ChicagoCHEC Fellow’s Perspective
By: Jasmine Richmond
When I first heard about the ChicagoCHECprogram, it sounded nice and like a good project. But all I could think of is what makes this program different from any other program that studies cancer. I thought that maybe they were testing cancer in African Americans, because I know throughout history African Americans have been used as experiments. I ended up applying and putting my heart and soul into my application hoping they felt my sincerity. No way did I think my application would be chosen, because I thought who would actually want a sick black girl to do research with. Upon receiving the news I was chosen, so many things ran through my mind, as I thought about how many other people wanted this chance. During the first week I was excited nervous and, anxious all in one, wondering about the new people I would be working with and all the new experiences I would have. During the first week I learned that there are a lot of healthcare related careers that I never knew existed.
To hear the lead cardiologist at Northwestern speak made me feel like I mattered. I never would have thought I would get to meet him unless I had a major heart problem. Dr. Yancy the lead cardiologist took time to speak to our small group which made me feel special. To hear a personal testimony from Robert Valadez , a professor from Truman College, gives me hope I can do anything. During week two I got the pleasure to meet Dr. Matthews, an incredible person doing great things in Chicago. Dr. Matthews has gotten rid of the sale of flavored cigarettes that attract children’s attention. By doing presentations in different communities Dr. Matthews has brought awareness of the cancer epidemic. During week three I have also had the pleasure of meeting Dr. Tracy Luedke. She has given me great ideas and makes me want to explore the world and give back to my community. One of my favorite presentations was Jen Cooper and how to deal with stress. It was fun, she was funny and very interactive. As I continue to work and gather information and knowledge about where I want to be, this program makes me want to be a better person. I have a group full of fun and loving people.
Working with ChicagoCHEC is one of those experiences that is hard to explain. It challenges you and make you question about all the different diseases we can control. To meet so many different people in different part of the health field I never knew existed was exciting. In school they only really teach about the basic doctors and nurses but not really about the scientists and other behind the scenes professionals. I wish more people especially the individuals in the poorer parts of Chicago could have this chance. The chance to explore, learn, and question. We need more healthcare professionals that don’t just care about the money and don’t see people as a dollar sign. I want a world where no person’s life means more than another’s. This is what I feel the ChicagoCHEC program is shining a light on –how minorities are treated in this country and other countries. Through ChicagoCHEC, I have met so many different professionals that are willing to share their stories of failures as well as successes. The professionals are always willing and happy to help us with fulfilling our dreams. Before ChicagoCHEC I have never heard of precision healthcare. Precision healthcare is specific healthcare for each individual. Knowing of healthcare made for what I need as an individual and not just what works for the majority, made me feel incredible.
During an encounter with Dr. Winn, a doctor who started precision healthcare, he said “you are not just representing yourself”. This made me think about who I represent beside myself. When I truly thought about it, I realized I represent me, my family, and all the people that look like me that came before me and that will come after me. ChicagoCHEC is doing great work within the poorer parts of Chicago, and it makes me proud to be a fellow. One of the parts I loved about the ChicagoCHEC program is the UIC Wednesday. On UIC Wednesday we gather with other groups like GUIDE and Research Start and enjoy lectures. Also during UIC Wednesday we get to go on site visits to the different locations that Northwestern and UIC work with. A lot of the different locations are small clinics in poorer areas. The people within the clinics are doing great work and are really trying to help their community.
One of my favorite site visits was to the Puerto Rican Culture Center. This center is doing great work in the community and are providing people with a great outlet. The founder of the Cultural Center is very knowledgeable and very passionate about his work. He is a proud Puerto Rican man who wants better for his Puerto Rican and black people. This site visit encouraged me to keep studying the history of my people and made when want to continue taking African American courses. Through the ChicagoCHEC program, I have found a great mentor that is a doctor in my field of study which is dentistry. This dentist took time to meet with me, so we can personally talk about how I can advance to the title of dentist. Dr Patrick Smith is one of the nicest and genuine people I have ever met. This program has made me question whether I really want to be a dentist. At the end of the day I love dentistry, when I go to sleep all I do is dream of being a dentist. This program hasmade me want to work twice as hard to become a dentist and change policies. I felt that ChicagoCHEC did a great job when it came to booking speakers that interest everyone. I am the only person that was interested in dentistry, but they made sure a dentist was there to talk to the group. There was a person interested in graphic medicine, and ChicagoCHEC managed to find someone to talk to the group about graphic medicine. ChicagoCHEC found medical students and different doctors to come speak with those of us that are interested in going to medical school. All the speakers didn’t just talk about cancer disparities, but also gave us important information on how to advance in our personal and professional lives.
During this past seven weeks we have read somegreat books. The Death Gap was one of my favorite books that we read. The Death Gap talks about how healthcare is looked at and how people are treated based on what they can they pay. This book really took a hard look at healthcare in Chicago, which is something I never really thought about. The Death Gap talks about how John Stroger as known as Cook County, Rush, and Mt. Sinai are all in the same area but only Cook County Hospital takes more of the immigrants and people of color. This was not very shocking because I personally know there are hospitals that prefer not to deal with people of color. It really just reminded me what my aunt told me when I got sick one day, “go to the white people hospital they will take better care of you there.” I know what it feels like to go to the doctor and be completely ignored and that is in no way what I want my patients to feel. Now I wonder could this be true? I believe everyone deserves the proper healthcare, no matter what race, age, or gender. As I continue on my health career path I will make sure I provide equality to all I come in contact with.
If I cannot make it as a dentist, I will go to school to get my Masters in Public Health to change policies that affect everyone. I can say I have come a long way in my thought process and I know I have a long way to go. I have been inspired by so many of my peers to be great. I will rise to the challenge and be the great dentist I know I can be. Another great book was about Henrietta Lacks. Henrietta was an African American woman whose stem cells had been used for over 20 years without her consent to develop vaccines for things like polio. This book was quite interesting because it showed how the medical system was and remains flawed. As the program comes to an end, I reflect on all the new people I have met, all that I have learned. ChicagoCHEC is doing some great work that I never knew was being done in Chicago. I previously felt like in Chicago everyone cared only about themselves, but this program has proven me wrong. Because of ChicagoCHEC I find myself helping and caring more. Like Dr. Winn said, I’m not just representing myself. I know everyone is not given this opportunity but I intend to make the best of mine.
The views expressed in this paper are exclusively those of the author and not necessarily representative of the organizations the author represents nor the ChicagoCHEC organization. This work is solely intended to help further disseminate information related to ChicagoCHEC’s cause and stimulate dialogue about important topics. It is not a report by ChicagoCHEC itself and must not be treated as such.