Institute for Public Health hosts 15th Annual Conference and Poster Session, October 26

Written by Kim Furlow, communications manager for the Institute for Public Health

Held by all human beings — regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or other status — human rights include the right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, and the rights to work, family, movement and education. The World Health Organization (WHO) defines health as “a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity.” This definition is expansive, conceptualizing health as not merely of body and disease, but one measured by general “well-being.”

On October 26, from 8:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., the Institute for Public Health presents its 15th annual conference, Health as a Human Right. The in-person event will take place at the Eric P. Newman Education Center on the Washington University Medical Campus and will explore the concept of health as a human right, particularly, how health can affect the enjoyment of our human rights, and how the lack of access to human rights can affect our health.

The Institute for Public Health welcomes the following guest speakers: 

Sofia Gruskin, JD, director, Institute on Inequalities in Global Health, professor of preventive medicine, Keck School of Medicine and professor of law, Gould School of Law at University of Southern California

E. Tendayi Achiume, JD, U.N. Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance and professor of law at University of California, Los Angeles

Matifadza Hlatshwayo Davis, MD, Director of Health for the City of St. Louis

The conference includes a keynote speech by Sofia Gruskin, JD, on the relationship between health and human rights, with examples drawn from the COVID-19 pandemic and recent developments around reproductive rights. Additionally, the audience can participate in a “fireside chat” -style conversation between experts, Tendayi Achiume, JD, and Mati Hlatshwayo Davis, MD, on the intersection of human rights, racial discrimination & health equity. During two panel discussions, panelists will reflect on the positive and negative impacts of health policies and practices on human rights, and what happens when we fail to protect—or even violate—a person’s human rights.

Through audience engagement with our speakers and panelists, we will also explore:

  • How intersectional discrimination and racial disparities affect access to health as a human right 
  • How barriers to health care access associated with gender, sexual orientation/gender expression, age, and immigration status impede access to other human rights (shelter, work, education, civic participation, and bodily integrity)
  • What health care providers need to understand about human rights violations (gun violence, gender discrimination, race or indigenous status, war or forced displacement) and their affects on patients and the communities they serve

Two panel discussions feature local and international panelists.

  • Panel 1: The human right to health as a gateway to other human rights
  • Panel 2: Human rights violations affecting individual and community health

Read more about the panelists!

After the conference, there will be networking opportunities and a poster session. Light fare and beverages will be provided. The deadline for submitting abstracts relating to the conference theme or other public health topics is Sunday, September 25 at 11:59 p.m. CDT.

The annual conference will take place in person at the Eric P. Newman Education Center with university health guidelines in place. As this is one of the university’s most popular annual events, and audience discussion and interaction is encouraged, immediate registration is suggested.


(subject to change)

8:00 a.m.Check-in opens (walk-ins permitted as space allows)
8:30 a.m.Welcome and updates
William G. Powderly, MD, Larry J. Shapiro Director of the Institute for Public Health
Mary McKay, PhD, Vice Provost of Interdisciplinary Initiatives
9:00 a.m.Keynote presentation and Q&A: Health as a human right
Sofia Gruskin, JD, MIA, USC Institute on Inequalities in Global Health

Q&A Moderated by: Mark Huffman, MD, Global Health Center
9:45 a.m.Keynote Conversation and Q&A: Race, health & human rights
E. Tendayi Achiume, JD, UCLA Law
Matifadza Hlatshwayo Davis, MD, MPH, St. Louis City Department of Health

Moderated by: Kim Thuy Seelinger, JD, Center for Human Rights, Gender & Migration
10:30 a.m.Break
10:45 a.m.Panel I: The human right to health as a gateway to other human rights
Akila Radhakrishnan, JD, Global Justice Center
Diego Abente, Casa de Salud
Jeremy Goldbach, PhD, LMSW, Brown School
Sherrill Wayland, MSW, SAGE

Moderated by: Leila Sadat, WashU School of Law
11:30 a.m.Panel II: Human rights violations affecting individual & community health
Jessica Mayo, JD, MSW, MICA Project
Evan Krauss, MSW, Eastside Aligned
Pamela Begay, PhD, Brown School
Hayelom Kebede, PhD, Ayder Hospital, Ethiopia
Lindsay Stark, DrPH, Brown School

Moderated by: Kim Thuy Seelinger, JD, Center for Human Rights, Gender & Migration
12:15 p.m.Calls to action and closing remarks
12:30 p.m.Poster session & networking (light fare provided)
1:30 p.m.Event close