Georgetown University launched the Center for Health Equity to prepare both graduate and undergraduate students for careers that prioritize community health and reduce health disparities.
The creation of the Center for Health Equity, which was announced March 3, follows several other steps by the university to advance health equity. Georgetown and Howard University in January were awarded a $3 million grant to collaborate in the creation of the Center for Medical Humanities and Health Justice.
“Healthcare disparities are worsening in our nation and we see that across the spectrum of medical specialties,” Elizabeth Torrez (MED ’24) wrote to The Hoya. “I do not see a future in healthcare if it is not spent addressing and radically attacking these inequities.”
Dr. Michelle Roett (MED ’03), founding director of the new Center for Health Equity and co-chair of the center’s advisory committee, said it is crucial to expand upon the university’s current health equity work.
“Currently, we are trying to expand our reach in order to produce graduates who are leaders in health equity, since we are currently barely scratching the surface of what we can do,” Roett told The Hoya.
Roett said the majority of the university’s health equity work since 2017 was facilitated by an Area Health Education Centers Program (AHEC) grant, which she said inspired the creation of the Center for Health Equity by serving as a foundation for many Georgetown students and faculty to do research.
“Georgetown utilized our AHEC grant through primary care efforts, creating pipeline programs for local high school students and making pre-health pathway programs to push Georgetown students to think more globally, especially after graduation,” Roett said.
“Adding the health equity center will provide opportunities for Georgetown students to shift from volunteering for a couple hours during their studies to work locally for years, and know it can be part of their career,” Roett said.
Torrez said the Center for Health Equity will encourage students to become more involved in health justice efforts.
“It was a proud moment for me to see so many of our staff and student leaders come together in one space all prepared and willing to fight for health justice on Georgetown’s campus and beyond,” Torrez wrote.
Roett said in her interview with The Hoya that the majority of the center’s work will fall under three main subcommittees: research, community engagement, and education training and faculty development.
The research subcommittee will focus on providing research opportunities and mentors to Georgetown students, advancing equity in education and future opportunities without having to know someone involved in research.
The education training and faculty development subcommittee will propose ideas to the university and each of its schools, with the intention of implementing courses or other programs to increase competency of health equity.
Finally, the community engagement subcommittee will focus on creating longitudinal health equity in the area, which will aim to follow patients’ health throughout different time periods and levels of care. With this subcommittee, the Center for Health Equity hopes to observe a shift from medical tourism — the process where students only volunteer during their time at the university — to community coalition with established parameters and dedicated caregivers.
Torrez said the Center for Health Equity could serve as an institution that guides all health equity efforts on campus.
“By functioning as a unifying body, the Center for Health Equity is reaffirming that the promotion of health and social justice is a central and guiding value of Georgetown University,” Torrez wrote.