MCKEESPORT, Pa. — Five Penn State Greater Allegheny students participated in a diversity and healthcare conference held at University Park during the spring semester. Two students, Kourtney Kelly and Neila Raveen worked collaboratively with University Park students Li Cubito and Akshata Shastry and earned the top prize for their vision to improve patient-provider relations for the elderly in rural Pennsylvania through community-based workshops. Their idea will be implemented by Remote Area Medical, a non-profit provider of free medical clinics for underserved and uninsured people.
In its second year, the conference is hosted by Alpha Epsilon Delta Pre-Health Honors Society in collaboration with Penn State College of Medicine, Schreyer Honors College, Eberly College of Science, Ross and Carol Nese College of Nursing, and College of Health and Human Development.
The conference sought to increase awareness of disparities in the healthcare system and develop solutions to minimize these disparities. Participants attended seminars and working sessions in which racial, gender, cultural, and socioeconomic disparities were discussed and competed in a solutions phase of the conference.
"It is important to assemble solution teams that have different perspectives when assessing disparities."
—Neila Raveen , class of 2023, Penn State Greater Allegheny
“At the conclusion of the March meeting, participants submitted and voted on disparities for which we could propose an intervention to address it,” said Raveen. “Kourtney and I selected the topic we did because it was like something we explored in BBH 416. We wanted to see if we could improve patient-provider relations for a different target population.”
BBH 416: Health Promotions II, is offered as part of the Biobehavioral Health major program. Taught by Alina Bodea, the course studies the planning, implementation and evaluation of health promotion, prevention and intervention programs.
Kelly and Raveen met virtually with Cubito and Shastry and a medical school mentor from Penn State College of Medicine for two weeks. They returned to University Park in April to present their proposal for a community healthcare intervention. A panel of judges that included Remote Area Medical, a non-profit provider of free medical clinics for underserved and uninsured people awarded them the $1,000 first place prize.
Kristal Tucker, associate teaching professor of biology and Biobehavioral Health program coordinator, was pleased the students participated in the conference.
“Because Penn State Greater Allegheny is actively committed to diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging, our BBH students are particularly attuned to disparities in health care,” said Tucker. “A previous Crossing Bridges event examined Black women's health through socioeconomic, environmental and advocacy lenses, which helped our students recognize inequity in health care and understand the need for well developed, collaborative and responsive initiatives in our communities."
Raveen agrees collaboration is critical when developing solutions to eliminate disparities in health care. “It is important to assemble solution teams that have different perspectives when assessing disparities,” Raveen said. “Lived experiences, representation, and different theoretical backgrounds help. For example, in our group we had a kinesiology major who had not taken a public health course but did have background on global health which we utilized.”
In addition to Kelly and Raveen, Brook Beisler, Eva Wilstermann-Luna, and Lilly Robinson also attended the conference.
The Biobehavioral Health program is offered collaboratively by the Commonwealth Campuses at Penn State. To learn more about the opportunities available to students on the Greater Allegheny campus, visit the website.