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Disability Advocacy Coalition in Medicine Conference

The Disability Advocacy in Medicine logo featuring their name surrounding a caduceus, a symbol with two snakes wrapped around a staff.The Disability Advocacy Coalition in Medicine (DAC Med) student affinity group of Northwestern University and University of Michigan host an annual virtual conference for trainees.

Through thoughtful sessions, reflective panels and workshops, presenters and attendees discuss and learn about how graduate health professional students can advocate for patients with disabilities, support peers with disabilities, and address ableism in medicine and medical education.

Real-time captioning and ASL interpretation is present during all sessions. Additional accommodations available upon request during conference registration.

2023 Conference

The third conference, held on October 28, 2023, focused on intersectionality in disability medicine.




10-10:15 a.m.


10:15-10:55 a.m.

Disability Cultural Awareness: Let’s Start the Discussion

Presenter: Steve Erikson, PharmD

11 a.m. - noon

DocsWithDisabilities: Navigating Disability in Education & Patient Care
Moderator: Zoey Martin-Lockhart, MA
Panelists: Amy Mook, BS; Vanessa Cameron, MSN, RN, NPD-BC, CEN, CNL; Ifeoma Ikedionwu, BS; Gabriel Abrams, BS

Noon - 1 p.m.

Lunch Break

1-2:30 p.m.

Research Hour

2:30-3:10 p.m.

Ableism, Adversity & Identity: Improving Outcomes for Youth With Neurodevelopmental Disabilities

Presenter: Diana Cejas, MD, MPH

3:15-3:55 p.m.

Untangling Diversity: When Queerness & Disability Intersect
Presenter: Michael Argenyi, MD, MPH, MSW

4-4:45 p.m.

Lived Experiences Panel: Identity Beyond Disability
Moderator: Cristina Mix, OTR/L
Panelists: Elizabeth Stigler, PhD; Kenneth Jennings, Jorge Alfaro

4:45 p.m.

Closing Remarks


Jorge Alfaro

Jorge Alfaro is a peer mentor at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, a father, a coach and an athlete. Alfaro currently works as a medical supply provider in several hospitals. He sustained a spinal cord injury at the age of 9-years-old due to a gunshot wound. His perspective evolved four times as he grew which has armed him with resources and life experiences that he shares with mentees and persons with and without disabilities. Alfaro plays competitively in wheelchair basketball, softball, hand cycling, rugby and football, and participates in other activities recreationally including skiing and tennis. He travels extensively for sports, has been inducted into the Hall of Fame for Wheelchair Softball and has received the Athlete of the Year award from the Sports and Fitness Center at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. Alfaro loves being with friends and family and, in his spare time, enjoys trying new foods and going to street festivals.

Michael Argenyi, MD, MPH, MSW

Michael Argenyi, MD, MPH, MSW, is an academic addiction medicine physician with unique cross-disciplinary training in medicine, public health and social work. He is board certified in addiction medicine and preventive medicine and has a faculty appointment at the University of Massachusetts Chan Medical School. His clinical interests include inpatient consult, concurrent HIV/HCV/STI prevention and treatment, party drug use, sexual/gender minority health and integrating low barrier treatment and harm reduction services into diverse clinical spaces. In addition, he is committed to medical education and advancing disability and LGBTQ DEI efforts.

Diana Cejas, MD, MPH

Diana Cejas, MD, MPH, is an assistant professor of neurology at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and faculty of the Carolina Institute for Developmental Disabilities. As a clinician, she cares for youth with a broad spectrum of developmental disabilities with complex neurological and psychiatric comorbidities. She seeks to improve health outcomes in and to promote health equity and justice for this population and serves as principal investigator of studies that explore their unique experiences. Her current projects aim to increase engagement of multiply marginalized autistic youth in health services research and to understand the effects of ableism on the health of disabled children and their families. Since surviving cancer and a stroke during her residency, Cejas has devoted much of her career to patient advocacy and improving communication between healthcare providers and the disability community, particularly young disabled patients of color. Cejas shares her own story and other commentary on disability and health via essays and other nonfiction. Her literary work has appeared in The Journal of the American Medical Association and Neurology; prestigious literary magazines including The Iowa ReviewEcotone and Passages North; and anthologies including Disability Visibility: First-Person Stories from the Twenty-First Century and A Measure of Belonging: Twenty-One Writers of Color on the New American South.

Steven Erickson, PharmD, FAAIDD

Steven Erickson is an associate professor of the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy and a clinical pharmacist at the Michigan Medicine General Medicine. He is also a research affiliate with the Michigan Developmental Disabilities Institute at Wayne State University. He received a bachelor’s in pharmacy from Ferris State University (1980) and a Doctor of Pharmacy from Wayne State University (1984). He has practiced as a pharmacist in community pharmacy, long-term care and hospitals before joining the faculty as a clinical assistant professor at Wayne State University College of Pharmacy in 1990. There he developed a clinical service in the ambulatory care setting. In 1995, he accepted a tenure track position at the University of Michigan College of Pharmacy. For the past 10 years he has focused his attention on work to ensure the safe and effective use of medications taken by people who have disabilities, specifically those who have intellectual or developmental disabilities. He works with community partners from support and advocacy agencies along with research colleagues to better understand the medication-related issues faced by people with disabilities and the people who support them. Notable achievements include 111 peer reviewed research publications, a book chapter on pharmacotherapy for patients with intellectual or developmental disability, creation of an interprofessional course “Health and Disability” with the goal of increasing health professional students’ understanding of the lived experiences of persons with disabilities (recently received award from the University of Michigan Center for Interprofessional Education for Innovation and Excellence), development of a comprehensive medication review program within the Michigan Medicine Health system for patients with disabilities, and collaborated with data scientists on projects that identified disparities in health outcomes of persons with intellectual or developmental disabilities. He is a fellow of the American Association on Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities and recently was awarded Consultant Pharmacist of the Year by the MPA Consultant and Specialty Pharmacists of Michigan. 

Kenneth Jennings

Kenneth Jennings was paralyzed decades ago while playing high school football. He believes God turned a tragedy into a blessing. Jennings is now the CEO of Gridiron Alliance, a nonprofit organization, a peer mentor at the LIFE Center at Shirley Ryan AbilityLab, a football coach, an advocate, motivational speaker and a poet. He does two podcasts, works for a California company named Neuralink and serves on the boards of Bright Promises Foundation and Illinois Legal Aid Online. Lastly, he is soon-to-be author of his own book, How 8 Seconds Change My Life. He's the father of a 28-year-old daughter and a 4-year-old grandson. He lives by his own motto: “Blessed To Be Able.”

Cris Mix, OTR/L

Cris Mix has 36 years of experience as an occupational therapist. She is an education program manager in the Henry B. Betts LIFE Center and manages the peer mentor program for patients and families across all systems of care at the Shirley Ryan AbilityLab. She collects and analyzes peer program data and provides expert consultation on incorporating peer mentors into Shirley Ryan AbilityLab patient / family education and research initiatives. She specializes in spinal cord injury, physical rehabilitation, pediatrics, brain injury and family education.

Elizabeth Stigler, PhD (she/her)

Stigler is an intersectional diversity, equity, inclusion and accessibility (DEIA) advocate dedicated to empowering individuals and communities to see themselves as agents for change. In 2018 she earned her PhD with honors in women, gender and sexuality studies from the University of Kansas. As a queer person with an invisible disability, the work of equity and inclusion is a deeply personal pursuit to her. Stigler brings more than a decade of experience writing, researching and teaching about identity-based oppression and structural inequality to her role as the inaugural director of diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging at the American College of Chest Physicians (CHEST). Before joining CHEST, she was the inaugural director of the Community Equity Research Center at the Chinese American Service League where she oversaw the organization’s equity, advocacy, inclusion and anti-hate work. Stigler specializes in supporting organizations in the early stages of their DEI journey.

Planning Committee

The 2023 planning committee included Catherine Chen (MD Candidate at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine), Iris Bai (MD Candidate at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine), Luke Newell (MD Candidate at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine), Shreya Shriram (MD Candidate at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine), Mami Horikawa (PhD Candidate at the University of Michigan) and Emma Hanna (MD Candidate at Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine).

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