Highlights from HCLI 2023

We have an obligation...to do better, be better, and know better.

Ashani Johnson-Turbes, Ph.D., HCLI 2023 speaker

This belief sums up the very foundation of effective health communication. It also sums up the theme of many of this year’s HCLI panels (and something we’re passionate about at the CHC): to continually work to produce evidence-based and accessible health communication research, education, and practice. . When we focus on continuous improvement in all aspects of our work, we can become better advocates in our own health communication campaigns—and better leaders overall.  

HCLI 2023 welcomed plenty of first-timers and familiar faces alike. We hosted an impressive lineup of speakers from a wide range of organizations—such as UTHealth Houston, Dell Medical School, McCombs School of Business, the Center for Equity Research at NORC at the University of Chicago and many more—to share their insights in health communication and leadership.

Some session highlights: 

  • A room full of cheering adults playing rock-paper-scissors probably isn’t how you picture most conferences, but here at HCLI, we do things differently. HCLI veterans Shana Merlin (Merlin Works) and Dr. Robert Milman (Texas A&M School of Medicine) returned with their creative improv games to help encourage a growth mindset—and fun!—for the three days ahead. 

  • Meg Poag (Mission Squared) led attendees through their personalized skills assessment to help turn blind spots into growth areas—and to empower them to connect with their leadership's highest selves. 

  • A presentation from Ashani Johnson-Turbes (Center for Equity Research at NORC at the University of Chicago) focused on the importance of equity science in health communication. We learned that by interrogating research that didn't take equity into account, we can change the structural framework and transform the way we do research. 

  • Jennifer Deegan (UTHealth Houston) spoke about how TEPHI is building on lessons learned from COVID-19—and is dedicated to helping prepare Texas for future epidemics. She highlighted the importance of asking the right questions and identifying protocols for change. 

  • “How we feel affects how we perform.” Greg Wallingford (Dell Medical School) stressed the critical role of debriefing for physicians during difficult situations. By improving communication and increasing support, healthcare providers feel more connected to their patients and team and more comfortable asking for help—and therefore able to give better care to their next patients.  

  • A panel of communication professionals—Robin Rumancik, Susan Kirtz, Busola Saka, and Natalie Namrow—discussed the challenges of building health comm campaigns, from funding restrictions to navigating sensitive topics and stigmatizing beliefs. They also celebrated their wins, sharing ways to connect with multiple audiences and incorporate creative testing in the real world.  

  • Keynote speaker Leslie Wingo capped off the final day with an illuminating panel on the power of storytelling. She used everyone’s favorite animation studio, Pixar, to demonstrate why storytelling matters and how we can use it in health comm. Wingo closed out HCLI 2023 with these sage and inspiring words: “Belonging is a place where everyone feels seen, valued, and heard—and it won’t happen overnight.” 

We want to take a moment to say thank you to our sponsors—St. David's HealthCare, Westat, Fors Marsh, Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas Epidemic Public Health Institute (TEPHI), and Whole Communities Whole Health—HCLI wouldn't be possible without their support.

If you attended HCLI this year, thanks for joining us. We work hard to develop a valuable curriculum of health communication and leadership best practices that every attendee can apply to their role. In fact, one of this year’s attendees commented, “I loved how I will be able to immediately implement lessons learned in my job starting today.” Another attendee said, “I would go so far as to say it was the best and most engaging professional development event I've ever attended.” 

We hope you’ll tell your colleagues about your experience; we would love to host them next year. Sign up for our mailing list to stay in touch with the Center for Health Communication and stay posted about future HCLIs. 

Hope to see you in June 2024!