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A Trainee Shares her Perspective on Social Determinants of Health

October 18, 2021

I hope you will get a chance to read the recently released essay in Pediatrics(10.1542/peds.2021-053626), “Social Determinants Do Not Determine Me,” by Haleigh Prather, a medical student (class of 2023) at Oregon Health & Science University, Portland, OR. Social determinants of health “…are the conditions in the environments where people are born, live, learn, work, play, worship and age that affect a wide range of health, functioning and quality-of-life outcomes and risks…”1 and have become a part of our daily lexicon in pediatrics. Ms. Prather’s essay eloquently describes how social barriers that she and her family faced during her growing up period enriched her medical training and propelled her forward. While her minority status and other home and personal factors you will read about challenged her relationships with medical school peers, these helped her connect with patients and their families. Her conclusions are powerful, personal, and movingly expressed – this is a “must read” essay that is both enjoyable and food for thought. 

By the time you read this, we will have shared the great news that Ms. Prather won the Annual Section on Pediatric Trainees (SOPT) Advocacy Essay Contest. The SOPT Editorial Board, composed entirely of pediatric trainees, solicits and reviews submissions from trainees for the Pediatrics Features section. Five years ago, one of our former Editors, Dr. Rachel Elkin, had the “brainwave” idea of running an essay contest, and this became the Annual SOPT Advocacy Essay Competition. The theme each year is taken from the current year’s SOPT Advocacy Campaign and offers an essay prompt that asks trainees to relate their own perspectives and experiences to the theme. This year’s prompt asked trainees to “…Describe how your unique identity (gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion, geographic area and life experiences) informs your advocacy work on behalf of children and families…” Ms. Prather hit it out of the park with her response. The winner accepts their award at the AAP NCE meeting and their essay is published in Pediatrics.

I’d like to give a big round of applause to the SOPT Editorial Board, one of hardest working groups I know. Each of the trainees who serves a three year term, first as Deputy Editor, then Editor, and finally Past Editor, is making and taking the time to do this job, while “giving it all” to their fulltime work as medical student, intern, resident or fellow. The Editors collaborate via email and conference calls to edit and select essays for publication in Pediatrics. Each submission, regardless of disposition, gets thoughtful, formative, developmental editing; many submissions go through multiple rounds of editing to bring them to publication as their “best self”. This year’s Board is led by Editor Jonathan Berken MD PhD, with Deputy Editor Hanna Saltzman MD, and Past Editor Natalie Lanocha MD. I am confident you will see these names many times in the future!


  1. Social Determinants of Health.  Healthy People 2030. Office of Disease Prevention and Health Promotion, Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health, Office of the Secretary, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. 

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