“The Health Equity Fellowship is a unique opportunity that allows family physicians the time to dig deeper into the health inequities impacting their communities and innovative systems-level solutions that could address these issues,” explained Viannella Halsall, M.P.H., health equity project and program strategist at the AAFP Center for Diversity and Health Equity. “Health Equity Fellows take a magnifying glass to the social determinants of health and engage with diverse stakeholders to respond to the community’s needs. As a result, fellows become subject matter experts and leaders in the field.”
The program gives each Health Equity Fellow the time and tools to complete a capstone project that addresses health equity in their specific work. Through the project, they learn how to conduct research in the field, present findings and become subject matter experts as they focus on making a real difference in the care their patients receive.
Safiya McNeese-Ruffin, M.D., one of three family physicians in the 2021-2022 class of Health Equity Fellows, told AAFP News that her program coordinator suggested she apply.
“She felt like it would align with my passion for the care of the underrepresented/underserved community,” said McNeese-Ruffin, associate program director and director of obstetrics and women’s health at the Southern Illinois University School of Medicine Family Medicine Residency in Alton.
McNeese-Ruffin called the experience “eye-opening, exciting and educating.”
She cited highlights that have included attending her first National Conference of Constituency Leaders meeting, where a resolution she co-authored was adopted with only slight edits. “Sparking change can start with one voice, and every voice is important,” she noted.
McNeese-Ruffin reflected on how the fellowship has made her a better family physician.
“As a Health Equity Fellow, we are submerged into exploring the needs of our local communities and identifying barriers and social determinants to poor health outcomes,” she said. “In turn, we are also equipped with tools and given invaluable networking opportunities to help fuel the changes needed in our local communities.
“Becoming a Health Equity Fellow mitigates burnout and reinforces purpose and, in turn, improves the patient experience and outcomes.”
The experience has been well worth the work — “Absolutely!” she said.
The program is open through 5 p.m. CT Oct. 30 to applications from active AAFP members, especially those from populations that are underrepresented in medicine or who practice in rural areas. Applicants must be out of residency and fellowship, and in practice or in a graduate medical education leadership position.
Health Equity Fellows devote about 10% of their time to the fellowship, which will run Jan. 1-Dec. 31, 2023, and include monthly meetings and other required events.
Complete information about the program’s requirements, including meetings dates, travel expenses and more, is available on the Health Equity Fellowship webpage.
Details of application materials — which include a curriculum vitae, letters of interest and recommendation, a proposal for the capstone health equity project — are available to members on the application webpage. Applicants also must complete option 2 of the AAFP’s conflict of interest form.
All applicants will be notified of their selection status by Nov. 16, after a committee has chosen fellows for the coming term.
Members with questions can email Halsall for more information.