Meharry Medical College hosts Drs. James Hildreth, Anthony Fauci discussing health equity, racial justice at free virtual health summit

Dr. James Hildreth and Dr. Anthony Fauci

Meharry Medical College hosted the first of a free, three-part virtual Health Summit series to reimagine and advance health equity, particularly related to oral health on Jan. 27 with keynote conversations by Meharry President James E.K. Hildreth, Ph.D., M.D. and NIAID Director Anthony Fauci, M.D., among other national leaders.

Through open dialogue, the Summit encourages stakeholders and health experts to develop a community-centered approach that will prioritize prevention of disease, elevate racial justice and equity and eliminate COVID-19 health care disparities among minority groups across the country. Featured speakers will discuss health integration and barriers to achieving whole-person and community-informed care that will integrate oral and systemic health.

In addition to a keynote address by Drs. Hildreth and Fauci, the first Summit included a panel moderated by journalist Monique Pressley. Panelists included: Linda Keene Solomon, CEO, STEMbiotic Communities, Inc. Solomon is a senior executive with 30 years of leadership, managerial, and board director experience serving the corporate, government, and nonprofit sectors; Jeanne Craig Sinkford, D.D.S., Ph.D., D.Sc., FACD, FICD: Senior Scholar-in-Residence Emerita American Dental Education Association and Dean Emerita, Howard University. Dr. Sinkford is a nationally and internationally renowned dental educator, administrator, researcher and clinician; Charles E. Moore, MD, FAACE: founder/president, HEALing Community Center and Chief of Service, Dept. of Otolaryngology, Grady Health System. Dr. Moore has a longstanding and profound commitment to the training and development of learners from all backgrounds. His research focus has been in the investigation of factors involved in healthcare disparity with a particular focus on head and neck cancer incidence in medically underserved communities.

Among those joining this ‘call to action’ to accelerate health integration, innovation, and racial justice will be Henry Schein, chairman/CEO; Stanley Bergman; Meharry Dental School Dean Dr. Cherae Farmer-Dixon; and revered oral and public health leader, Dr. Caswell Evans.

“These conversations have never been more important,” said Dr. Hildreth, an infectious disease expert. “COVID-19 has only illuminated the gulf of health disparities that exist between majority and minority communities across our country, particularly in rural communities. Over the last year, we have further focused our collective efforts on addressing these disparities, and this Summit will provide our community with the opportunity to engage around how best to make long lasting changes that will impact the lives of all people.”

The events of the last year, including the global pandemic and increased awareness of racial justice and health disparities, have encouraged a greater focus on systemic, structural and cultural challenges to achieving overall health equity. The Summit will build on this momentum and prior work to integrate oral and overall health to chart a path towards accessible and affordable health care.

“Effective health care includes oral health. The two cannot be disconnected,” said Dr. Cherae Farmer-Dixon, dean of Meharry’s School of Dentistry and the Summit’s lead organizer. “At Meharry, we understand the connection between these essential aspects of health and well-being, and we are delighted to convene a national conversation examining the intersection of health outcomes, health disparities and systemic racism. We look forward to the creative solutions that are sure to come from this collaborative event.”

The Summit’s second session, ‘Motivating Action,’ is set to take place in March 2021. This virtual event will be focused on the importance of oral health on the pathway to overall health and wellbeing. The third session, ‘Shaping Action for a Different Future,’ is scheduled for June 2021 and will focus on a wide range of medical, dental and public health topics.

The Summit has been organized by a national committee of leaders from industry, academia, government, primary care, oral health and professional associations.

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