Never mind that she got a standing ovation at the end of her keynote speech.
Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice is the president and dean of the Morehouse School of Medicine, an infertility specialist, and a passionate crusader for health equity. What would she have to say of relevance to an audience of women in clean energy?
Plenty, it turns out.
The 2018 Clean Energy Education & Empowerment (C3E) symposium met in Stanford, CA on December 3-4, 2018 to network and celebrate the achievements of 9 accomplished women in clean energy. The C3E initiative aims to close the gender gap and increase women’s participation and leadership in clean energy fields.
Dr. Montgomery Rice is a formidable fighter for health equity. Her keynote address - Advancing the Health Equity Footprint in Communities - explained that just as some communities are food deserts, many communities - and communities of color in particular - are health care deserts. Many counties across the country with large black and minority populations, including the county where Morehouse School of Medicine is located, has an insufficient number of doctors to care for the local community.
She painted a stark picture of health inequity in Georgia and described her efforts to address the root causes of racial health disparities, such as access issues, the shortage of minority health professionals, and poorer health outcomes for minorities. In the simplest of terms - she said - health equity is “giving people what they need, when they need it and in the amount they need to achieve optimal health”.
Morehouse School of Medicine works to increase the diversity of the health profession and scientific workforce. Dr. Montgomery Rice spoke of issues familiar to the Office of Economic Impact and Diversity, advocating for more minority students entering medical schools but also training white medical students alongside black students, providing them the cultural competency to deliver higher quality care with sensitivity and receptivity to minority cultures.
The Intersection of Energy and Health
Dr. Montgomery Rice’s keynote address engaged the C3E audience of strong, educated women fighting for equity. She went on to discuss how access to the energy sector is a critical issue for minority and underserved communities just like access to health care. Access to energy - she reminded us - is a critical issue for millions of people in Africa - as is access to health. Here at home and everywhere, our energy choices have an impact on health. Energy production can disrupt environments, affect public health and create occupational health risks.
Use your voice on boards. You are not a token. I bring my authentic self to boards and I advocate for things that are important.
To ensure that diverse communities have a voice, we must diversify the workforce in health and in energy. But - she warned - early exposure is essential: “You have to take the science to the community. If they [minority students] can’t see what a clean energy geologist looks like, they’re not going to think about going into that field”.
Ending her remarks, Dr. Montgomery Rice delivered a strong call to action to women with hard-earned spots on board of directors. “Use your voice on boards. You are not a token. I bring my authentic self to boards and I advocate for things that are important.”
Watch Dr. Montgomery Rice’s full keynote address below.
VIDEO: Dr. Montgomery Rice’s Keynote Address
The C3E initiative aims to close the gender gap and increase women’s participation and leadership in clean energy fields. The U.S. C3E program is led by the U.S. Department of Energy in collaboration with the MIT Energy Initiative (MITEI), the Stanford Precourt Institute for Energy, and the Texas A&M Energy Institute. Learn more about C3E.