Strong Kids

New Pediatrics Scholarship Program Will Address Health Inequity

Mar. 19, 2021
Program will Enable Residents to Research Inequities in a Variety of Topics

A new program launched by the University of Rochester Medical Center Department of Pediatrics will train pediatricians and support their development in understanding and addressing health inequity through research and community engagement.

Called the Frederick Douglass and Susan B. Anthony Scholars Program, this initiative will engage diverse and expert community faculty representing child and adolescent health in multidisciplinary fields such as education, literacy, family systems, trauma, and mental health. The program will help scholars acquire skills to advocate for policy level change addressing health inequity and its impact on groups historically underrepresented in medicine, such as Black, Latinx, and American Indian/Alaskan Native individuals, as well as women and LGBTQ+ individuals.

“With demands for structural change sweeping the nation, now – more than ever – is a critical time to launch this program addressing health equity and encourage our trainees to advocate for reforms that will help our most historically marginalized communities,” says Patrick Brophy, M.D., chair in the Department of Pediatrics, 

The inaugural scholars will study the following subjects:

  • Terace Thomas, M.D. (resident) – enhancing successful transition to adulthood for youth aging out of foster care
  • Matthew Present, M.D. (resident) – increasing school readiness for youth ages 0-5 by building home libraries for children and families
  • Jennifer Baxter, D.O. (resident) – supporting breastfeeding for families of color
  • Ariel Reinish, M.D. (fellow) – safeguarding adolescent confidentiality in electronic health records
  • Veronica Kwiatkowski, M.D. (fellow) – improving quality of life for children with eczema

These projects represent a diverse range of subjects that address clinical, educational, and technological inequities. Fellow Ariel Reinish’s project will focus on quality improvement for the patient portal, increasing access while protecting confidentiality for teenagers.

“When I began my Academic General Pediatrics fellowship, I became increasingly interested in how the electronic medical record serves as a valuable clinical tool but can also compromise confidentiality for adolescent patients, particularly through unintended parent/guardian portal proxy access.” said Reinish, “We know that when teenagers have concerns about their confidentiality, they are less likely to seek healthcare, including important preventative, reproductive, and mental health services.  Furthermore, unintended disclosure of sensitive information, such as sexual activity or LGBTQI identity, can lead to further physical and mental health disparities for teenagers.”

Resident Jennifer Baxter’s project is aimed at addressing inequity in breastfeeding rates in Rochester’s communities of color.

“After looking into the data, I found that there are significant racial, ethnic, and economic disparities with regard to breastfeeding within the city of Rochester, and I am hoping to reduce these disparities through improved education and resources for both providers and for parents,” said Baxter. “Additionally, I intend to advocate for improved socioeconomic support for breastfeeding in Monroe County to help remove some of the greatest barriers to breastfeeding that my patients are facing in the community so that all babies and mothers have the support they need to successfully breastfeed.”  

Every Scholar’s project will include tenets of community-based approaches and include community voices in planning and dissemination - even for projects working within the academic health center.  The Scholars program is framed within the Biopsychosocial Model, in which health is viewed as all-encompassing and occurring well outside of our health systems in the communities where children live, study, and play.

Scholars will also have a mentorship team from across the Department, Medical Center, and University.  This may include faculty from the River Campus Susan B Anthony Institute for Gender, Sexuality, and Women’s Studies and the Fredrick Douglass Institute for African and African-American Studies, faculty from URMC Public Health Sciences, and core mentorship from the department of Pediatrics, particularly through the Hoekelman Center for Health Beyond Medicine, led by Dr. Andy Aligne.  Scholars will be expected to present their work at both regional and national meetings.

“In launching this program, we hope URMC can build on our nationwide leadership in training residents and fellows to help create social change beyond our hospital walls,” said Katherine Greenberg, M.D., vice-chair for diversity and culture development, “and provide evidence for how academic medical centers can use their resources to make transformational changes in the communities they serve.”