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Local Youth Add Personal Perspectives Through Art Surrounding Health Equity

By Tyronda James

The University of Rochester Medical Center’s Office of Health Equity Research (OHER) celebrated its inaugural kickoff and art contest award ceremony on Wednesday, December 14.

OHER, launched September 1, introducing the contest in October inviting local students in grades K-12 to submit paintings, drawings and photographs that illustrated what health equity (or the lack of it) looks like to them in their community.

“Rochester is among the worst performing cities in New York in terms of health equity,” said Dr. Edith Williams, Founding Director of the Office of Health Equity Research. “We launched the student art contest to spark interest and enthusiasm around the topic and engage in meaningful conversations with students, teachers, and parents about specific areas that can be addressed through research.”

There were nine contest winners, three each in high school, middle school and elementary school. Students received monetary prizes ranging from $25 to $200 at the award ceremony. The award winners’ schools received monetary prizes of $250 as well.

Health Equity from a Kid’s Perspective

To introduce the art contest and invite students to participate, Dr. Williams said, “Health equity means that everyone, no matter what race they are, how much money they have, or where they live, can have the best health possible. The new Office of Health Equity Research at the University of Rochester is studying what it will take to make that a reality, and we want to hear from you!”

There were six judges who evaluated the student’s artwork. Williams said the students submitted beautiful renderings of health equity that were honest, insightful and heartwarming in ways that perhaps only children and teens can articulate.

Righteous Buggs, 1st place winner of OHER’s Art contest. Photo provided by LaTrisha Williams, mother of Buggs.

Righteous Buggs, earned first place in the high school category, entitled his artwork Let’s Do It Together.

“I believe that everyone, no matter what circumstance, deserves affordable or even free healthcare, so in the push for health equity I created this piece that shows all different types of people coming together to make health care available for everyone,” he said.

Righteous is a High Honor roll student attending Rochester School of the Arts (SOTA) in the tenth grade. Outside of school, Righteous works for BreatheDeep, Inc., a black-owned business, research-based 501c3 organization that provides restorative wellness information and resources to help marginalized communities create strategies of self-care, to increase overall wellness and to reduce or mitigate the impact of systemic and historical oppression, chronic stress and generational, personal and vicarious trauma.

Jeremiah Jenerson from Rochester Prep MS3 won first prize in the middle school category for his piece entitled, Tree of Equity. Jenerson said as an African American, there are so many things that are not equal when it comes to health care.

“When receiving quality (equal) health care (the tree) you have to consider the different circumstances that people face (the roots). If this world can get to a place where those things don’t matter, it would make our healthcare system better.”

“The tree of life brings everyone together. No faces needed as we are all different but the same on the inside,” said Carason Ware from Bernabi Elementary School, who was the primary school first-prize winner for her painting entitled, Equality as the Tree of Life.

One submission by a first grader was perhaps the most attention grabbing because it spoke to a scientifically validated concern – the disproportionately low number of Black doctors relative to the U.S. population.

This high-priority equity issue was depicted by Deonne Major from Rochester Academy Charter School, who said he never had a Black doctor, in his drawing entitled We Are All Black.

“The responses are powerful,” concluded Williams. “Our Office of Health Equity Research is meant to catalyze, guide, and support these types of activities along the translational spectrum of health equity research. We are all members of the community, so as we continue to build our research capabilities, we have to acknowledge every voice with the ultimate goal of improving health outcomes in our region.”

Contest participants, their families, and school officials were invited to attend the awards ceremony on Wednesday, December 14 at the Saunders Research Building Atrium, located at 265 Crittenden Blvd. All participants’ artwork will be displayed at the ceremony.

Students who did not have artwork to submit were invited to join the OHER Youth Advisory Board – a paid opportunity to meet with staff and provide input on the types of research the Office will conduct. Students who are interested can contact the Office of Health Equity Research by emailing

The University of Rochester Medical Center’s Office of Health Equity Research (OHER) provides foundational science to inform URMC’s commitment to health equality. The office supports and synergizes research and training to improve the health of the most vulnerable residents of Rochester and beyond.

For more information, please visit the URMC OHER website at