Featured speakers from Pittsburgh and Mexico packed a great deal of meaning into a short time at the Sixth Annual Bioethics and Humanities Conference, held April 8 at the Northeast Ohio Medical University Education and Wellness (NEW) Center. Students from Baldwin-Wallace College and Stark State University assembled along with NEOMED students and faculty to discuss global health challenges.
Focus on the marginalized
The day’s events, organized by Julie Aultman, Ph.D., a professor in the Department of Family and Community Medicine, and Victor Torres, director of global engagement, focused on the health problems of marginalized or otherwise disadvantaged populations. Two specific presentations made an especially strong impression.
Christian Garcia-Sepulveda, M.D., Ph.D., a professor of biomedical science in San Luis Potosi, Mexico, gave a fantastic keynote on the changing face of global infectious disease. It makes some sense that the infectious disease burden would be higher in less developed nations, but Dr. Garcia-Sepulveda made it clear that these burdens are not something we can ignore just because we live far away. The United States isn’t immune to flu pandemics, and the low-quality health situations of many nations allows these sorts of illnesses to ramp up before anyone notices or can deal with them.
Additionally, the impact of rising average world temperatures allows diseases not associated with Ohio to begin traveling north, said Dr. Garcia-Sepulveda. He pointed out that some southern states are seeing infections rise at a rate that could end up matching the incidence in the so-called Third World—a distinct change that would shock the U.S. health system. The impact of leading nations on the health of developing nations comes around to harm their own citizens.
Stress: What Goes Around, Comes Around
While discussing the conference with other attendees, I found that another popular presentation was by Dr. Mark Delucia, a professor of history and political science at the Community College of Allegheny in Pittsburgh. His modern take and awareness of the world impressed people I talked to. He provided a discussion on the impact of long-term stresses—such as the centuries of slavery and marginalization African Americans have endured—on future generations. Dr. Delucia said that people descended from those who have undergone significant stressors see reduced life expectancy, poorer health outcomes, and generally lower quality of life, especially as many of them continue to be discriminated against.
On a timely note, Dr. Delucia discussed how the poor ability of discriminated populations to handle stress over time may help explain some part of the rise of terror. He also gave examples on how acceptance and communication with marginalized peoples before they radicalize or develop maladaptive behavior can help minimize their likelihood of adopting negative behavior.
The conference provided a wealth of information on the problems affecting the world—and why they matter to a medicine student on a campus in Rootstown, Ohio.
--Kyle Bertea, a second-year student in the College of Medicine, contributed this report.