January 20-25, 2019

The Health Equity Week of Action (HEWA) is an annual week-long event that focuses on raising awareness about the health disparities that exist across racial, ethnic, cultural, and social groups. HEWA utilizes a variety of interactive and innovative events to inform and inspire the actions needed to eradicate such health inequities.

The HEWA Organizing Committee is promoting the following definition of health equity to emphasize the justice we are striving to achieve:

“The resolution of systematic disparities in health between social groups who have different levels of underlying social advantage and disadvantage positions in a social hierarchy.” (P. Braveman & S. Gruskin, 2003)

See how you can participate in the 2019 Health Equity Week of Action (HEWA) below!

Race and Genetics – January 21, 2019

Today, we explore how race and genetics are taught in medical school. Often during the first few years of medical school, students are taught to generalize and associate. For example, if you hear “Black” in a question, you’re told to select “sickle-cell”. The problem with that association is that it could lead to misdiagnosis and missed diagnoses. Because sickle-cell protects against Malaria, it may also be seen in Greek populations and others. Today’s focus is exploring the impact science has had on replacing ideas of race as biological.


– Host this activity with your chapter at a luncheon or chapter meeting

– Learn more about why we need to rely more heavily on genetics and less on skin color and race by watching these TED talks: The Biology of Race in the Absence of Biological Races, and What’s Race Got to Do with Medicine?

– Ask a doctor about their thoughts on viewing race as a risk factor and if it helps or hurts us in caring for diverse populations

Race During Medical School – January 22, 2019

If you’ve ever experienced any race-related issues during your undergraduate education, you might be surprised to know they often continue into medical school. Today, we explore how a student’s race might come into play in everything from professors treating a medical student differently in a lecture hall to race issues within the hospitals. Why are professors in today’s education system still hold these biases? What biases might we hold, and what can we do about them?


– Premeds! Check out this interesting Op-ed: How To Tell If Your Program’s Diversity Is a Hologram

– Check out this M.D.’s view on race’s importance in the hospital

– Learn about a physician’s perspective on White Privilege in a White Coat or another physician’s What It’s Like to Be a Black Man in Medical School

– Reflect on your personal encounters with disparities (i.e. being of a minority population and pursuing medicine), or stories that you’ve heard from friends, family, acquaintances

What is Whiteness? – January 23, 2019

Today we seek to provide evidence that race is a social construct. Too often, people don’t give a second thought when asked to self-identify, however, we should stop and consider how these lines are made up artificially. Why are they made up? Who stands to benefit from these classifications?


– Learn about How the Jews Became White Folks.

– Understand exactly Who Invented White People.

– Reflect on the first article provided for today.  How fair is it to say that Jews became successful due to their own abilities and efforts? To what degree did government programs play a part in this upward mobility?

– Learn about your own biases by taking this quick assessment: – Take “Race” and “Arab-Muslim” implicit bias tests here: Implicit Association Tests. Do you believe these tests? How will knowing these biases change the way we approach patient care, if at all?

Physician Diversity – January 24, 2019

Did you know that even though 39% of full-time faculty are female; female faculty from some racial minority groups continue to be underrepresented in academic medicine? Only 4% of full-time faculty identify as Black or African American, Latino or Hispanic, Native American or Alaska Native, or Native Hawaiian or Pacific Islander females.1(AAMC) As time has passed, there has been a rise of physicians from underrepresented minority groups which ultimately contributes to a decreasing health disparities gap; however there remains a large need for more minority physicians and minority physician leaders.


– Learn about Current Trends in Medical Education1, as it relates to physician diversity and demographics

– Interview a doctor on this topic

– Volunteer at an underserved community health clinic

Call For Action – January 25, 2019

With our overall goal of decreasing health disparities and increase the number of physicians of color, today we focus community outreach. We would like to make high school students and undergraduate students aware that there are diversity offices in medical schools.


– If you are a medical student, contact your medical school’s diversity office and request pamphlets/scholarship information. Disseminate this information to nearby colleges and high schools in impoverished areas. You could talk to the career advice office of high schools and ask them to host you to answer questions for interested students.

– If you are a college student, contact a nearby medical school’s diversity office and request pamphlets/scholarship information. Disseminate this information to your classmates through your local AMSA chapter. Go into the community and deliver this information to high schools.

– Take a moment and reflect on information from this week. What will you do differently from now on, if anything?

Plus, check out highlights of events from past weeks of action:

Mental Health – April 16, 2018

One in five adults in the U.S. suffer from a mental health condition within a given year.  We want to raise awareness of these disorders, destigmatize them, and empower people with resources and knowledge.  Mental health is as serious and real as physical disorders; it is time for our us to treat them as such.

Activity Ideas:

– Look at these fun mindfulness activities for Children and Teens

– Facilitate a 1-2 hour group activity with this Mental Health Awareness Activity

– Check out this free mental health resource library, packed with anxiety reducing worksheets, planners, gratitude exercises and more.

– Learn more about why we need to speak more openly about mental illnesses by watching these TED talks: Joshua Walter: On Being Just Crazy Enough or Ruby Wax: What’s so Funny about Mental illness


Social Determinants of Health – April 17, 2018

“It is impossible to understand people’s behavior…without the concept of social stratification, because class position has a pervasive influence on almost everything…the clothes we wear…the television shows we watch…the colors we paint our homes and the names we give our pets…Our position in the social hierarchy affects our health, happiness, and even how long we will live.” – William Thompson, Sociologist (Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology)

Activity Ideas:

– Check out this TED Talk: Social Determinants of Health by Claire Pomeroy

– Look up the nearest grocery store, how long would this trip take if you didn’t have a car? Are there any food deserts in your city?

– Reflect on your personal encounters with disparities (i.e. being of a minority population and pursuing medicine), or stories that you’ve heard from friends, family, acquaintances.


Age-Related Topics – April 18, 2018

Today we consider how social factors affect the life expectancy of different races. We also explore the leading causes of death.  

Activity Ideas:

– Check out this TED Talk: How Racism Makes Us Sick by David R. Williams

– Read an article on Mortality in the United States

– Reflect on the article and TED Talk provided for today.  Identify the race that has the lowest life expectancy and the race with the highest life expectancy.  Why do you believe these statistics match these rates?


Race in Medicine – April 19, 2018

Today we explore how topics of race are present in and affect medical training and decision making. “Race isn’t a good category to use… leads researchers down the wrong path and leads to harmful results for patients. For example, black patients who have the symptoms of cystic fibrosis aren’t diagnosed because doctors see it as a white disease.” – Dorothy Roberts, Sociologist and a professor at University of Pennsylvania Africana Studies department.

Activity Ideas:

– Interview a doctor on this topic

– Read an article on Racial Profiling in the Management of Chronic Illness

– Take “weight” and “race” implicit bias tests here: Implicit Association Tests. Do you believe these tests? How will knowing these biases change the way approach patient care, if at all?

– If a stereotype applies to your background, how does it make you feel? How is this feeling different from that elicited by a stereotype that does not apply to you?


Health Care of Inmates/Incarceration – April 20, 2018

In a landmark 1986 case, Estelle v. Gamble, the Supreme Court held that not providing adequate medical care to prisoners was a violation of the Constitution’s Eighth Amendment against cruel and unusual punishment. Learn more about healthcare of inmates.  

Activity Ideas:

– Check out this TED Talk: Mental Health and Criminal Justice by Crystal Dieleman

– Read an article on Incarceration, the War on Drugs, and Public Health

– What are your reflections from this week and what will you do differently from now on, if anything?


Day One: What is Race? Live Webinar ft. Dr. Sharon Washington View recording here

Most of us hear about race as a social construct and not a biological one, but rarely do we learn who created this idea. Why? Who does this divisive and unscientific construct benefit and why? How did the idea of race perpetuate after those people were gone? On day one, we will explore these questions in our attempt to create a shared understanding of the meaning and origins of race as a social, historical, and political construct.

Day Two: The Existence of Disparities Webinar ft. Dr. Theresa Duello View recording here

History has produced health disparities that disproportionately impact communities of color. This discussion will provide an overview of the social and biological determinants of health disparities as well as the interplay between them.

Day Three: Race & Racism in Medicine Webinar ft. Dr. Jennifer Edgoose and Dr. Parvathy Pillai View recording here!

Explore how issues of race, racism, privilege and notions of (white) supremacy are evident in medicine and medical training as well as the physician’s implicit and explicit attitudes about race.

Day Four: Talking Race, Ethnicity, and Culture

Today we will think about how to participate in tricky and intimidating conversations around race, ethnicity, and culture as well as how to ACTIVELY raise awareness about these topics.

Day Five: Call for Action Webinar ft. Luis Perez with Baylor COM View recording here

Together we will explore action items toward moving our respective schools toward a collective vision of the institution as an anti-racist and ethnically and culturally-sensitive medical school and hospital.

“Lessons from History: A Look at the Tuskegee Syphilis Study”
podcast episode from the John Cowley Division of Medical Ethics and Humanities by SUNY Downstate

Race and Language in Healthcare:The Impact on Quality of Care
Aswita Tan‐McGrory, MBA, MSPH

WhiteCoats4BlackLives Step-by-Step Action guide–Set up a meeting with your Dean!

Follow AMSA REACH on Facebook.

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