2018 Schweitzer Leadership Conference Recap from Nyahne Bergeron – Health & Medicine Policy Research Group

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2018 Schweitzer Leadership Conference Recap from Nyahne Bergeron

November 30, 2018 Written By: Guest Author

We’re pleased to present this guest post from 2013-2014 Schweitzer Fellow for Life Nyahne Bergeron.

During the weekend of November 2-4, 2018, Schweitzer Fellows and Fellows for Life (FFLs) from the groups across the U.S. convened in Tulsa, Oklahoma for the Schweitzer Leadership Conference. Before I reached the conference center, I felt the camaraderie from Fellows who were arriving from their respective cities at the Tulsa airport, looking forward to the weekend and excited about the activities ahead.

The first notable activity at the conference was meeting with Fellows and Fellows for Life from other cities in interdisciplinary learning groups to discuss our paths to the Schweitzer Fellowship. It was amazing to hear others stories, some marked with personal adversity, others led by an early desire to advocate for underserved groups, and how those experiences fostered a desire to perform meaningful work in communities of need. Following this activity, attendees had an opportunity to hear from the Mayor of Tulsa, G.T. Bynum, and the President of the University of Tulsa, Gerry Clancy, MD. Tulsa is interesting in that it is known as a ‘purple’ city in a red state, so it was informative to hear the perspectives of leaders in this community about how poverty, socioeconomic inequality, and health disparities are addressed, particularly in minority communities. It led to an interesting discussion around the city’s current approaches to these issues, a few of which varied from the perspectives of the largely liberal audience of Fellows and Fellows for Life.

Saturday, the bulk of the conference sessions took place in the Arts District of Tulsa at 36º North, an innovative coworking space. The day began with a keynote presentation from Leslie Hsu Oh on her project, which originated in Boston and focused on Hepatitis B prevention. It is also the longest running project in Schweitzer Fellowship history. Her personal story was incredibly moving and engaging, and it was interesting to hear how her personal path evolved outside of her project, especially as she learned to let it go and turn it over to her community. The peer-led Fellow and FFL sessions were awesome and focused on a variety of topics. I attended two sessions: Leadership for Social Change, led by Tulsa Fellow, Patrick Grayshaw, which focused on the value of the Social Change Model of Leadership; and Integrating Complementary and Alternative Medicine into Healthcare for the Underserved, led by our very own Chicago FFL Kelli Bosak, which was an engaging overview of her integration of alternative medicine therapies into a community health clinic setting which also integrated a brief meditation.

The most memorable experience from the conference was the opportunity to visit community sites that addressed social and health inequities. My interdisciplinary learning group visited the John Hope Reconciliation Center. The park honors the story of the African American and Native American Migration to Oklahoma, the growth of Black Wall Street, the Greenwood Historic District (which our group also visited), and its destruction in the Tulsa Race Massacre in 1921. The Center was built for visitors to understand the need for reconciliation and restitution for Tulsa’s African American community, who to this day harbor mistrust and continue to experience racial injustice and community-level segregation in the city. It was an eye opening and emotionally charged moment to learn about the short- and long-term impact of the Tulsa Race Massacre and I was shocked that there was not more awareness and education about this event, one of the most devastating in the history of race relations in the United States.

Aside from conference sessions, we were given the opportunity to have a semi-formal dinner at the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and visited the Gathering Place, a new, large, nature-focused riverfront park built as an inclusive space for all Tulsans.

Overall, I really enjoyed this conference. I enjoyed that the sessions were Fellow-led and that there was a focus on bringing the events into the community to facilitate learning. I also enjoyed connecting with other Fellows and FFLs, and it gave me a new perspective on the impact of the program across cities. Although other programs vary in size and format, many of the issues the Fellows and even FFLs face in building and sustaining projects are all very similar, and I think the ability for the attendees to meet, learn from each other, and discuss their projects was super valuable and impactful.