National University of Health Sciences (NUHS) naturopathic medicine graduate Tina Barrett was awarded the Health & Medicine Policy Research Group’s distinguished Schweitzer Fellowship for 2022-2023. Using an interdisciplinary approach, the fellowship allows recipients to experience real-world collaborative care first-hand. This is done by guiding them through innovative projects that help the under-served in some of Chicago’s most economically challenged communities.
In the program, fellowship recipients dedicate 200 service hours to a select project. The goal is to improve community wellbeing while targeting the social determinants of health. The conditions into which people are born, grow, live, work, and age have a great impact on health and quality of life.
Dr. Barrett said she firmly believes that naturopathic medicine can be a game changer for lifestyle-related conditions plaguing the black male population. As the mother of one son and godmother of two black male children, her concerns are understandable.
The health of black men consistently ranks among the lowest of U.S. demographic segments. Black men are more likely than other members of the population to have undiagnosed or poorly managed chronic conditions such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease.
“I’ve had two black male friends in their 40s pass away from sudden cardiac events,” she said. “My project will focus on making the connection between early lifestyle habits and mortality rates for non-hispanic, black males later in life.”
Dr. Barrett’s fellowship will allow her to apply her passion for naturopathic medicine to empower and instruct young black men on their sexual and reproductive health, nutrition, wellness and health literacy. During this time, she will work with York High School, part of Chicago Public Schools (CPS), located inside Cook County Prison-Juvenile Detention, and GRO Community, an organization providing mental health services to black boys and men in the Roseland Community on the south side of Chicago.
Additionally, she will hold in-person educational health talks at GRO Community and the Kroc Center, a Salvation Army community organization located in Morgan Park. Her plan includes holding virtual events and creating health education videos and social media posts.
“My current professional goal is not patient care. I would like to work more in the area of education, teaching young black males about their health concerns,” she said. “My desire is to be a public speaker, host my own video show and podcasts, and author books on African American health topics.”
Dr. Barrett said she also wants to introduce the profession as a possibility to future black medical professionals.
“This is the reason I helped create the Black Naturopathic Medical Student Association (BNMSA) at National University. I wanted to create a community of support,” she said. “I wanted this organization to help provide peer-to-peer and professional mentorship and opportunities for community advocacy.”
In the future, Dr. Barrett said she plans to be involved with naturopathic medicine advocacy in Illinois, continue her role as a mentor for current NUHS naturopathic medicine students, complete her master’s degrees in acupuncture and Oriental medicine, and earn her herbal medicine degree.