Educate, Engage, and Empower: Reflections on the E3 Summit in Ketchikan, Alaska

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In June of this year, we had the wonderful opportunity to attend the E3 Summit (Educate, Engage, Empower) in Ketchikan, Alaska hosted by one of the funded partners of the Community Solutions for Health Equity (CSHE) program, the Ketchikan Wellness Coalition. The goal of the E3 Summit was to further advance health equity in Ketchikan and beyond by engaging in deep conversations with health care providers, advocates, social service providers, and researchers, among others. Making our way from Boston, Massachusetts to Ketchikan and getting to explore the self-proclaimed “Salmon Capital of the World” was half the fun, with the summit providing ample opportunities to explore the town and even set-up tours for its guests.

The main theme that came out of the summit for us was on how to center community voices in health care. They brought out some amazing speakers, including a panel of physicians that shared with us examples of how they put this theme into practice. We pondered together over ideas on how to make sure people are being heard and seen, and how our interactions with the community, whether it be patients, clients, or research participants, needs to be culturally and linguistically inclusive. We also discussed the need to heal and rest, respecting ourselves and our energies before moving forward.

Dr. Anne Zink, the Chief Medical Officer for Alaska, was one of the guest speakers, and said something that stuck with us since, “We need a ‘just in case’ healthcare system, not a ‘just in time’.” This made us think about many of the programs we evaluate, and the hard work that they put in to make sure people have access to healthcare, something that is not a reality for many. We also got to hear from some other incredible speakers including Monica Koller, the founder of Connecting Community, who discussed the importance of hearing people’s stories and talked about qualitative data as “data of the heart”.

On the second day of the summit we were divided into groups to go on different tours around the town. We went on the Bering Sea Crab Fishermen’s Tour where we got to learn and see how they fish crabs off the coast, hold some other critters, and see American bald-eagles (!!!). Incredible does not even begin to describe that experience. We also got to learn about the Filipino community that lives in the town, learning more about their culture and eating some really great food. Getting to relax and enjoy Ketchikan on the second day allowed us to feel grounded, and think more deeply about our work at ICH and how we can best approach the communities we work with sincere curiosity and willingness to learn from each other. How can we best center communities in research and evaluation?

Sofía Ladner, MPH

Research and Evaluation Project Manager

Carrie Fisher, PhD

Research and Evaluation Scientist