By Angelica Coleman
Last week, the 14th Surgeon General of the United States, Dr. Antonia Novello, came to campus and led a panel of experts in a discussion about healthcare disparities. She was the first woman and the first Hispanic to serve as U.S. Surgeon General. Dr. Novello delivered a keynote address which unpacked the challenges of providing care to Hispanic patients and how to improve the situation. The event was sponsored by the Association of Latino Professionals for America (ALFPA).
Dr. Novello offered many suggestions about how communication with the latino community could be improved in the healthcare environment, emphasizing the fact that cultural understanding goes a long way towards improving interactions with non-English speakers. Her biggest takeaway message for nursing students in the audience was to know the culture of the community in which they work.
The panel incorporated professors from Salem State University and Simmons College, both from the field of social work as well as nursing and healthcare. The interdisciplinary nature of the panel provided for an interesting discussion about various approaches to improving healthcare relations. Even though the panelists had different backgrounds, the opinions across the board were very similar, as all the experts agreed that communication is the key element in providing better care. A standout suggestion was the thought of encouraging questions on the part of the patient, because often medical professionals offer their suggestions and do not pause for patient input or interaction.
The event was an excellent reminder to the Simmons Community that more can always be done to enhance social and cultural awareness across all professional environments. Dr. Novello is an inspirational figure as a pioneer of women in the workplace and an advocate of cultural education. It was certainly noteworthy to have such an important figure on our campus to incite conversations among the community.