Friday, July 23, 2010

Disparities Solutions Center celebrates five-year anniversary

FIVE-YEAR MILESTONE: From left, Slavin, Betancourt, King, Green, Auerbach and Sánchez at the June 30 celebration

THE DISPARITIES SOLUTIONS CENTER (DSC) at MGH was established in July 2005, as a first-of-its-kind center dedicated to the elimination of racial and ethnic disparities in health care. With the support of MGH President Peter L. Slavin, MD, what began with three staff members under the leadership of Joseph Betancourt, MD, today includes a staff of 10, and over the past five years has raised approximately $3.5 million in grant support to address health care disparities locally and nationally.

To mark the DSC five-year anniversary, as well as the center's many contributions and milestones, the MGH welcomed friends, colleagues and special guests -- including Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick; Department of Public Health Commissioner John Auerbach; Secretary of Health and Human Services JudyAnn Bigby, MD; and State Representative and Chair of the Joint Committee on Public Health Jeffrey Sánchez -- to a June 30 anniversary celebration held in the Bulfinch Tents. Nearly 200 guests attended to commemorate the DSC for the vital work accomplished since its establishment.

"The Disparities Solutions Center began with an idea -- that we go beyond studying disparities and move toward taking action to eliminate them," said Betancourt in his opening remarks. "We feel fortunate that the MGH believed in us and has supported our work and principals. We're proud of our portfolio of projects that have had an impact both locally and nationally in moving the elimination of health care disparities from the margin to the mainstream."

Following Betancourt's welcome, Roderick King, MD, MPH, DSC senior faculty member, introduced the governor. "As part of the Health Care Quality and Cost Council Advisory Committee, I have personally witnessed Governor Patrick's, Secretary Bigby's and Commissioner Auerbach's commitment to eliminating racial and ethnic disparities," he said, thanking the officials for supporting the work of the DSC.

Patrick commended the center, saying that the work of the DSC benefits the entire community. "We all are part of one community," he said. "And we all have a stake in addressing health care disparities and the work being accomplished at the DSC."

Following the governor's remarks, Alexander Green, MD, MPH, DSC associate director, introduced a 20-minute video that highlighted a number of the center's milestones. Among these is the establishment of the Disparities Leadership Program, which has trained 118 participants representing 58 organizations from 23 states and Puerto Rico. Other highlights included the Diabetes Management Programs for Latino and Cambodian patients at the Chelsea and Revere health care centers.

Slavin then offered remarks, acknowledging the DSC staff and Betancourt, as well as Joan Quinlan, director of the Center for Community Health Improvement, which has closely collaborated with the DSC throughout its existence.

In closing, Betancourt expressed his gratitude to Slavin, the MGH and the DSC staff. He dedicated the success of the center to his mother, Luz Betancourt, who was in attendance and works at MGH Chelsea HealthCare Center, and his father, who passed away in 1994. "Every journey begins with a first step, and I think we've certainly taken that first step and maybe the second. With continued dedication, passion, perseverance, as well as key partners and supporters, I'm certain we'll continue to march forward on this path to eliminate disparities."

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