For the first time, the Penn Undergraduate Health Coalition brought together Philadelphia universities for a day of panels and workshops that focused on health issues at colleges.
PUHC, the umbrella organization for undergraduate student health groups, has been working on bringing the event, called the Philadelphia Undergraduate Health Symposium, to fruition for several months. The event aimed to allow representatives from local schools — including Temple, Drexel, Haverford, Villanova, La Salle and University of the Sciences — to come together to learn about how to improve health education and discuss common concerns.
The event included two separate keynote panels, as well as two breakout sessions during which students came together to share their ideas.
The morning panel featured Ryan Coffman, a program manager for the Tobacco Policy and Control Program in the Philadelphia Department of Public Health and Dr. Frank Leone, a pulmonologist and director of smoking treatment programs at Penn. The pair discussed how to lessen smoking on college campuses. In the following breakout session, student participants examined how they might address the problem.
The afternoon panel included Dr. Giang Nguyen, Executive Director of Penn Student Health Service, and Dr. Michal Saraf, Deputy Director of Counseling and Psychological Services, who discussed what SHS and CAPS services offer to Penn students. In the following breakout session, student participants shared how their specific health clubs spread awareness and raise funds.
Around 100 health clubs attended the event, with around 40 percent from Penn. Through their conversations they uncovered many similarities, although certain organizations place more focus on varying aspects of wellness — for instance, mental health versus sleep and diet.
Stephen Cho, College and Wharton sophomore, serves as the vice chair of external relations for PUHC and was the curator and executive director of the symposium.
“I think this Symposium can function as a springboard for facilitating more cooperation between schools for sure,” he said. “It makes so much sense for us to develop a space where we can discuss common campus health priorities as a ubiquitous part of higher education.”
Vice Chair of Internal Relations Eileen Wang, a College senior, agreed that the conference was extremely productive, bridging the gap between various schools.
“Gauging from the discussions I sat in on and participated in, people were really, really into it,” she said. “In particular, talking to people from other campuses was very beneficial — there was a lot of comparing and contrasting of our different environments.”
In the future, PUHC hopes to expand the Symposium to include other Ivy League schools, as well as more schools in the Philadelphia region in an annual tradition of collaboration.
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