Resolving Health Disparities Goal of Georgetown Alumna
August 24, 2012 – When Toddchelle Young (C’12) was growing up in public housing in New Haven, Conn., she couldn’t help notice that her family and people in her neighborhood were disproportionately affected by health problems.
“The low-income environment that I grew up in was and is plagued by asthma, obesity, diabetes, alcoholism, drug abuse, stress and many other health issues,” Young explains. “Noticing that people who lived in ‘nicer’ neighborhoods and had higher income or education did not suffer from many of the same health issues, I [became] more than sure that social issues have an impact on one’s health.”
Young suffers from asthma and one of her brothers has Sickle-Cell disease.
She hopes to research social determinants of health and health disparities after she completes her masters in public health at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health in sociomedical sciences.
Young, a recipient of a 2012 Landegger Community Service Award, said when she came to Washington, her volunteer work also exposed her to disparities – in this case in Wards 7 and 8, with large numbers of cases of HIV, Hepatitis C, diabetes and obesity.
“I grew more passionate about helping such communities in whatever way that I can,” she said. “Research, as I soon realized, would be my first step in my quest to help eliminate health disparities in such communities.”
She starts her master’s program this fall, and eventually plans to apply to medical school.
Young, a sociology major at Georgetown, participated in an impressive number of community service activities.
She helped write grants for a breast cancer conference, participated in a breast cancer awareness program for young women and helped women living in high-risk HIV/AIDS DC communities.
She also had a five-month internship exchanging clean needles, conducting HIV screening tests and giving out food until the organization closed in February 2011.
“I was one of the student volunteers … on the mobile unit that served the high-risk areas of D.C., mostly in Wards 7 and 8,” Young explains. “Whether I was on the mobile unit or on site, the conversations I had with the clients and community members is the reason why I decided to pursue a degree in public health.”
She said the day Prevention Works closed, “a client of more than five years told me that if they closed [the organization] she would give up hope and no longer seek help for her drug addiction because she [would] never find people who she would trust like she trusted us.”
Young says she “cried for days following the closing, and I knew in my heart that I needed to continue this work in some way, shape or form.”
“I can honestly and proudly say that choosing Georgetown University was the best decision that I ever made,” she said at a fund-raising event, adding that she chose Georgetown over 10 other universities.
Many professors inspired her, she says, including sociology and Timothy Wickham-Crowley, associate professor and chair of the sociology department, and Hinkson, an assistant professor of sociology.
“Their classes and mentorship helped me discover my love for research and social issues that have major impacts on communities,” she says.
And she said Kesslyn Brade-Stennis, who directs the Georgetown University Gospel Choir, “wasn’t just my gospel choir instructor, but a spiritual leader, mentor, and a huge supporter of my aspirations…”
In her application for the Landegger award, Young was clear about her faith.
“God has blessed me with not only the motivation, but with the passion to serve.”