I attended the 3rd Annual Cultural Inclusion Institute conference in San Antonio, Texas on April 21 and 22 of 2016.  I was fortunately funded to attend through the Keys to Inclusive Leadership in Nursing program.  As a nursing student, I had an incredible experience gaining knowledge!

The theme of this conference was “Relating Cultural Inclusiveness to Social Determinants of Health.” After listening to the different speakers and presentations, I was able to define social determinants of health and understand how they drive inequities for individuals and communities. I also learned about trends found in the data analysis and approaches created to reduce health disparities across different populations.

Nicole Chang and Viola Bevante at Cultural Inclusion Institute
l-r: Nicole Chang ’16, Dr. Viola Benavente and Elisa Kang ’17

Now knowing the social determinants of health that need to be addressed, the most powerful message I got out of this conference was that we, as health care professionals, must be voices and instigators of change.  When it comes to the issue of access to health care, we bring credibility and should act as coordinators and motivators to address the social and political issues that influence health care access in our communities. A quote that really stood out to me was that “people must make good choices but must have good choices to make.”

A notable discussion for me was the effect of exclusion on minority populations, for example LGBTQ individuals. The realization that there are very few laws prohibiting student bullying and employment and housing discrimination against LGBTQ individuals was astonishing.  This population is so vulnerable and lacks not just access to health services but culturally competent care.

Though there is no quick solution to eliminate health inequities, we talked about some starting points to initiate change. Proposed steps include better policies, data collection and actual interventions across the lifespan that would change the system. This includes tailoring the curriculum for health care professionals and putting relevant questions on licensing exams. I felt encouraged that great solutions had been drafted and there is a resounding push to get them into play in the community.

I received a wealth of knowledge, including techniques I could utilize to improve patient-provider communication, but most of all I was given so much inspiration and empowerment through example and acknowledgment of my social and ethical responsibilities. I truly realized my privilege and passion, in the Boston College spirit, to be a woman for others.