American Heart Association promotes health equity with scholarship program

One recipient is Chicago’s Madison Tate (pictured), who is studying to become a dermatologist.

One recipient is Chicago’s Madison Tate (pictured), who is studying to become a dermatologist.

Growing up in Chicago, Madison Tate struggled with acne and other skin issues. 

Her sister also had severe eczema.

“It was really hard for my parents to find someone to help,” said Tate, in part because both women are Black, and dermatologists are often trained primarily with images of white people, according to recent research. 

Tate, 18, hopes to change that. She is a freshman studying to become a dermatologist at Howard University, a historically Black college that offers a program in which students can obtain their undergraduate and medical degrees in six years.

Tate recently received some help in achieving that goal through the American Heart Association’s EmPowered Scholars program, which aims to promote health equity.

Tate was among six female undergraduate students studying a science who each received a $5,000 scholarship.

The American Heart Association also awarded a total of $65,000 through its EmPowered to Serve Business Accelerator to entrepreneurs whose ventures seek to address problems related to food insecurity, transportation and healthcare access, among other issues.

“The EmPowerede to Serve Business Accelerator and the scholarship program are really designed to lift up community-based solutions that lead to scalable change,” said Katrina McGhee, EVP of marketing and communications with the American Heart Association, a nonprofit based in Dallas that aims to prevent heart disease and stroke. 

The EmPowered programs are representative of the organization’s focus on the social determinants of health, McGhee said. 

The National Academy of Medicine reports that medical care accounts for only 10% to 20% of the health outcomes for a population; the rest is determined by factors such as education, housing and diet.

Larger societal inequities then translate to, for example, Black Americans being 30% more likely to die from heart disease than white Americans, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  

The American Heart Association wanted to focus on people’s “access to healthy foods, their access to housing, their access to education,” said McGhee. “We said, ‘We need to partner with community-driven solutions that are innovative, scalable and of the community.”

The organization awarded $50,000 to Sharon Samjitsingh, cofounder of Health Care Originals, a startup that offers cardio-pulmonary wearable systems aimed at helping people with respiratory conditions; $10,000 to Cornelia Williams, cofounder EMTomorrow, a nonprofit that provides emergency medical technician training in Washington, DC; and $5,000 to Kimberly Brown, founder of Get Up Get Movin’, a motivational fitness program, it said in a statement.

This was the fifth year of the business accelerator, and the American Heart Association has invested $700,000 in the program, according to the organization. The virtual finale for this year’s contest was hosted by Sharon Epperson, CNBC senior personal finance correspondent. 

Judges included Shelly Bell, founder and CEO of Black Girl Ventures Foundation; Alfred Edmond Jr., SVP and executive editor-at-large of Black Enterprise; Dr. Monik Jimenez, cardiovascular epidemiologist and professor at Harvard Medical School and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital; and Prathamesh Prabhudesai, cofounder of SafeBVM and a 2020 EmPowered business accelerator grant recipient.

The organization also said this year that it planned to invest more than $230 million over the next four years to “address the barriers to achieving equitable health for all.”

“I think you will see us invest much more heavily in [the accelerator] model. We know that it works,” said McGhee, mentioning that the organization offered an accelerator last year for entrepreneurs in Puerto Rico. 

Meanwhile, Tate is committed to becoming a dermatologist. Only about 3% of such doctors are Black, according to Dermatology News. In addition to wanting to address inequities and help people who struggle with skin conditions the way she and her sister did, she said she also likes the specialty because “it’s kind of like an art and a science.” 

”You can work on cosmetic procedures and non-cosmetic procedures,” said Tate. “I just want to be someone who would really care for my patients and really show them that I am not going to give up until they are fully confident and fully happy with their results.”

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