Photo by Kimberly Williams (C’17)
By Frances Marion Givhan and Melanie Vaughn
The Sewanee Multicultural Health Society hosted their first Diversify Health Week from February 22 to 26 in order to explore various kinds of health issues. The week consisted of three different events on Monday, Wednesday, and Friday that aimed to “bring awareness to the topic of health diversity, focusing on what it means and how it affects the greater Sewanee area,” says Fridien Nana (C’17). Nana and Cortez Brown (C’16) founded the society two years ago with the goal of providing leadership and volunteer opportunities to students who feel passionate about uplifting multiculturalism, health issues in rural Appalachia and reducing health disparities through workplace diversity.
Nana says, “By talking about the health disparities in nearby communities, we push our peers to see the issues occurring so close to our campus.” He points out that Sewanee students tend to enclose themselves in a bubble and convince themselves that life beyond the gates does not differ so much from our own sheltered lives. “However,” he says, “this is not the case. Our events helped show our peers that.”
On Monday, SMHS held a panel that discussed what it means to diversify health. They invited physical therapist Lisa Hartman, Psychology professor Warren Hoss Craft, and Liza Robinson (C’16), a Health Clinic volunteer, to speak to the audience. All three provide and assist in health care for local communities with under representation. “The panel aimed to pose questions about rural Appalachian culture and how it impacts health both positively and negatively to our panelists,” says Brown. “We also invited our guests to ask whatever questions they had, as well.” Nana adds that the society wanted to facilitate a discussion about the rising issues of access to health care in Appalachia, and more specifically in nearby counties such as Grundy County.
From here, the members of SMHS sponsored a workshop in Spencer Commons called Diabetes Extravaganza that discussed the causes of diabetes and the effect it has on Sewanee’s neighboring communities. “Since Type II diabetes is prevalent in areas nearby Sewanee, we thought it imperative that we address the issue,” says Brown. During the Wednesday event, Julia’s catered while participants learned about maintenance, reversal, and patient care regarding the health issue. They also learned how to check vital signs and blood sugar levels. “Diabetes is one of those diseases that is stigmatized as not serious,” says Reeda Shakir (C’ ), one of SMHS’s members. “We wanted to enlighten our attendees about the consequences diabetes has on people’s daily lives.”
To finish off the successful week, Spencer Commons filled with people to eat Ivy Wild and converse about the information imparted on them throughout the week. “The SMHS Gala was a huge success,” says Brown. “We’re very appreciative of the Sewanee AmeriCorps VISTAs, members of the Office of Admissions, Biology Professors, Chemistry Professors, and other guests for celebrating with us.”
“We appreciate the support of Sewanee faculty and students alike in accomplishing our goals of spreading the news of health disparities in rural communities,” says Shakir.
The Sewanee Multicultural Health Society hopes to invite Sewanee alumni in the medical field who support the society’s message to speak to its members and the Sewanee community. Brown also encourages anyone who has an interest in the SMHS mission to join. Shakir also hopes that SMHS will collaborate with more organizations on our campus such as the Pre-Health and Science house, the Women’s Center, Healthy Hut, and Wellness Center. “Lastly, we would like to thank our advisors Kataren Johnson and Dr. Alyssa Summers for their unwavering support and guidance throughout this school year,” says Shakir.