The public is invited to learn more about whole health, including the actions and barriers to achieving health equity for minorities, at this year’s 18th Annual Texas Conference on Health Disparities at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth.

“Engaging the Whole Person to Address Health Disparities” on June 8 and 9 will include panels and discussions surrounding what people can do as health providers, researchers, future physicians and practitioners to enhance health equity.

HSC’s Institute for Health Disparities will host the two-day event in conjunction with the Texas Center for Health Disparities. As one of 12 institutes nationally that are part of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities Specialized Centers of Excellence, the center conducts research related to health disparities, trains new investigators in health disparity research and engages in community outreach.

The conference is in line with HSC’s recent rollout of its Whole Health Initiative, which launched in March and aims to “empower people to discover, receive and participate in care for their body, mind, spirit and environment within and through their communities.” HSC’s Institute for Health Disparities takes a holistic approach to addressing health inequity. This includes programs that impact researcher diversity; train health care students, educators and professionals; ensure the use of more representative data in artificial intelligence and machine learning; and expose minority students to the possibility of careers in biomedical science.

“The Texas Conference on Health Disparities has been a long-standing forum where the community can have open, meaningful discussion around relevant topics that impact our everyday lives and health,” said Dr. Jamboor Vishwanatha, founding director of the Texas Center for Health Disparities and vice president of HSC’s Institute for Health Disparities. “This annual conference has long been a well-attended and worthwhile opportunity to encourage conversations on the topic of health equity and promote collaboration among community partners.”

Dr. Benjamin Kligler will be the event’s keynote speaker. He is a board-certified family physician who has been working as a clinician, educator, researcher and administrative leader in the field of complementary and integrative medicine for the past 25 years. As the executive director of the Office of Patient Centered Care & Cultural Transformation in the Department of Veterans Affairs, Kligler oversees the work to advance the whole health model throughout the VA system. He will speak on “Whole Health as an Approach to Health Equity: Time for Cultural Transformation.”

“Addressing health disparities necessitates engaging the whole person,” Kligler said. “In addition to biological health, a person’s environment, early life, access to needs, connections, financial stability, mental health and so much more are vital to not only see the whole picture of health, but also combat any social determinants that may act as barriers to their quality of life and health care needs. That’s the daily work of my office at the Veterans Health Administration, and it’s a mission we take to heart.”

The conference will feature three larger panel sessions about healthy neighborhoods, breaking the stigma around mental health and trauma, and working from the inside out when conducting community engagement and outreach. There also will be several smaller breakouts on topics relating to social determinants of health — housing, transportation, access to technology, health education, insurance and access to health care, financial health, environment sustainability and mental health — as well as poster presentations on topics in one of two categories: scientific research and community programs.


Panelists include the following: 


Healthy Neighborhoods


  • Dr. Kari Northeim, assistant professor, HSC School of Public Health (moderator)
  • Dr. Rose Jones, research and strategy in urban green health, Texas Tree Foundation
  • Brandi Kelp, senior planner, City of Fort Worth Open Space Conservation Program
  • Jaime Gonzalez, program director, Houston Healthy Cities


Breaking the Stigma: A conversation about mental health, trauma and empowerment


  • Dr. Stacia Alexander, CEO and founder, Positive Influences (moderator)
  • Dr. Curtis Hill, Licensed Professional Counselor
  • Dr. Anu Partap, medical director of health equity, Cook Children’s Health Care System
  • Dr. Tonya Cunningham, “The Grief Doctor”


Working from the Inside Out


  • Dr. Emily Spence, associate dean for community engagement and health equity, HSC School of Public Health (Moderator)
  • Quinton “Q” Phillips, executive director and co-founder, Community Frontline
  • Jesse Herrera, founder and executive director, CoAct North Texas
  • Toby Savitz, director of programs, Pathfinders


Meals provided to attendees include lunch on June 8 and breakfast on June 9. Attendees should visit the website to secure their spot before registration ends on June 2.

About HSC

The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth is located in the heart of the Fort Worth Cultural District. HSC trains the health care providers and public health providers of the future, while expanding the frontiers of scientific discovery. In HSC’s five schools, students learn to work in teams and to develop an innovative mindset that prepares them for a rapidly changing health landscape. HSC Health, the clinical enterprise of the Health Science Center, provides patient-centered care to people across Tarrant County.

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