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Martin Hall Agency students launch pilot version of health disparities simulation

Written by advertising and public relations students Cheyenne Oakes, Noah Coby and Samuel Roux Health Disparities Simulation Participants playing the roles of different personas wait in line at the pharmacy station.

Students in Martin Hall Agency (MHA), the Reed College of Media’s student-run public relations and advertising firm, designed and launched the pilot version of a health disparities simulation.

The project is the culmination of a two-semester long collaboration between the Reed College of Media, the WVU School of Public Health, the School of Pharmacy, the HSC Office of Interprofessional Education and the STEPS Center and is funded by a grant from the WVU Office of the Provost.

After the COVID-19 pandemic exposed disparities in health equities, partners of the project saw a need for further education on culturally relevant, sensitive and compassionate care.

In order to begin addressing this need, students in the fall 2021 MHA capstone course worked with the partners to successfully hold two Community Action Poverty Simulations on December 2 and February 16 , which provided WVU Health Sciences students and community members with a deeper understanding of the challenges and disparities associated with living in poverty. 

Students in the spring 2022 MHA course continued the project by using feedback from the previous simulations to create a new one focused on the healthcare system, specifically. The two-hour long simulation put Health Sciences students in the shoes of marginalized people living with a health disparity so they could experience how different interactions within healthcare exacerbate the inequalities.

MHA Health Disparities Team
MHA students pause for a group photo following the simulation.

Participants were given a set of tasks to complete by navigating a series of volunteer-run stations representing doctor offices, pharmacies and specialty clinics as well as schools, employers and daycares.

“It was interesting to be able to think about putting myself in someone else’s shoes and better understand the intersectionality of marginalized populations,” said one participant, who wished to remain anonymous. “As a woman of color at WVU, seeing my peers engage with this type of experiential learning is really inspiring.”

For participants and volunteers who have experienced health disparities and inequities in their daily lives, the simulation provided a safe space for sharing the impacts of these challenges with others. 

“As a volunteer working for different stations that represented facets of the healthcare system, it opened my eyes to the need for everyone to work together,” one volunteer said.

After the simulation, participants and volunteers reflected on their experience and discussed what steps could be taken by aspiring health care professionals to improve these challenges. 

MHA students will transition the simulation over to the STEPS Center to eventually become integrated into the curriculum for Health Sciences students at WVU.