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Reflecting on the Creating Healthy Communities 2022 Convening

Stage photo from Convening event in Orlando
Convening attendees partake in a dance break mid-conference.

November 15, 2022

Last month several faculty, students, and alumni of Drexel University attended the Creating Healthy Communities (CHC) 2022 Convening in Orlando, Florida.

The event is hosted by the Center for Arts in Medicine at the University of Florida and was co-sponsored by the Dornsife School of Public Health and Antoinette Westphal College of Media Arts and Design.

The overarching goal of the conference was to create stronger, healthier, and more equitable communities through cross-sector collaboration. The Convening engaged people working and thinking at the intersections of the arts, public health, and community development. The two-day event also included vibrant live performances.

Rabbi Nancy Epstein, MPH, MAHL, associate professor of community health and prevention at Dornsife, moderated a panel discussion titled "Addressing Social Determinants of Health and Upstream Drivers of Health Disparities Through Arts and Culture" at the event and coordinated Drexel’s involvement.

Rabbi Epstein launched Dornsife's Arts in Public Health graduate minor several years ago because arts in public health—a relatively new field—is deeply connected to the School's longstanding commitment to health as a human right and community engagement.

Students Flor Cruz-Morillo and Laura Mullin, both enrolled in the Arts in Public Health graduate minor, attended the Convening as well and had a lot to reflect on. Below is a Q+A on their experience at the Convening:

Flor Cruz-Morillo

Program: MPH in Community Health and Prevention with a minor in Arts in Public Health ‘23
Hometown: Atlantic City, New Jersey

Q: What compelled you to participate in CHC?

A: I wanted to connect with others and gain ideas from professionals that are doing work to advance the growing Arts in Public Health field. I was very excited to hear from and meet many of the people that I had learned about in my Arts for Community Health and Wellbeing class.

Q: What were your biggest takeaways from attending CHC?

A: One of my biggest takeaways from attending this conference is that there is always room for the arts when it comes to addressing health. As current and future public health professionals, we need to start thinking about how we can innovate old practices to better connect with those we serve.

Q: How do you hope to incorporate arts and health in your career?

A: I hope to use the knowledge and skills that I learned/am learning through the CHC and the minor to bring more awareness to the importance of using arts and culture to promote positive health outcomes.

One of my goals is to bring new ideas and innovations, using the arts, to creatively problem solve and achieve goals in settings that are still using more “traditional” ways to address health outcomes.

Q: What would you to tell fellow students who are interested in pursuing an Arts in Public Health minor?

A: Do it! Minoring in Arts in Public Health has really helped me reflect on what really matters to me. Thus far, I have been able to learn an array of new things and have been able to expand my view on Health through a different lens.

Laura Mullin

Program: MS in Creativity and Innovation with a minor in Arts in Public Health ‘24
Hometown: Winter Springs, FL

Q: What compelled you to participate in CHC?

A: One of the first assignments in the CHP 530 course: Arts for Community Health and Wellbeing (taught in the spring and open to students at all levels), was to read the "Creating Healthy Communities Through Cross-Sector Collaboration" white paper published by UF Center for Arts and Medicine & ArtPlace America. The paper went into great detail about the intersection and collaboration between public health, arts and culture, and community development. It was an exciting and inspiring paper to read in my educational journey because it validated my interest in the intersection of creativity, health, arts, and community.

The authors of the paper continued to show up in other forms throughout the course: journal articles, webinars, panel discussions, etc. The course allowed me to appreciate the work they are doing to incorporate arts and culture while creating frameworks and interventions to reduce barriers to health and well-being in communities around the country.

Once I was informed that the convening was happening and the majority of the authors I had been learning from would be presenting, I was thrilled to attend and have the opportunity to interact with the leading visionaries and experts in the field. It was as if CHP 530 came to life. It was also nice that so many of my classmates from the course also attended, and it gave us an opportunity to deepen the conversations we had months prior.

Q: What were your biggest takeaways from attending CHC?

A: I was inspired by the personal and professional backgrounds of the attendees at the convening: educators, physicians, directors of local and national non-profits, artists, local business owners, students, and researchers. I found my mind racing thinking about all the organizations in Philadelphia that could work together in new ways to help revitalize and promote healthy communities in our city. Philadelphia is incredibly diverse and deeply rooted in arts and culture, and it’s exciting to think how those assets are also our most significant resource when it comes to supporting health and well-being in our neighborhoods. Something that I was not expecting to be so impactful was how the convening began and ended.

Each morning and afternoon, Fred Johnson, an acclaimed jazz musician, welcomed us and later recapped the day through song. He added such joy and reflection in the room when he sang and had a healing ability with his words - it was such a moving experience. A takeaway is not that I’m expecting my work meetings to begin with singing (however, that would be wonderful!), but I began to think about subtle ways we could change our daily routines to create moments of joy and reflection for ourselves and others around us.

Q: How do you hope to incorporate arts and health in your career?

A: I hope to incorporate arts and health in my career, literally! I am a program coordinator at Drexel University College of Medicine, working with first and second year medical students. So, I hope to begin facilitating conversations on campus to discuss ways medical students can incorporate more of the arts during their pre-clinical years. There are so many health benefits that result from arts-based approaches. It would be wonderful if future physicians began recognizing their creative potential, thinking outside the box, and realizing the positive effects the arts have on people and their well-being early on in their career.

I also hope to become more aware of the arts-based local nonprofits in Philadelphia. Thinking of the arts beyond just drawing and music and thinking of health beyond just the absence of disease opens up a lot of creative potential for collaboration. It was energizing to see all the different organizations and industries represented at the convening, and I’d like to find similar organizations in Philadelphia and learn more about the work they are doing around the city.

Q: What would you to tell fellow students who are interested in pursuing an Arts in Public Health minor?

A: Go for it! It’s a remarkable field that is beginning to gain the attention it’s deserved for decades.

Professor Epstein does an excellent job keeping the course content relevant and up-to-date, and it’s a lot of fun to learn about all the collaborative and creative programming artists and organizations are developing with communities around the country.

I appreciate how the minor is open to students from all different majors because it applies to all fields. That makes the minor worthwhile because your classmates will provide insight and perspectives from all different industries. The minor teaches you how to view health and wellbeing through an arts lens and how it connects to your major.

I’m lucky to have been introduced to the minor and find it incredibly relevant and beneficial in my personal and professional life.

If you have questions about the Arts in Public Health minor, which is open to Drexel graduate students of all majors, please contact Rabbi Epstein at

Learn about the Arts in Public Health minor