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Upstate honors Dr King by examining health advocacy at Health Justice Conference Jan. 15

Upstate Medical University will celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day with its annual Health Justice Conference Monday, Jan. 15.

The theme for this year’s conference is “Health Advocacy through Education: Illuminating Pathways to Progress.”

Roselyn Tso, who directs the federal Indian Health Service, leads a list of nearly 20 invited speakers who will address a broad range of health advocacy efforts. A full list of speakers is here.

The conference runs from 7:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. in ABC of the Academic Building, NAB 4414. Pre-registration is preferred and can be done here, but registration is also available at the door. The conference is free and open to the public and includes complimentary breakfast and lunch. The conference is also available online; more information in the registration link.

Event cochairs Mariel Liebeskind (MD, MPH student, class of 2026), Shade McFarlane (MD, MPH student, class of 2027) and Katie Farkouh (MD student, class of 2025) say the conference will highlight various ways to “uplift marginalized communities by increasing awareness of key social issues impacting health.”

“Health disparities and challenges to accessing adequate healthcare are major issues in our country and world today,” said Liebeskind, McFarlane and Farkouh. “By working to alleviate these disparities, we can ensure better health outcomes for disadvantaged populations in hopes of ultimately reaching health equity for all.”

Each hour the conference will offer three distinct sessions that participants can attend. Some of the issues to be addressed include Building Community Through Health Equity; Lead Poisoning Across the Lifespan; the Work of Blueprint 15 and Its Role in the New 15th Ward; the Public Health Crisis Inside Immigration Detention Centers; Student-led Efforts to address Healthcare for People Experiencing Homelessness; Practicing Harm Reduction Principles—Substance Use and Sexual Health; Maintaining Connections: Conducting Human Subject Research in an Era of Mass Incarceration; and Surgical Mission Experience, among others.

The keynote address, “Empowering change: Advocating for Health Equity in Environmental; Health Disparities and Environmental Justice, will be presented by speakers Roselyn Tso, an enrolled member of the Navajo Nation who directs the Indian Health Service, an agency within the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. As director, Tso administers a nationwide health care delivery program that is responsible for providing preventive, curative, and community health care to approximately 2.7 million American Indians and Alaska Natives in hospitals, clinics, and other settings throughout the United States.

Upstate President Mantosh Dewan, MD, will provide opening remarks.

Event sponsors include the Upstate Student Government, Upstate University Hospital, the SUNY RF; and Amboss.

The Health Justice Conference is an annual student-run conference that seeks to promote advocacy. The conference helps address ways in which Upstate students and health care professionals can serve as social advocates both personally and professionally.