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MLA '18 Plenary 5 Recap: Dr. David Satcher

MLA '18's closing event on Wednesday, May 23 featured David Satcher, M.D., Ph.D. His talk, entitled “The Journey from Health Disparities to Health Equity”, included highlights from his research and initiatives that were launched during his time spent as U.S. Surgeon General under President Clinton, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Founding Director and Senior Advisor for the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine.

Dr. Satcher shared the mission and vision of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine (SHLI/MSM) and outlined its five leadership development programs. The vision of SHLI/MSM focuses on leading the creation and advancement of health equity, and its mission is to “develop a diverse group of exceptional health leaders, advance and support comprehensive health system strategies, and actively promote policies and practices that will reduce and ultimately eliminate disparities in health.” SHLI/MSM’s leadership programs include the Community Health Leadership Program, Health Policy Leadership Program, Integrated Care Leadership Program, Mayors for Health Communities Program, and Smart and Secure Children Parenting Leadership Program.

During his time as Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Dr. Satcher called a commission in 1992 to study the effects of the controversial Tuskegee Study that was conducted by the Public Health Service starting in the 1930s and lasting into the 1970s. Dr. Satcher explained how he worked with President Clinton, who issued a presidential apology to 6 of the men that had been involved in the experiment and were alive at the time the apology was issued on May 16, 1997. He also summarized the commitments that were included in the presidential apology, which included all those who work with patients and conduct research must pass a test to illustrate their understanding of bioethics, the creation of a memorial for those involved in the Tuskegee Study, and the creation of the National Center for Bioethics in Research and Health Care at Tuskegee University.

As U.S. Surgeon General, Dr. Satcher was involved in several initiatives surrounding the elimination of health disparities and studies involving the social determinants of health. Dr. Satcher described his work with Healthy People 2010, which focused on increasing years and quality of life for individuals, as well as eliminating racial and ethnic health disparities. In 2004, Dr. Satcher participated in the World Health Organization’s commission to study the social determinants of health, and this commission produced a final report that was released in 2008.

The last part of Dr. Satcher’s talk focused on the importance of mental health treatment and education as a key component of advancing public health. Dr. Satcher’s closing quote, which is included in his 2008 co-authored article from the American Journal of Public Health, aptly connected with MLA ‘18’s theme Adapting, Transforming, Leading: “In order to eliminate disparities in health, we need leaders who care enough, know enough, will do enough, and are persistent enough.”

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