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Student-run healthcare conference reaches milestone

April 08, 2024
by Colin Poitras

Theme of the 20th Annual Yale Healthcare Conference is “Pushing Boundaries in Healthcare Innovation: Pioneering the Next 20 Years in Health”

When the first Yale Healthcare Conference took place two decades ago, about 100 people attended, and the event was held in the intimate confines of Horchow Hall, a former single family home on New Haven's Hillhouse Avenue.

When the 20th annual conference convenes on April 12 this year more than 500 students, distinguished academics, and industry leaders will participate in a daylong event taking place virtually and in person in the School of Management’s sprawling Edward P. Evans Hall, including the school’s 350-seat Zhang Lei Auditorium. This year’s event will have 50 speakers, several keynote presentations, and multiple executive panels and breakout sessions.

What makes the event special is that it is entirely organized and run by students. Graduate student organizers of this year’s event said they specifically focused on the number 20 in selecting the theme — “Pushing Boundaries in Healthcare Innovation: Pioneering the Next 20 Years in Health.”

“Twenty years of so many senior classmates before us, coming together to bring life to a conference where healthcare professionals and aspiring future leaders can fearlessly talk, think, and inspire,” the organizers say in a message on the event’s website.

The event is a collaborative effort involving students in the Yale Schools of Public Health, Management, Nursing, and Medicine. This year’s executive co-chairs are two Yale School of Public Health students — Rabeea Shaikh, MPH ’24 (Health Policy Management), and Chloe Yang, MPH/MBA ’24 (Business and Management).

Dr. Howard Forman, MD, the event’s faculty advisor, said the conference is an enormous undertaking that helps students learn and apply many business management fundamentals such as personnel management, operational leadership, budgeting, and fundraising.

“It’s a very good learning experience for them,” said Forman, who is a Yale professor of economics, of management, and of public health (health policy) in addition to being a professor of radiology and biomedical imaging. “Over a full year life cycle, they learn how to take a concept and turn it into a full-blown conference, including an evaluation piece. We also have a very, very invested advisory board that helps us a lot.”

The inaugural conference was organized as a way to bring Yale students and alumni interested in healthcare together to discuss policies and practices, and share innovative ideas about the future of healthcare. The conference's popularity and impact is reflected in the fact that many alumni continue to participate year after year.

"It is the tightest fraternity you could ever imagine," Forman said. "Alumni come back for conferences year after year after year and there will be a lot of prior co-chairs coming back. They are so proud that they are part of the history of this. It really is wonderful."

Yale alumni play an important role on the conference's advisory board. For instance, one of the primary sponsors of this year’s conference is Northwell Health, New York’s largest healthcare provider. Ramon Soto, a senior vice president and chief marketing and communications officer at Northwell, is a member of the advisory board. He is also a former member of the School of Management's MBA program for executives.

Another advisory board member, Ingrid M. Nembhard, PhD, is being honored with this year’s John D. Thompson Distinguished Visiting Fellow Award. Each year, faculty, students, and alumnae of the Yale School of Public Health’s Health Management Program celebrate and honor Thompson’s memory in handing out the award, which pays tribute to Thompson’s contributions as an educator, researcher, and mentor in health administration, including his pioneering work in healthcare finance and hospital quality care.

Nembhard is also one of this year’s keynote speakers. She is the Fishman Family President’s Distinguished Professor, professor of health care management, and professor of management (organizational behavior) at The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. Prior to the joining the Wharton faculty, Nembhard was the Ira V. Hiscock Tenured Associate Professor at the Yale School of Public Health, associate professor at the Yale School of Management, director of the Yale Training Program in Health Services Research, and associate director of the Health Care Management Program at Yale. Nembrand has bachelor’s degrees in ethics, politics, and economics and in psychology from Yale, a master’s from Harvard’s school of public health, and a PhD from Harvard’s business school.

The other keynote speaker is Dr. Garth Graham, MD, MPH ’01, director and global head of healthcare and public health partnerships at Google Health and YouTube. A cardiologist, researcher, and public health expert, Graham previous served as U.S. deputy assistant secretary for health and as assistant dean for health policy and chief of health services research at the University of Florida School of Medicine. He is a former president of the Aetna Foundation and was previously vice president and chief community health officer at CVS Health. Graham is a Yale alum who obtained his medical degree at the Yale School of Medicine and an MPH from the Yale School of Public Health.

The conference takes place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Conference registration and agenda information can be found on the event’s website. The event is approved for 5.5 hours of Qualified Education credit for certain members of the American College of Healthcare Executives. Yale SOM students can use their Enterprise Learning Credit to help cover the cost of admission. YSPH students can use their annual Conference Funding Reimbursement offered by SAYPH to cover conference costs.

This year’s conference will also feature an art exhibit entitled — “Visions, Voices, Verses: Art & Poetry in Healthcare.” The digital art exhibition invites visitors to immerse themselves in an exploration of health and illness through the lens of art and poetry. The exhibit will feature art and poetry that offer intimate glimpses into personal and observed experiences.

According to the event’s website: “Visions, Voices, Verses” is more than an exhibition; it is a movement, a call to action for artists and poets to join hands in redefining the landscape of healthcare. Through your art and poetry, you have the power to enlighten, to challenge, and to inspire change.”

The exhibit is curated by Mary Pang, MPH ’23 (social and behavioral sciences).

Submitted by Colin Poitras on April 01, 2024