Hispanic Heritage Month Spotlight: Fadi Jamaleddin Ahmad Focuses on Social Determinants of Health
At age 8, Fadi saw his brother diagnosed with nephrolithiasis after experiencing chest pains—a scary experience. Fortunately, his family was able to get him to medical professionals in time but the same wasn’t always true for those in his community.
“Growing up in a small isolated community in Venezuela, I saw the health determinants that affected my community and how frustrating it was to find healthcare within a 150-mile radius,” said Fadi. “The nearest clinic to my hometown was four hours away, which was a challenge for many of the people in my community, including my family and myself, in seeking health care.”
Addressing Key Health Concerns of His Community
After earning a scholarship to attend college in the United States, Fadi enrolled at the University of New Mexico. There, he worked two jobs while attending classes full-time, learning English, and navigating a new country on his own. His family—his father and mother, who had emigrated to Venezuela from Palestine, and his two younger brothers—remained in Venezuela.
Despite his hectic schedule, Fadi made it a priority to begin working towards his goal of helping underserved communities gain access to healthcare. He soon found an opportunity at Simply Salud, a clinic in Albuquerque, NM. Not only did the community remind him of his hometown, he also recognized a familiar health battle among the patients in the clinic: managing diabetes. He spent nearly eight years at the clinic, eventually becoming head of the diabetes program.
“I decided to create a community-based participatory diabetes management research project with Simply Salud,” he says. “Our vision was to integrate an EMR system and prevention program for patients across New Mexico, taking into account the medical, nutritional, educational, behavioral characteristics, and overall health of each patient.”
During his time at the clinic, Fadi worked to help reduce the rates of patients diagnosed with diabetes with a hemoglobin A1c value greater than 9%, a Healthy People 2020 Leading Health Indicator (LHI). “I saw that the majority of the Latino population that came to the clinic for the first time were diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes, and their A1c levels were mostly in the range of 9 or greater,” he says.
He recalled seeing a severely diabetic patient who arrived with A1c levels of about 14, and how rewarding it was to see drastic improvement in the patient after going through the program and receiving free resources and support.
“As I observed the health of patients at the clinic, I became more interested in pursuing preventive medicine because I believe that the best treatment is prevention,” said Fadi. “Since my hometown lacked these resources, I want to help communities like mine, so they don’t have to struggle with health needs.”
Becoming an Advocate on the Journey to MD
After three years of working two jobs and enrolling in a master's in public health program, Fadi was eventually able to help his whole family move to the United States. Less than two years later, he applied and was accepted to AUC, where he is now pursuing his dream of serving communities like the one in which he was raised.
“My past experiences have helped me fully understand the significance of becoming an advocate and leader in underserved communities,” says Fadi. “It is my responsibility as a future physician to provide the best patient care while focusing on creating an environment that supports educational programs and serving communities with high-quality principles of respect, justice, nonmaleficence, and beneficence.”
To learn more about Fadi, read his personal essay on AUC Frontline.