LONG BEACH, Calif.—Two California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) students took top prizes at the seventh annual National Health Disparities Conference in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, recently.
Angelika Clarke from Los Angeles, a CSULB master in public health and current medical student at Western University of Health Sciences, won first prize for the student poster presentations; and Eugenia Maravilla from Lynwood, a CSULB chemistry graduate student and Hispanic Health Opportunity Learning Alliance graduate mentor fellow, took third place for her poster.
“The National Conference on Health Disparities has been an inspirational and informative experience. I learned valuable information from the speakers and workshops and benefited from the networking opportunities,” said Clarke. “Most importantly, I feel a renewed resolve to achieve my goal of becoming a physician so that I can better address health disparities in underserved communities.”
Clarke’s poster focused on risk factors for early pubertal onset in African American girls. She was among 15 students from CSULB who attended and presented posters based on a competitive abstract screening process. Altogether, 34 students participated from institutions across the nation, including Johns Hopkins, Morehouse School of Medicine, UCLA, Harvard, Emory, Howard and others.
“Our students took first and second place last year and first and third this year. They are outstanding representatives of CSULB and the fact that they represented 45 percent of the total number of students accepted speaks volumes regarding the potential of CSULB to conduct health disparities research,” said Britt Rios-Ellis, co-director of Cal State Long Beach Department of Health Science Graduate Program, director of the Center for Latino Community Health and professor of health science. “Our students competed with those from (some of the nation’s most prestigious universities) and others and came out shining. It is a proud day for CSULB, the NCLR/CSULB Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation, and Leadership Training, and the Colleges of Health and Human Services and Natural Science and Mathematics.”
Rios-Ellis was asked by Congresswoman Donna Christensen (D-U.S. Virgin Islands) to speak at the first National Health Disparities Conference and then was asked to serve on the planning committee, which she has done for the past six years. She has also served on the executive planning committee for the past two years and spoken at the conference annually since its inception.
Thirteen of the CSULB students who attended are affiliated with the Center for Latino Community Health, Evaluation and Leadership Training, 10 students received full scholarships from the conference organizers to attend and three received partial scholarships.
These national conferences have brought together diverse partners, presenters and attendees to share their knowledge of health disparities. These programs have uncovered and told a much larger story—that social factors, such as race, poverty, low education levels, public safety, environmental quality and inadequate housing are major contributors to health disparities. These findings suggest the potential benefits of rededication of a portion of America’s healthcare resources to programs that emphasize education, prevention and personal responsibility, including each person’s willingness and capability to make informed decisions that reduce the likelihood of disease development.
These conference’s formal agendas and the chance for participants to interact in less structured settings offer opportunities to incorporate these understandings into policies and programs that may reduce health disparities and enhance the nation’s overall health and well-being.
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