While Alpha Epsilon Delta, Penn State’s national health preprofessional honor society, prepares for its Diversity in Health Care conference this April, the group’s everyday work continues. Each week, AED’s team tirelessly seeks out real-world experiences and discussions for its 400 active members.
According to its mission statement, Penn State’s AED chapter is dedicated to encouraging and recognizing excellence in preprofessional health care scholarship, including medicinal, dental, and veterinary disciplines. No matter what students study, AED is inclusive for all majors and students pursuing careers in professional health care fields.
As individuals enter the medical and health care environment after college, preparation for diversity and equity is lost throughout the years of schooling. AED and its “Diversity in Health Care” task force aim for more necessary discussions to prepare for any patients’ needs.
“Our aim is the spread awareness of the ongoing disparities and inequalities going on inside the medical field,” task force sub-chair Mikaili Puckerine said. “Having a closed or fixed mindset on what your beliefs are is really harmful and detrimental to patients and even coworkers.”
Puckerine has assisted his team on prepping for the conference alongside director Lindsay Matasich and programming sub-chair Mahak Sharma. Sharma is in charge of seeking out and inviting speakers who can confidently cover the themes embedded within the conference.
The conference is just one part of the diversity task force’s work. Within AED itself, there is such a diverse cultural environment that the members can recognize how different each member’s journey is throughout the medical field.
“Learning about their stories, their background, and the various experiences they went through in order to get to this institution is really special because it allows me to understand that when I go into the medical field, I will be surrounded by the same type of people,” Sharma said. “There is so much more to health care beyond just medicine and science.”
In addition to the quickly approaching conference, AED hosts outreach activities to support its overarching mission. This includes volunteering within the community, leading shadowing and mentoring programs, hosting professional development workshops and weekly speakers, and more.
“We offer a sense of community, a sense of involvement, and, of course, professional development as students from across the pre-health spectrum look to advance in their career,” President Shravan Asthana said.
AED serves an entryway for students to understand what it’s like stepping into the medical field. Instead of comparing the field with the occasional doctor visit or when something is wrong, there are ways to grow your perspective on the field throughout college.
As the organization focuses on real-world scenarios, the leadership team likes to create opportunities involving financial literacy segments, networking within the College of Medicine, and more.
“AED makes the path into medical school and PA a lot more accessible because it is such a difficult journey,” said Matasich, AED’s conference director. “We make the process less intimidating. [Underclassmen] are surrounded by peers who are going through the same classes and can find mentors.”
To maintain a peer-to-peer mentality, the organization and task force sub-chair Bristi Chakrabarti focus on creating team-made presentations to centralize diversity conversations through “discussion sessions.”
Members within the task force come together in groups of three to four, pick between racial and ethnic disparities, gender and sexual disparities, health care workforce diversity, socioeconomic disparities, ableism, linguistic and cultural disparities, and disparities with age and elder abuse, and educate members on what is currently happening in the field.
“The better represented and understood a patient is, the better they can be treated,” executive treasurer Alex Auerbeck said. “Having these mini-lessons over broad categories sparks interest in learning more about diversity in health care.”
AED uses unequal health care treatment statistics to properly get comfortable facing wholly uncomfortable discussions Now that members are familiar with systemic issues, the organization seeks to “equip them with skills and tools to be successful providers.”
As the conference approaches, the team is extremely proud to see the growth of the seven topics and observe how involved members have been. You can register to attend the conference, set for Sunday, April 3, online.