Health Equity Curriculum: Seeking to End Health Disparities


Duke Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences (HNS&CS) recognizes historical and ongoing effects of systemic discrimination that has led to health inequities, primarily affecting underrepresented patients in the United States.

To help address this, we created the Health Equity Curriculum. Under the guidance of Dr. Trinitia Cannon, and led by residents Dr. Somtochi Okafor (PGY-4), Dr. Nicholas Frisco (PGY-2), and Dr. Robbie Patterson (PGY-4), this initiative aims to address health disparities and promote health equity in otolaryngology-head and neck surgery and the communication sciences. 

The curriculum emphasizes the need for medical education and training to equip future healthcare leaders with the knowledge and skills to address these disparities. 

It focuses on understanding the underlying causes of health inequities, identifying disparities within HNS&CS, developing leadership and research abilities to address these disparities, and fostering the development of future health equity practitioners. 

Leveraging Health Equity Research Experts

The curriculum comprises three main components: didactic education, research, and mentorship. The didactic education encompasses department-wide activities such as grand rounds presentations, journal club meetings, and monthly research meetings. 

So far, the department has hosted four grand rounds speakers who are experts in health equity research and practice, including:

  • Dr. Mark Shrime, International Chief Medical Officer for Mercy Ships
  • Dr. Michelle Morse, Chief Medical Officer in the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene
  • Dr. Adina Lundy, Assistant Professor of Psychology at the University of Rhode Island
  • Dr. Carrie Francis, Associate Professor of Pediatric Otolaryngology at the University of Kansas.

Health Equity Focus Pathway

The curriculum also offers a Health Equity Focus as an optional pathway for trainees who want to further develop their expertise in this area. Trainees in the Health Equity Focus will collaborate closely with faculty mentors to design and carry out research projects related to health equity. 

This pathway also provides additional educational and scholarly opportunities, such as coursework on health disparities research. Trainees will also gain leadership experience by organizing journal club meetings, presenting at grand rounds, and completing a research project focused on a health equity topic.

Our Goal: Help Eliminate Health Disparities 

The ultimate goals of the curriculum are to equip departmental members with the knowledge and skills to address health disparities, promote research on health equity topics, and improve care and patient outcomes for marginalized populations. 

By implementing this curriculum, the Duke Department of Head and Neck Surgery & Communication Sciences aims to train future leaders in HNS&CS health equity and contribute to the elimination of health disparities.