CLAS students help plan, execute health equity conference in Iowa City

Students enrolled in the Department of Health and Human Physiology’s community wellness practicum course helped host the first My City My Health conference in Iowa City last spring.
Friday, June 23, 2023

By Charlotte Brookins 

Students studying health and human physiology gained a unique experience in helping plan and produce the second annual My City My Health: Health Equity Conference.  

Aligned with the Des Moines conference in November, this year’s conference happened in April in Iowa City and was planned by the students enrolled in the community-guided wellness practicum, offered by the Department of Health and Human Physiology. The class combines knowledge acquired in other courses in the department with practical methods of implementing health equity into the community.  

Erin Litton, lecturer and internship director in the Department of Health and Human Physiology, says she and several other organizers saw an opportunity for students.  

“We started talking last summer about what this would look like in Iowa City,” explains Litton. “And as the idea continued to take hold, I saw that I could have my practicum students lead in the planning and development efforts.” 

The 19 students in the practicum combined forces and helped facilitate the event while also creating a podcast promoting the event and featuring local community leaders and experts in the healthcare field. As of early May, the podcast had 188 downloads from across the United States, Spain, and Puerto Rico. 

Students studying health and human physiology gained a unique experience in helping plan and produce

In addition to curricula learned in the classroom, students were able to apply their coursework to a practical experience. During the conference, they spoke with experts in the Iowa City community and played a major role in the planning of the event itself.  

“This year I had the opportunity to be on the Advancing Diversity and Equity Research Panel with Dr. Ebonee Johnson, Aloha Wilks, and Onyeche Oche,” says third-year psychology major and gender, health, and healthcare equity minor Krisha Keeran. “We explored research and its lessons in health disparities for marginalized groups, discussed how research can support community outreach in closing the health inequity gap, and examined local health barriers and how research can support building successful strategies. It was an honor to share the stage which such strong and brilliant women.”  

The conference featured 16 different community speakers, including Nationally Certified School Psychologist Candyce Briggs, nonprofit-founder Frederick Newell, and others. 

The conference drew 75 community-campus attendees, with 88 percent of those surveyed after said that they would recommend the experience to a friend or colleague.  

“It was inspiring to see the level of impact this conference had for campus and community partners,” Litton added. “Students also benefited from the planning and deep conversations they had with local experts while community members were able to thoroughly enjoy informed conversations and gain insights along the way.” 

My City My Health is sponsored by the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences’ Department of Health and Human Physiology, UI College of Pharmacy, UI College of Dentistry, and UI Carver College of Medicine.  

The University of Iowa College of Liberal Arts and Sciences offers about 70 majors across the humanities; fine, performing and literary arts; natural and mathematical sciences; social and behavioral sciences; and communication disciplines. About 15,000 undergraduate and nearly 2,000 graduate students study each year in the college’s 37 departments, led by faculty at the forefront of teaching and research in their disciplines. The college teaches all Iowa undergraduates through the college's general education program, CLAS CORE. About 80 percent of all Iowa undergraduates begin their academic journey in CLAS. The college confers about 60 percent of the university's bachelor's degrees each academic year.