Meet Imari, the Lown Institute’s new Health Communications Specialist
Imari Daniels joined the Lown Institute in November 2023. She received her Master’s in Public Health from the Milken Institute School of Public Health at George Washington University with a focus in Health Policy.
I was introduced to the world of public health in high school by a teacher who was ahead of his time. While most people first learn about epidemiology in college, I was lucky enough to attend one of the first epidemiology classes to ever be held in a public high school, led by the brilliant Evern Williams. Learning about public health at a younger age was groundbreaking because it made me see the problems in my surrounding community through a different lens.
Babies having babies
Teen pregnancy was one example. I was aware of classmates who were dropping out of school due to pregnancy, but what hit me hardest was seeing a pregnant student walking out of a middle school my younger sister attended. I froze in shock realizing that her peer could be no older than 13. My mom used to call this “babies having babies.”
With new understanding that the unusual number of teen pregnancies in my community was actually a public health concern, my curiosity and determination were ignited. I began researching incidence rates of teen pregnancy in my community and reasons why this could be a pattern. I recognized that in my county there were gaps in health education, self-efficacy, and tools for upward mobility. So, I began a public health intervention called C.H.A.R.M. which stood for Conscious of Health, Attitude, Reality, and Manner.
This program was designed for girls at my former middle school, and the initiatives included emboldening their voice through public speaking and situational awareness activities. They were provided women’s health education to empower them to make informed decisions on taking care of their own bodies and advocate for their health needs. The girls were also given career talks and help with goal planning in order to provide clear direction with purpose, and motivation to identify distractions that could lead them astray.
Nearly ignored to death
Soon after, I had the privilege of being in the first public health program at the University of Miami. The horrors of poor healthcare delivery, preventable deaths, and barriers for under resourced groups were unveiled to me. Dealing with my own health battle during this time, I experienced fragmented care coordination, high medical costs, and poor quality care up close and personal. In one case, complications from a surgery for a kidney stent placement almost cost my life. When I sought help from my urologist upon feeling sick, my symptoms of pain and nausea were deemed unrelated to the recent procedure she performed. However, my condition quickly worsened and I had no choice but to head to the emergency room.
“Your wait to be seen will be at least six hours.”
Desperate for help, I explained to the triage nurse that I was surely experiencing kidney complications. My heart sank when she replied,“Your wait to be seen will be at least six hours.” I had no idea how I was going to endure such a long wait time, and I was confounded to see patients going ahead of me that seemed far less acute. When I was finally seen by a doctor, it was determined that I had sepsis and my kidney was enlarged from the clogged stent. I was immediately rushed to emergency surgery and would spend another week recovering in the hospital.
I recognized that I now had an inextinguishable determination to hold health care systems accountable for delivering poor quality care. I also wondered,”What could I do to prevent the crises of chronic disease and poor health outcomes, in the same way I had helped my younger peers in high school? How can we make health care low cost and accessible for all?”
The Lown Institute also shares this tireless mission to reform health care. Through innovative research, they uncover problems and highlight solutions to build a high-quality, accessible, and equitable health care system that addresses whole person care. I am excited to be a part of the Lown family and start work on two major projects I am tasked with: predatory billing practices and deficits in community benefit spending for hospitals. I believe that addressing issues like these can lower barriers to health care, reduce health disparities, and ensure access to vulnerable populations who deserve high-quality care.