The USA Exposome Symposium 2024 GenZ Takeover

Feb 26, 2024 | Young, Gifted & Green Blog Series | 0 comments

A Reflection from Flint EJ Council Member Isaiah Grays

The 2024 Exposome Symposium was an extraordinary and transformative experience for me, as a high school senior and the youngest person to co-present at the event. It offered a profound depth of knowledge and ignited a wide range of passions among speakers such as Emma Benn, a dedicated PhD student, and Dr. Robert Bullard, an eminent professor renowned as the Father of Environmental Justice. Their insights not only enriched my understanding of health, environment, and social justice but also inspired me to advocate for the well-being of humanity as a whole, transcending the boundaries of my own community.

One of the most enlightening sessions was Dr. Rosalind Wright’s discussion on asthma. With expertise in this field, Dr. Wright meticulously dissected the multifaceted causes of the disease, emphasizing the significant role of social determinants of health. Her research, particularly on maternal stress and its link to childhood asthma, underscored the critical importance of early intervention and support for at-risk parents. The compelling narrative of the Johns Hopkins study vividly demonstrated how addressing social factors can profoundly impact health outcomes, prompting a reconsideration of healthcare intervention strategies.

Emma Benn’s journey towards promoting diversity in biomedical research was equally inspiring. From her humble beginnings in a Pennsylvania hamlet to her leadership in initiatives like the “Simply the Best” summer program and the Center for Scientific Diversity, Dr. Benn epitomizes inclusivity and fairness in statistical research. Her emphasis on challenging authority and privilege within academic institutions resonated deeply, highlighting the imperative of creating welcoming and inclusive environments to foster participation from all individuals.

A central focus of discussion was the Climate and Economic Justice Screening Tool (CEJST). While recognized for its utility in identifying environmental and health disparities in marginalized communities, there were also concerns regarding its scope. Participants stressed the need for a more comprehensive approach that incorporates factors such as race, gender, age, and education. This aspect resonated deeply with me and my cohort members, as we, under the leadership of Dionna Brown, the Youth EJ Programs National Director, conducted a community evaluation of Flint and Grand Blanc, Michigan, utilizing the health and housing indicators. Our aim was to provide recommendations to improve the tool’s effectiveness. The advocacy efforts of groups like Young, Gifted & Green underscored the importance of amplifying diverse voices to drive meaningful change.

Reflecting on the Symposium, it is evident that there is a pressing need to support marginalized communities and address systemic inequities. The resounding applause for Dr. Robert Bullard exemplified the collective commitment to advancing fairness in environmental and social domains. It is incumbent upon us to translate the knowledge and inspiration gained from this event into tangible actions. As we navigate our respective communities and beyond, let us strive to make a positive impact and contribute to the realization of a more just and equitable world.

In conclusion, the 2024 Exposome Symposium has galvanized me with a renewed sense of purpose and unwavering determination. Armed with newfound insights and a shared commitment to social justice, it is our collective responsibility to effect meaningful change and propel progress towards a fair and balanced society.

About the Author

Isaiah Grays is a graduating senior at Grand Blanc High School in Genesee County, Michigan where he serves as the Student Government Association (SGA) President. He is also an inaugural member of the Young, Gifted & Green Flint Environmental Justice (EJ) Council and a member of the U.S. Youth Advisory Council for the UN Ocean Decade. Follow Isaiah on Social Media: Instagram | Facebook | Twitter.

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