Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

The Primary Care for the Underserved Conference as a Building Block to Social Capital: Impact on Practice, Research, and Education

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

The Primary Care for the Underserved Conference as a Building Block to Social Capital: Impact on Practice, Research, and Education

Article excerpt

Abstract: A previous article traced the evolution of the Primary Care for the Underserved Conference into a new professional culture (Beauchesne & Patsdaughter, 2005). This article focuses on the relevance of the conference series as a building block of social capital. The authors critically examine the impact of the conference on health care practice, research, and education. The authors analyze two sources of data (conference evaluation and email surveys) using a descriptive, qualitative approach. Findings support the conference as a significant source of social capital for health professionals. The article includes an exemplar describing the impact of this conference on individual practitioners.

Key Words: Primary Care, Social Capital, Underserved Populations

The Primary Care for the Underserved Conference debuted in Boston, Massachusetts, on March 5, 1993. Originally conceived by the faculty in the Primary Care Nurse Practitioner Specialization at Northeastern University as a continuing education offering for preceptors, over time it has broadened in nature and scope. The first conference was exciting not only because of the unique focus on healthcare for underserved populations but also because of the Nor'easier that swept in at the same time, forcing Boston's Logan International Airport to close and limiting the first participants to a small number of hearty souls.

Beauchesne and Patsdaughter (2005) previously traced the evolution of this conference and the development of a professional culture of providing primary healthcare to the underserved. The purpose of this article is to critically examine the impact of this conference series on primary care practice, research, and education under the framework of social capital. Prior to presenting the results of evaluation, we will provide a brief background of this conference series as it relates to the concept of social capital.

BACKGROUND OF THE PRIMARY CARE FOR THE UNDERSERVED CONFERENCE

At the first meeting in 1993, conference organizers and participants worked together to rearrange presentation schedules, offer unplanned presentations, and cover time slots left vacant by weathercreated cancellations and delays. This collaboration and flexibility mirrored the way that these health professionals used problem-solving skills and creativity to address daily challenges in their practices of serving the underserved. The group of 65 participants (60% of total registrations) thoughtfully reflected on the presentations and asked many questions. Spirited discussions continued during session breaks, as participants shared examples from their own practice, research, and educational experiences. Many new friendships, collaborations, and partnerships were forged during the first Primary Care for the Underserved Conference. Instead of dissatisfaction and frustration with the sudden, impassable weather, participants seemed to appreciate a milieu that fostered camaraderie and networking among kindred spirits (Beauchesne & Patsdaughter, 2005).

Organizers and participants decided to continue the Primary Care for the Underserved Conference on an annual basis to provide an ongoing forum for education and networking. Lack of a financial or geographical base did not deter the dedicated individuals from realizing this vision. Over the years, the conference has acquired a more formal structure, yet it has retained its informal enthusiasm and appeal.

The main purpose of the Primary Care for the Underserved Conference is to explore emerging trends and patterns in health care practices and research related to serving the underserved in the U.S. and abroad. Table 1 provides a brief synopsis of the history and development of the conference series. As the steering and planning committees prepare for the 14th annual conference as a partnership among Northeastern University, Temple University, and the National Consortium of Health Centers to be held in Philadelphia in May 2006, it is appropriate to consider how this conference has continued to thrive in spite of (or perhaps because of) the many challenges it has faced over the years (Beauchesne & Patsdaughter, 2005). …

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