillo, M.A., Ph.D., center, assistant professor, Center on Disability and Health in the School of Health Sciences and Practice (SHSP) and assistant director of Child Welfare Services at the Westchester Institute for Human Development (WIHD), received an award for demonstrating sustained commitment to the values of diversity and inclusion, promoting an environment that is free from bias and discrimination, providing substantial contributions towards advancing diversity and inclusion and enhancing inclusion through demonstrated positive communication between persons of different backgrounds.
Joining Dr. Clare and Dr. Castillo were from left: Susan W. Fox, Ph.D., associate professor of public health and director of the Center on Disability and Health and president and chief executive officer of WIHD; Karen S. Edwards, M.D., M.P.H. ’91, professor of Center on Disability and Health in the School of Health Sciences and Practice, adjunct associate professor of pediatrics, and vice president for education, training and research, LEND program director and co-UCEDD director at WIHD; and Gladys M. Ayala, M.D., M.P.H., interim vice dean of the School of Medicine.