Community Needs Must be Met to Bridge Gaps in Health Care Disparity


Sampson Davis, MD, the keynote speaker for the 2023 PBMI Annual National Conference, discussed how the health care system needs to build trust and tailor approaches that meet community needs.

To address social determinants of health and bridge the gaps in healthcare disparity, the healthcare system needs to build trust and tailor approaches that meet community needs, said Sampson Davis, M.D., the keynote speaker for the 2023 PBMI Annual National Conference.

“In order to address healthcare equity, I could build 55 hospitals, it doesn't matter. Because if people don't feel like whatever their issue is, is being addressed, they are not going to use the facility,” Davis told a full-house audience at the first day of the PBMI meeting.

Davis is an emergency medicine physician, best-selling author and inspirational speaker.

He said his older brother, Kenneth Davis, died from COVID-19 in April 2020 and his older sister, Roselene Davis, died of colon cancer four months later.

Sampson noted the higher COVID-19 death rates among Black and Brown people, which he said could be traced to crowded living situations that didn’t allow for social distancing and employment in service and other industries that didn’t allow people to work from home. He said he tried to persuade his sister to get colonoscopies, but she didn’t trust the healthcare system, despite him being a doctor.

“Health equity is dealing with giving people what they need,” Davis said. “My community may be plagued by asthma, so I need to have resources that deal with asthma. Or my community may be a working class, blue collar community, and I work 14 hours a day. So then you need to have facilities either open late at night or in the early morning so that they can have access.”

Transportation may be an issue, Davis continued, so mobile units that go into the community may be a way of addressing healthcare equity in that community. Other communities may have financial struggles and resource shortages that may it difficult for individuals in that community to afford medications.

“It's not a race thing. It's not a gender thing, it's not a weight thing, it's really just understanding the community and what the challenges are. But it's something that we can't ignore,” Davis said.

Sampson retold the story at the heart of the 2002 best-seller he co-authored, “The Pact: Three Young Men Make a Promise and Fulfill a Dream.” Sampson and high school friends George E. Jenkins, D.M.D., now a dentist at the Columbia College of Medicine, and Rameck R. Hunt, M.D., now an obesity specialist at Princeton Health in Princeton, New Jersey, agree as high school students in Newark, New Jersey, to become doctors despite their disadvantage backgrounds.

Sampson said he, Jenkins, and Hunt were cutting class and running from a security guard and the school principal when they ducked into the school library and accidentally stumbled on a presentation about a Seton Hall University program on careers in health and science.

Sampson said he was naïve about how long the education and training would take. “I said, ‘Hold on, timemout, you guys want to go to school on purpose, for eight more years?’ And they said, ‘No. We can do this. And we can do it together.’”

He also credited an administrator at Seton Hall, Carla Dickson, with making an exception and admitting all three of them into a program for pre-med and pre-dental students that was supposed to admit just one student per high school. He urged the audience to look for similar opportunites.

“Carla took all three of us from the same school from the same city. She said she just knew that it was something that she had to do. I think that's the part I want to impress upon everyone, that there is going to be a moment that there it's something that you have to do that's going to be maybe unconventional, it’s legal, but it may not be the traditional path, and the life that you can change, the life that you can shape, is the most rewarding part about this thing called life, being there to help someone along the way.”

This article originally appeared on Managed Healthcare Executive.

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