My opening remarks for the 2022 Annual Summit for Health Communication

Edited excerpt from my opening remarks at the 6th Annual National Summit for Health Communication on June 14, 2022.

Welcome everyone to our 6th Annual National Summit for Health Communication, live and in-person for the first time since 2019, here in steamy Austin, Texas! Also, it's Pride month, so Happy Pride everyone!

My name is Michael Grela and I am the Head of Reputation and Social Impact for Evoke Kyne, a global, health communications agency, and I’m also the President of the Society for Health Communication, working alongside Ashani, Diane, Shelly, Jay, and many others.

Many of us will be introducing ourselves inclusively today, and so I want to start out by stating that:

• I’m a white male with dark brown hair and blue eyes, and a mustache
• I’m wearing a green collared shirt
• My pronouns are he, him and his
• I also want to acknowledge that we are meeting on the Indigenous lands of Turtle Island, the ancestral name for what is now called North America
• I also want to acknowledge all the American Indian and Indigenous Peoples and communities who have been or have become a part of these lands and territories in Texas

I’d like to begin our day by discussing the state of the world and the impact it has on all of us.

The last few years feel more like twenty in some ways, and in particular, over the last few months we’ve experienced a lot:

• The continued effects of a two plus year global pandemic that’s claimed the lives of more than 1 million Americans, and has devastated families and communities all around the globe
• Ongoing economic and financial volatility and instability, causing great stress and uncertainty
• A horrific war in Ukraine and social and political unrest in the US and all across the world
• Countless mass shootings in the US, including recent ones in an elementary school here in Texas and one specifically targeting Black people in Buffalo, NY, where collectively, 31 individuals were murdered
• An assault on Women’s rights in the US looming with the high probability that Roe v. Wade will be overturned, which will disproportionately affect already disenfranchised communities
• An increase in hate crimes and violence against historically discriminated communities at a time when we’re meant to be celebrating them, through Black History Month, Asian Pacific American (AAPI) Heritage Month, Jewish American Heritage Month, Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning, Intersex, Asexual (LGBTQIA)+ Pride month, and Juneteenth
• And there’s been a lot more...

As a white man with great privilege and personal and professional stability, some days it feels like more than I can handle, so I cannot imagine the toll it takes on others, and their families and loved ones.

I don’t have any magic words of wisdom to share with you all today. And I know that many of us may feel tired, depleted and even overwhelmed.

But as the Society, we believe we have a critical role to play, and through our work, we have the power to make a difference. Especially when we work together.

To help address these issues and their effects on our communities, we have shaped today’s agenda around important discussions on health equity, mental health and resiliency, diversity, equity and inclusion, and how we can build back trust in our field to help us be more effective health communicators.

Our goal today is to discuss many of these issues, which impact our nation’s health and wellbeing, and have open and honest conversations about what we can do as a field to help effect change, for the health of Americans, and for one another.

And in many cases, we’ll share what many folks are already doing, so we can learn and grow from each other.

It’s a tall order, but I think we’ve got the right group together to do it.

I also want to remind everyone to push themselves, their friends, their family, colleagues and organizational leaders, to have the difficult and sometimes uncomfortable conversations around race, access and inequality, and be vulnerable with one another about where we need to do better, and to continue to discuss the changes we need to make as a collective society to achieve health equity.

We must all operate in a growth mindset, be active allies for one another, work to be anti-racist, and continue to self-educate, before we can expect these things from others. That goes for each of us, including myself.

To learn more about the Society and our work in and across the field of health communication and get involved, please visit

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