Faculty and Staff, Students

Dental Students Host First-Ever Health Policy Institute

Close to 40 students from throughout UNC-Chapel Hill’s health affairs campus who have shown a commitment to health policy and advocacy recently attended a two-day event to help them develop leadership in these areas.

The UNC Health Policy Institute, titled “Learning from Each Other: Advocacy and Leadership,” took place Aug. 15 and 16 at the university’s William and Ida Friday Center for Continuing Education.

A committee of dental students, led by adviser and UNC-Chapel Hill pediatric dental resident Dr. Jonelle Grant, planned this first-ever interdisciplinary advocacy institute. Other committee members were Ayanna Bradshaw-Sydnor, DDS 2009; Shannitta Bridgers, DDS 2008; Ralph Mensah, DDS 2008; Garrett Spruill, DDS 2008; Shawna Steele, DDS 2008; and Tara Wiggins, DDS 2008.

Health Policy Institute participants divided into groups to develop their own health advocacy messages. At the end of the Institute, they presented their messages to a panel of health policy experts for feedback

Mary George, associate professor of dental ecology, also served as a group adviser.

“While there are many things we can focus on within our own individual disciplines, we are much more powerful as a collective group,” said Grant, who is also pursuing her master of science in public health degree at UNC-Chapel Hill. “My hope is that this Health Policy Institute will challenge and empower participants to find integrative ways to change the face of health.”

Students representing the schools of Dentistry, Medicine, Nursing, Pharmacy, Public Health and Social Work attended the institute. The agenda included a variety of speakers, including a panel discussion featuring Dr. William L. Roper, dean of the School of Medicine; Dr. Linda R. Cronenwett, dean of the School of Nursing; Dr. Barbara K. Rimer, dean of the School of Public Health; and Dr. John N. Williams, dean of the School of Dentistry.

“Leaders from a wide range of professional fields related to advocacy have been very supportive of this effort, and we are grateful for their invaluable contributions,” said Williams. “Collaboration is crucial in the development of effective health policy and has been crucial in the successful planning of this event.”

Jack Bresch, associate executive director and director of the Center for Public Policy and Advocacy, and Monette McKinnon, director of grassroots advocacy and state issues, both of the American Dental Education Association, led several sessions on understanding the legislative process and framing effective health care advocacy messages.

Students divided into six groups for several activities that supported development of their own advocacy messages. The six groups presented their messages to a panel of health policy experts at the conclusion of the institute.