Expanding my Perspective on Health

Amy Labrador reflects on Dr. Ebony Boulware's visit to the Huang Fellows

Dr. Ebony Boulware’s visit expanded my perspective on health as well as my vision for a future career as a healthcare professional. At the beginning of the visit, Dr. Boulware impressed me with her extensive list of positions and responsibilities at Duke. Among other things, Dr. Boulware devotes her time between seeing her patients as the Chief of General Internal Medicine, working on various research projects at the Center for Biobehavioral Health Disparities research and engaging with the Durham community as the Vice Dean for Translational Sciences. One day, I wish to not only have her excellent time management skills, but also, the leadership capabilities and emotional intelligence to succeed in several career endeavors.

L. Ebony Boulware, Duke University School of Medicine, Addressing the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
L. Ebony Boulware, Duke University School of Medicine, Addressing the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Dr. Boulware discussed how there has clearly been a mindset shift in terms of how healthcare professionals envision health. A couple decades ago, medical school curriculums mainly focused on the various facets of treating sickness and disease. Courses did not center around preventing sickness or how to preserve and promote health. On the other hand, today, many physicians have realized the importance of addressing social determinants of health (SDOH). There is a greater focus on health and wellness, rather than sickness, and its relation to health conditions.

“What do you think is the number one problem that patients are experiencing?” Dr. Boulware asked. Her answer surprised me. I initially thought that patients may need medical help because doctors cannot find a successful treatment for a certain biological disease. However, at Lincoln Community Health Center, a federal community health center located in Durham, the most significant issue that patients had was that they could not pay their rent.

“…The most significant issue that patients [have is] that they can not pay their rent.”

I thought this real-life example perfectly captured the importance of SDOH in health equity. If patients are concerned about paying their rent, how will patients pay for treatment or for medications? How can they afford to pay for transportation to their medical appointments?

I am so thankful for professionals like Dr. Ebony Boulware who focus on addressing health inequities through her leadership positions. By engaging with the community, mentoring other students and faculty, and asking the important questions, she challenges us all to think about health from a new point of view.

Amy Labrador, Huang Fellow ’24

Labrador_AmyAmy is a pre-med student from Miami, FL intending to major in Global Health and Psychology.