Health-care disparities, physician advocacy, professional advancement and research collaboration will be among the topics discussed as Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis hosts the Midwest region’s Student National Medical Association (SNMA) annual conference this weekend, Nov. 15 and 16.
Students in the School of Medicine’s SNMA chapter are organizing the conference, which is for medical and premedical students and will focus primarily on the topic of public health.
The national group, celebrating its 50th anniversary this year, supports current and future minority medical students and also addresses the needs of underserved communities.
Second-year medical students Lawrence Benjamin and Lauren Martin, co-presidents of the School of Medicine’s SNMA chapter, along with the group’s conference-planning committee, have been balancing schoolwork and event preparation since August.
“It’s an exciting year for the organization in general with it being the 50th anniversary,” Benjamin said. “But it’s also an exciting time for the university to showcase the many talented people we have here and the many people working toward the betterment of health care in St. Louis.”
Benjamin and Martin credit faculty, most notably SNMA faculty adviser Will Ross, MD, associate dean for diversity, and others in the Office of Diversity Programs, with helping them develop an excellent list of presenters for the conference.
Ross said he is always impressed with the school’s student leaders and is proud of their efforts to increase awareness for public health’s importance by hosting this year’s conference.
“It is reassuring to know the country’s upcoming leaders in medicine are so connected to the issues that drive our national policy,” Ross said. “It makes me optimistic about the direction of health-care reform in this country.”
Among the presenters are medical residents, faculty from WUSTL’s School of Medicine, Brown School and Institute for Public Health, as well as local experts and physicians involved with St. Louis health-care initiatives.
The keynote speaker is Bethany Johnson-Javois, CEO of St. Louis Integrated Health Network, a nonprofit that serves the St. Louis area’s safety-net health-care providers and promotes accessible, affordable and quality care, particularly for the underserved.
Johnson-Javois will speak at the closing dinner at 7 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 16, at the Eric P. Newman Education Center. She is a graduate of the Brown School and has received the Access to Equal Justice Award from the School of Law’s Clinical Education Program.
Johnson-Javois also serves on the board of trustees for the Deaconess Foundation and advises several nonprofits.