By: Lamar Greene
HDL was a research lab based in my hometown of Richmond, Virginia. The facilities are dedicated to research focused on the prevention and early detection of cardiovascular diseases. It did not take long for HDL to become a haven for me as someone who wanted to be a cardiologist. In my first summer, I was able to shadow lab technicians and biomedical engineers while also working with lab assistants. I had my own workspace where I researched the risk factors for cardiovascular diseases and prevention measures that could be taken. There was also this cool indoor slide that could be used to get to the lobby from the fifth floor. I admit, sometimes I went to the fifth floor solely for that purpose. It was my time looking at chronic diseases from a broader lens at HDL that helped me realize my interests were more in public health than medicine.
My mother and I went to visit my grandmother’s house. There was medical paperwork spread across the coffee table in the living room. My mother did not look shocked by this; I was blissfully unaware of the situation until that moment. I discovered that my grandmother would have to have double bypass heart surgery, and I felt my heart crumble. I spent much of my childhood learning from my grandmother and enjoying her colorful humor. Questions kept popping into my mind in search of answers. Why did it have to come to this? Couldn’t this have been prevented? The truth was that my grandmother had shown many of the risk factors for cardiovascular disease, which still leaves me with the question of why did her doctors not do more.
My interest in health involves reshaping the healthcare industry to become more proactive in influencing health outcomes and preventing chronic diseases. I’m a firm believer that disease management, rather than a focus on preventative care, is a disservice to the patients and people affected. I am interested in health within context which has led me to study health disparities and social determinants of health more deeply. I hope to see use of a medical system where disease diagnosis is considered failure and people are spared the heartbreak that I experienced with my grandmother being ill. The experience with my grandmother coupled with my two summers spent at HDL confirmed my interest in health and improving health for all.