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FunTimes Magazine

FunTimes Friday Happy Hour: ‘Health Awareness’ Presented by Perelman School of Medicine

Sep 02, 2021 02:00PM ● By Nana Ama Addo
promo image with words "Health Awareness" with photos of Dr. Florencia Greer Polite, host Jennifer Smith, co-host Jack Drummond, and two medical students Chidinma Wilson and Victor Ayeni

On Tuesday, August 17th at 6 pm, community members attended the virtual FunTimes Friday Happy Hour event, themed ‘Health Awareness’. This event, in conjunction with the Perelman School of Medicine, explored the impacts of COVID-19, and how the legacy of racism in the medical field has contributed to the COVID-19 vaccine mistrust in Black communities and communities of color.

Co-hosts Jennifer Smith, CEO of Imperial Caribbean & Seafood, and Jack Drummond, Director of Equity, Diversity, Inclusion, and Multicultural Student Engagement at the University of Pennsylvania, led an engaging discussion on the COVID-19 realities for Black people and Black people in the medical industry.

The knowledgeable panelists, Dr. Florencia Greer Polite, Chief of the Division of Obstetrics and Gynecology and a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Penn Medicine, Chidinma Wilson, M.D. candidate at Perelman School of Medicine, and Victor Ayeni, also an M.D. candidate at the Perelman School of Medicine, educated the audience on the importance of Black people being in medical spaces and assisted in creating increased COVID-19 vaccine awareness.

Wilson, a co-coordinator for the United Community Clinic and the Student National Medical Association Community, who coordinates with local vulnerable communities to tackle issues such as vaccine hesitancy, and booster and COVID-19 enrollment vaccines, says: “Diversity and inclusion is important in medicine because it affords advocacy to marginalized students from people who look like them, and allows patients to have people in the institutions to look out for you and guide you.”

Ayeni, a second-year student at the University of Penn, is the community service co-chair of SNMA (Student National Medical Association), a community support group for medical students of the African diaspora. He works with community health clinics, vaccine drives, and exercise videos for West Philly churches. Ayeni says some of the issues he faces during his time as a student are learning how to address the lack of diversity in the medical field, and navigating conversations around inclusion in the medical industry with professors.

When describing some of the challenges they face as medical students during COVID, Chidinma says she initially struggled with the social isolation of COVID-19 and balancing conversations about vaccine hesitancy due to historical memory by looking for a way to promote vaccine adherence while understanding peoples’ perspectives.

Dr. Polite, who has over 20 years of experience in medicine, notes the dual pandemics of systemic racism and COVID-19. She also notesBlack people and people of color having worse outcomes for illnesses such as diabetes and cancer.  Dr. Polite tells audience members that the natural immunity a person may have after getting COVID-19 the first time ends quicker than the vaccine, and says “Access is not an issue. Hesitancy is.” After revealing that hesitancy and mistrust makes Black people even more vulnerable to the health disparities, Dr. Polite advises people to protect their friends and family by vaccinating those who meet the age requirement for the dose/doses to avoid death and to protect all those around them.

Thank you to everyone who made this event possible! Stay tuned for our next event.

Have you recieved the vaccine? Comment below!

 Nana Ama Addo is a writer, multimedia strategist, film director, and storytelling artist. She graduated with a BA in Africana Studies from the College of Wooster, and has studied at the University of Ghana and Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology. Nana Ama tells stories of entrepreneurship and Ghana repatriation at her brand, Asiedua’s Imprint ).

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