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MAPS Hosts Health Disparities Discussion

The Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students sponsored a presentation by Vanessa Volpe, an assistant professor of psychology.

Volpe is director of the HEAL (Health Experiences Across the Lifespan) Lab at Ursinus.

Health disparities are defined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) as “preventable differences in the burden of disease, injury, violence, or opportunities to achieve optimal health that are experienced by socially disadvantaged populations.” According to the National Institute of Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), this includes racial and ethnic minorities, less privileged socioeconomic groups, underserved rural residents and sexual/gender minorities.

The main focus of the night was the topic of social stressors such as microaggressions causing higher levels of emotional and physiological distress for African Americans, which in turn can cause increased cardiovascular disease and premature death.

After the presentation from Volpe, students were invited to ask questions and discuss the importance of recognizing health disparities and their effects on serving patients as future medical professionals.

One of the main questions raised to the group was, “What can we do to help?” Although there is not one correct answer to that question, students discussed potential coping methods that people of color can use to reduce stress and decrease the risk of elevated blood pressure, a health risk that is alarmingly high for African American individuals, including for those at a young age.

Attendees agreed that considering health disparities is vital for providing proper care to underserved communities.

Min Son ’20, president of MAPS, says that they host speakers once a month and often connect with the Brownback-Anders Pre-Health Society in order to address the topics of minorities in medicine. In addition to lectures and speaking events, this year MAPS also visited Penn State Hershey College of Medicine to attend the Regional Leadership Conference. —By Mary Lobo ’15