Camara Jones, MD, PhD, MPH, spoke to an audience that overflowed to two auditoriums recently about how race, social status and discrimination factor in to health equity, and what medical professionals can do to improve race-associated differences in health outcomes. The lecture, which took place Sept. 18, was the first of the academic year on the Health Sciences Campus from USC Visions and Voices, an ongoing series that brings a variety of speakers, performers and events to USC campuses to engage students and others in the arts and humanities.

Jones, a physician, epidemiologist and senior fellow at the Satcher Health Leadership Institute and the Cardiovascular Research Institute at the Morehouse School of Medicine, spoke extensively about the problems faced by minority populations in the U.S., using animations, illustrations, creative analogies and allegories to explain how people can “fall off the cliff” when faced with a medical crisis, and where a person could “land” after such a crisis, depending on their race and socioeconomic status.

She went on apply this cliff analogy to real-world health equity concerns. “An example of addressing the social determinants of health would be addressing poverty, or addressing adverse neighborhood conditions,” such as lack of basic services or safety concerns, Jones explained. These can only be fixed, she continued, if you understand the reasons the adverse conditions exist in the first place.

Jones, who also is the immediate past president of the American Public Health Association, engaged the audience by presenting her lecture as a conversation. She encouraged attendees to speak out with questions or comments while she was speaking, which led to interactions that created a deeper understanding of the concepts being presented.

“When you find yourself at a decision-making table, your first job is to look around and say ‘who is not here who has an interest in this proceeding?’ ” Jones said. “And then your job is not just to represent their interests at the table, but to try to find them a way to the table.”

More information on future Visions and Voices events can be accessed at

— Amanda Busick