Roland Blackwood, associate professor of pediatrics, spoke to undergraduate students about his work fighting health care inequality in Southeast Michigan, and provided advice on thriving in the pre-med track and medical school on Tuesday night.

Blackwood noted several statistics that point to disparities in health. For example, white women have the greatest life expectancy and Black men have the lowest.

A person’s location and environment can dramatically affect health outcomes, too, he noted.

“Health can be related to all kinds of factors,” he said. “One of the things that people don‘t realize is that where you live can affect how long you live … In one ZIP code, the life expectancy can be 72 and another it‘s 86.”

Turning to his efforts to fight these inequalities, Blackwood discussed various programs within the the University’s Office of Health Equity and Inclusion, where he serves on the leadership team.

“The goal of our office is to eliminate health care disparities in our lifetime,” he said. “One of the things that we can do to affect change is to create a safe environment and to increase representation by underrepresented minorities and by disadvantaged populations.”

Though the talk was intended to focus solely on health care disparities, Blackwood spent much of the time counseling pre-med students and sharing his own accounts of pursuing a career in medicine. When Blackwood asked students to raise their hands if they were pre-med, nearly all of the roughly 30 attendees put their hands in the air.

“I found my own path with the gifts that I was given,” Blackwood said. “You are all unique individuals. You have strengths and you have weaknesses. Find them.”

He then said students should work together to get into medical school instead of competing with one another.

“When you become a physician, you will have to work together; it’s a collaboration,” he said. “When are you going to start?”

LSA junior Jenna Yousif attended the event and said she found Blackwood’s talk encouraging.

“I thought it was pretty inspirational because I am currently undecided in what I want to do, and I think his talk pushed me in a direction to explore medicine further,” she said. 

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