UCSF Fresno Health Equity Action Lab Addresses Health Disparities and Inequities

A unique effort is underway at UCSF Fresno as a newly created Health Equity Action Lab has been launched to address health disparities and inequities experienced by the diverse patient population served in the San Joaquin Valley.

“The purpose of the UCSF Fresno Health Equity Action Lab is to bring together physicians and others from the different programs to learn about health inequities, to share the work they are doing in this arena (outreach programs, research, etc.), and to brainstorm about other ways to improve the health of our communities,” said Lori Weichenthal, MD, UCSF Fresno assistant dean of Graduate Medical Education, associate program director of Emergency Medicine, and UCSF professor of Clinical Emergency Medicine.

Understanding social, environmental, and structural factors affecting patient populations is important for all physicians, and especially in Fresno, where there are huge disparities in life expectancy, access to care, exposure to air pollution, and poverty, among other inequities and disparities, said Mackensie Yore, a fourth-year resident in Emergency Medicine who developed the Health Equity Action Lab with the support of Dr. Weichenthal and Kenny Banh, MD, UCSF Fresno assistant dean of Undergraduate Medical Education, Education Fellowship director, San Joaquin Valley PRIME assistant director, and UCSF assistant clinical professor of Emergency Medicine.

“Fresno seems to me to be the perfect place to have a strong emphasis on health equity because our patient population could benefit so much,” Dr. Yore said. “The lab is a place to gain a better understanding of the resources available to patients who need them as a part of our treatment plans.”

UCSF Fresno’s decision to open the lab to all residencies sets it apart from other health equity projects.   Health equity tracks for residents typically are targeted to a specific training program, such as Emergency Medicine, Dr. Yore said. She considered limiting the UCSF Fresno lab to Emergency Medicine, but opened it to all nine of UCSF Fresno’s residency programs, 18 fellowship programs and the three physician assistant residency programs after conducting a campus-wide survey that showed widespread interest.

Establishing the UCSF Fresno Health Equity Action Lab allows physicians, like Dr. Yore, to improve health on a community scale. During medical school at Stanford, Dr. Yore studied emergency medical care in Tanzania for a master’s in Global Health from UCSF, and she chose to specialize in Emergency Medicine because, “I wanted a career where I could be a full-time physician, but have the ability to take on community-engaged projects and policy work,” she said. “I hope to get back into Global Health, but in the past several years, I realized we have a lot of work to do right here.”

The UCSF Fresno Health Equity Action Lab provides the mechanism for many different health professionals to work together to address health inequities. Participants will be given selected readings on health equity issues, and Dr. Yore wants to arrange conversations and collaborations with community-based organizations and local institutions who serve at-risk groups of Fresnans.

“I hope this can grow and turn into a really thriving and growing community of people who want to be community engaged and work across departments; and for this to be a lasting program at UCSF Fresno,” Dr. Yore said.