Making the Elimination of Health Disparities a Personal Priority: Meeting the Former Surgeon General

1 Feb

This past week, I had the opportunity to have lunch with former Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher. This is one of the many reasons I love Duke University–the opportunities and the wide array of connections one can form are endless. In order to take part in the luncheon, I responded to an essay contest that was sponsored by the Duke University School of Nursing with the prompt: Making the Elimination of Health Disparities a Personal Priority (link to my essay). As an undergraduate, I have tailored my academic pursuits and research endeavors toward addressing inequities in health, particularly with regards to HIV transmission among women, minorities, and marginalized populations both domestically and in Brazil. So it goes without saying that I was excited for the opportunity to engage in a discourse about this emerging topic of importance: health disparities.

The conversation itself was very inspiring. Seated at a table with the dean of the nursing school, the head of the Duke Global Health Institute, and the Director of Duke University School of Medicine’s Center for AIDS research–among other Duke higher-ups — and some of my peers whose essays had also been selected, I could feel the enthusiasm and passion that those in the room felt toward reducing inequalities in health. The dynamic was so empowering.

Dr. Satcher addressed several topics related to disparity in health: socio-economic status, education, and the basic access to socio-economic rights, e.g. the right to clean water and housing. He noted that behavioral choices, however, were the primary means through which we as individuals can reduce health disparities, citing exercise, even while in bed (he has a sense of humor), as a key example of how one can protect his health and encourage healthy habits among others.

I had the chance to ask Dr. Satcher my essay question about the internalization of health as a human right here in the United States, drawing a comparison to how a right to health has been adopted into the Brazilian constitution.

It was a lovely lunch, and it was such a privilege and an honor to have been able to take part in such an incredible opportunity.

Below are some pictures from the event.


With former Surgeon General, Dr. David Satcher
-Rachel Safeek

With Dr. David Satcher, former Surgeon General


Asking the former Surgeon General a question about health and human rights


Creating “small talk” and introductions


Group Photo

Laughing in response to Dr. Satcher's jokes

Laughing in response to Dr. Satcher’s jokes

Surgeon General Lecture

Asking Former Surgeon General, Dr. Satcher, a question

Asking Former Surgeon General, Dr. Satcher, a question

photo (12)

-Rachel Safeek


2 Responses to “Making the Elimination of Health Disparities a Personal Priority: Meeting the Former Surgeon General”

  1. solace2014 September 15, 2013 at 6:18 pm #

    What an awesome opportunity! I had just used one of his articles as part of my literature review on the health disparities section. It was in regards to how he set health disparities in the U.S. as a priority and how it would help to view addressing the issue in with a global mind set. With the development of programs like HealthyPeople 2010 and now 2020 health disparities have been highlighted and it is great to have individuals like your self take a part in the issue and be able to meet Dr. Satcher.

    • Rachel Safeek September 15, 2013 at 7:58 pm #

      Dr. Satcher is so wonderful and very passionate about his work with minority/marginalized groups! It is very refreshing to see a discourse developing around the topic of health disparities in the US, even to some extent with health care reform. I am now following your blog and look forward to reading about some of your own work! Best of luck with your research!

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