Updated: May 20, 2021
I was introduced to medicine at a young age by my Grandma Veda. She had Type II Diabetes and when my parents took Grandma to doctor visits, they always told me they were taking her to see the people who would make her feel better. As I got older and her health continued to decline, I realized that as much as the doctors helped her, I could also help by saying “I am here for you.” My idea of medicine was built upon a foundation of compassionate conversation with others.
Flash forward to my first year of medical school. At Mercer University School of Medicine (MUSM), students are assigned a Population Health Year 1 Rotation. This experience exposes first-year medical students to clinics in rural and/or medically underserved communities throughout the state of Georgia. This rotation is just one of the opportunities that makes our learning experience at MUSM so unique.
As a result, my early medical school education was rooted in my understanding of primary care and the healthcare needs of small-town, rural communities like my hometown. While on this Population Health Rotation, students are challenged to identify and prioritize community-centered population health needs using research, epidemiological methods and data sources. In my community needs assessment of Dougherty County, I was alarmed to find high amounts of and negative outcomes associated with Diabetes Mellitus. Some of those findings included:
Diabetes Mellitus is the second leading cause of death in Dougherty county
The Diabetes Mellitus Age-Adjusted Death Rate for Dougherty County is 63.2 (as compared to the Georgia’s Age-Adjusted Death Rate of 21.5)
Dougherty County averages 74.5 deaths per 100,000 people due to diabetes alone (GA state averages 22.1 and the nation 24.0)
I walked way from this project with the understand that a successful, community-responsive physician should first be an active part of the community in which he or she lives. Being immersed into the community enables physicians to be aware of the strengths and weaknesses that affect their patients on daily basis. By being knowledgeable of the limitations and barriers surrounding his or her patients, a true community-responsive physician can utilize this knowledge to create personalized and effective treatment plans. An informed physician can make a huge impact in and out of the clinical setting. I hope that in my future practice, I can be selfless with my time and become invested in my community.
After realizing the impact of a wall-informed healthcare provider can have on his/her community, I become passionate about discovering the needs of my own community. Upon returning to Savannah after the rotation, fellow MUSM students Savannah Grunhard, Alexis Strahan, Allison Walls, and I began exploring the community needs within the local area. What we gathered from this new found assessment was as follows:
In 2017, 11% of adults over the age of 20 years old in Chatham county have been diagnosed with diabetes; therefore, approximately 28,000 people in this community suffer from this disease, along with the increased risk factors associated with the diagnosis.
Diabetes is the leading cause of death in both the United States of American and the state of Georgia
Diabetes is associated with multiple comorbidities and increased hospital readmission rates
Compounding this issue is a lack of access to quality and affordable healthcare for those with a predisposition to or diagnosis of this condition. Preventative care, including patient education, ultimately reduces healthcare costs and improves the health and lives of patients in our community. However, under-implementation of individualized care measures by providers can be attributed to a lack of time or resources.
Once made aware of these conditions, we were determined to be a contributing factor to the alleviations and future solutions in some capacity. We proposed the InsuLearn Project with the aim to not only provide patients with the tools they need to understand their Diabetes Mellitus diagnosis and take ownership and control of their health, but also to address this burden of care by offering our time to addressing this condition. With 15.5% of the Chatham county population lacking health insurance, Curtis V. Cooper Primary Health Care serves as a cornerstone in the community. Patients are referred to Dr. Hollis’ Diabetic Clinic by their in-house Primary Care Providers (at CVCPHC) if they meet the criteria of having a diagnosis of DM Type 1 or Type 2 and are in need of more focused care for this diagnosis.
Our hope is that through InsuLearn and this collaboration with CVCPHC, that MUSM students can help supplement the previous and continued efforts of Dr. Hollis and the practice to better educate patients on diabetic educational topics and ultimately improve their quality of life and health moving forward. We are eager to volunteer on the local level in order to give back to our community and are humbled to be trusted with the CVCPHC patients and their health education in relation to diabetes. We look forward to pursuing the project wholeheartedly and the opportunity InsuLearn will provide us to fulfill MUSM’s mission to help meet the needs of medically underserved Georgia through direct patient contact and hands-on experience, as well as improving our ability to communicate effectively with patients!
From my first exposure to medicine to the essence of my Population Health Rotation Community Assessment findings to the foundation of my Distinction in Service to the Community (DISC) Project, Diabetes Mellitus seems to be the diagnosis that has gone full circle.
So with November 14th (today) being World Diabetes Day, I thought it only fitting to introduce my Merit Based Medicine website/blog! The goal of this platform is to serve as a consolidation of useful resources for pre-med and medical students, as well as a safe place for asking questions, receiving genuine feedback, and giving quality advice. I hope that people can take something away from my mistakes, successes, failures and everything in between!
I challenge you to personally get involved in World Diabetes Day! This is a global event that invites health professionals, individuals with diabetes, health/diabetes advocate, media platforms, government organizations, members of the general public and everyone else to unite together and raise awareness of diabetes. Here are a few ways you can get involved:
Exercise Wearing Blue Today
Spotlight Diabetes by Advocating Awareness on your Social Media Pages
Organize an Activity with Social Distancing in Place to Engage a Community
Participate in the Global Diabetes Walk Initiative
Promote the Blue Circle Logo with the "Blue Circle Selfie App" and more!
About the World Diabetes Day Establishment Creditors:
The International Diabetes Federation (IDF) is an umbrella organization of over 230 national diabetes associations in 170 countries and territories.
It represents the interests of the growing number of people with diabetes and those at risk. The Federation has been leading the global diabetes community since 1950.
World Diabetes Day (WDD) was created in 1991 by IDF and the World Health Organization in response to growing concerns about the escalating health threat posed by diabetes.