Student Spotlight: Building Civically Engaged Health Professionals

Post written by: Mansi Kinare, Joyce Shen, Emelie Poston, and Renee Cauchon

Last month, we attended the 2023 IMPACT National Conference hosted at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. IMPACT is a four-day national conference that hosts workshops and keynote lectures centered around service, action, and advocacy for students, faculty, and administrators. We led a workshop titled “Medicine and Society: Building Civically Engaged Health Professionals.” Ours was among many workshops within a range of topics, such as mutual aid, transportation justice, leadership, fat liberation, and community-oriented social work. The IMPACT Conference offers space for social change makers and innovators to engage in thoughtful discussion and learn from one another.

Attendees with various health-related roles participated in our self-developed workshop, including pre-med students, public health students, and advisors. We encouraged attendees to view community service and healthcare through an asset-based lens, emphasizing that students can go beyond fitting into a certain mold or “checking off” boxes when engaging in service. We illustrated the concept of social determinants of health and the importance of interacting with patients with an awareness of their background, environmental contexts, and experiences beyond symptoms, as health is influenced by many factors outside of what we can deduce from a patient’s medical history. Through a combination of informative slides and interactive activities—such as case studies and group discussions—we shared these ideas and our own experiences. In the end, we received positive feedback from attendees who were eager to apply these lessons in their universities and communities. Our goal was to discuss the importance of being civically engaged throughout the pre-health journey because we are deeply involved in Northeastern’s Alliance of Civically Engaged Students (NU|ACES), through which we learn about, and serve organizations focused on addressing topics such as health equity and social justice.

IMPACT was filled with many engaging and empowering workshops, each with its own unique topic. It was an honor to attend and present at the conference, which was made possible by sponsorship from the Office of Undergraduate Research and Fellowships and the Office of Community Service and Civic Engagement. We connected with attendees from diverse backgrounds who offered unique perspectives on what civic engagement means to them and why they chose to explore the topic through healthcare. Moreover, we reached an audience that may not engage in these conversations often, so we shared an ongoing resource page of educational opportunities to learn more about these topics. We hope others add to this spreadsheet to compile a database of nationwide resources that prepare students to be civic minded in their future health careers.

We aim to continue these discussions throughout our careers, keeping ethical civic engagement at the forefront of our work. In the short term, this means continuing to engage with organizations in our communities, mentoring peers through programs such as NU|ACES, and exploring our passions in medicine. Ultimately, Allie hopes to pursue a dual MD-PhD to investigate disparities in psychiatry, Mansi is interested in earning a dual MD-MPH to understand the connections between community health inequities and policy, Joyce hopes to pursue an MD and conduct biomedical research to make equitable advancements in medicine, and Gracie is interested in earning an MD and studying philosophy to explore the intersection between these two fields.