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Dr. Garth Graham Speaks at East Carolina University

Minority health leader calls on minority med students to serve

Dr. Garth N. Graham, deputy assistant secretary for minority health in the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, recently spoke at the East Carolina Heart Institute. The 27th annual event was sponsored by the East Carolina University Student National Medical Association. In May, 69 medical students will graduate from the Brody School of Medicine. Of those, 21 are minorities.

Many of those graduating will practice medicine in underserved areas where health disparities are a major concern. Graham, who works to reduce disparities in poor and underserved areas, said the way health care is delivered in the future will require more minority health care professionals.

“Research has shown people more readily seek treatment from practitioners who share similar cultural backgrounds,” he said. “Minority practitioners are important to reduce health care disparities in those areas.”

When practitioners provide “compassionate care” patients will follow up or refer other patients, he said. This will help identify behaviors that account for the differences in the rate of illnesses affecting the poor and minorities in comparison to other parts of the country and people from other socioeconomic backgrounds.

Graham drew from experience and challenges in his life to explain opportunities and challenges facing medical students in “this historic time in health care.”

First, practitioners must understand the past to be able to provide compassionate service in the future, he said.

“There is more to us than just our individual aspirations — certainly more in terms of when we work collectively to benefit the community,” Graham said. “We should inspire to serve.”

Graham reminded students to strive to attain all the things Best stood for — merit, service and compassion — on their path to success and always remember family.

In May, that's just what Brody School of Medicine students Akilah S. Crawford and Landon T. Williams will aspire to do.

Crawford, who specializes in pediatrics, said the struggle of those who have passed on before her and of those who still are here like Graham adds confidence to what she feels she can accomplish.

“Someone like Dr. Graham from a small area made it to such a high position in service and politics really inspires me,” she said.

Williams added that family was an intricate part of him achieving his goal.

“Understanding your past, to appreciate family and know without them you can't go forward,” Williams said. “The values they instilled in you are the values you're going to instill in your practices.”


from: The Daily Reflector/photo by Aileen Devlin

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