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Kingfisher hosts symposium on adopting more humane health care

Kingfisher Institute LogoCreighton University’s Kingfisher Institute hosted a symposium on how the U.S. can create a more humane health care system.

The Human/e Health and Health Care Symposium took place via Zoom Oct. 23-24. The goal of the program, which included panel discussions from Creighton experts as well as keynote presentations from nationally recognized thought leaders, was to explore how the health care system can embrace a style of care that recognizes the whole person and whole communities in a complex world.

The program featured keynote speakers each day of the symposium. Friday’s keynote speaker was Jonathan Metzl, MD, PhD, author of Dying of Whiteness: How the Politics of Racial Resentment is Killing America’s Heartland. Saturday’s was Uché Blackstock, MD, founder and CEO of Advancing Health Equity and one of Forbes’ 10 Diversity and Inclusion Trailblazers You Need to Get Familiar With.

Metzl’s presentation outlined key themes from his book, Dying of Whiteness, which examines how deeply rooted racist attitudes cause poor white people to adopt political positions that harm them in the long run.

As an example, Metzl spoke about his research interviewing low-income people in Tennessee about the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Over and over again, Metzl said he heard from low-income white men — many suffering from serious health conditions — who could have benefitted from the ACA, but did not enroll because they believed the act was giving government handouts to undeserving immigrants and people of color.

“I can’t tell you how often I heard a story like this,” Metzl said. “These people were really medically sick, and over the three years of research, a number of them passed away from untreated medical illness because they weren’t signing up for the Affordable Care Act. … It wasn’t just 10-12 white guys in a room, it was a narrative that had spread to the entire state.”

Metzl’s keynote presentation was followed by a panel discussion with Kelly Dineen, RN, JD, PhD, director of the Health Law Program in the School of Law; Renuga Vivekanandan, MD, associate professor in the School of Medicine; Nicole Piemonte, PhD, assistant dean for medical education in the School of Medicine; and Christopher Whitt, PhD, vice provost for Institutional Diversity and Inclusion.

On the second day of the symposium, participants engaged in several workshops and roundtable discussions, in addition to hearing Blackstock’s keynote presentation.

The symposium was approved by Creighton’s Office of Continuing Education for continuing education hours in nursing, pharmacy, medical and legal education. A committee of faculty and staff from across the University helped organize the event. Funding was provided by Humanities Nebraska and the National Endowment for the Humanities as part of the 2020 Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

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