College to host virtual Health Equity Conference on October 29

College leads efforts to raise awareness of health equity gaps.

The United States ranks last on measures of health equity compared to other industrialized countries, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. To raise awareness of this issue and to begin to understand equity gaps and develop a shared common language concerning health equity, Gaston College is hosting a one-day virtual Health Equity Conference on Friday, October 29. Students, faculty and staff members, community members, and students and staff of other North Carolina community colleges are invited to attend, as is anyone working in health care, social work, or law enforcement.

This Health Equity Conference is the first event of its kind hosted by a N.C. community college. Sponsored by the Gaston College Health and Human Services department, the event is in alignment with the N.C. Department of Health and Human Service’s vision for awareness of health equity gaps.

Dr. Patricia R. Smyre, Coordinator of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion at Gaston College, is spearheading the conference. “I have seen equity gaps in health care. Health equity gaps are real, and COVID-19 only helped to illuminate a systemic problem that has continued for far too long.”

The theme of the Health Equity Conference, “Champions of Equity Care,” is intended to inspire participants to promote the right of everyone to attain their full health potential. The agenda includes a welcome and introduction to the conference’s purpose, a keynote address, and breakout sessions.

Angela Bryant, former Senator and current Assistant Secretary for Equity and Inclusion at NCDHHS, will provide opening comments.

The keynote speaker is Dr. Christopher Smyre, a family medicine physician at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine with a dual appointment to the Department of Medical Humanities and the Department of Family and Community Medicine, where he is the Director of Equity, Diversity and Inclusion. Dr. Smyre will also lead one of the breakout sessions.

Others leading breakout sessions are:

  • Crystal Bowe, family physician and Physician Medical Director within the Primary Care Line for CaroMont Medical Group.
  • Donyel B. Barber, Community Centered Health Director for Kintegra Health.
  • Juan Garcia, Senior Transportation Planner and Data Analyst for Gaston County Building and Development Services.
  • Jeff Ross, Manager of Community Engagement and Corporate Responsibility for Atrium Health’s West Market.
  • Tia Robertson, Medical Director for Gaston County Public Health.

“I encourage students, colleagues and the community to attend this conference for a better understanding related to the importance of improving health outcomes for disadvantaged populations,” said Dr. Allison Abernathy, Dean of Gaston College’s Health and Human Services Division. “As a nurse, I know it is important that everyone be given a fair shot at being as healthy as possible regardless of their background or situation in life.”

The Health Equity Conference takes place Friday, October 29, 2021, from 8:30 a.m. to noon. Those interested in attending this free, virtual event should visit to register.


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