An Interview with A. Maria Hester, MD
I approached Dr. Hester with this interview request because she is a living version of my blog. Her unique skill set and background, along with innovation and a grounded purpose to health is the epitome of Public Health in Action. Now let’s dive in.
Me: How did you get into the work that you’re currently doing? You started in medicine and now you’re here…tell me your story!
Dr. Hester: I was seeing so many people suffer and die needlessly. I witnessed the toll that sickness takes on patients and their families. It inspired me to lessen the impact in whatever way I could. Yes, practicing medicine is a beginning, but I believe that we physicians miss a tremendous opportunity to help people if our focus is just on the science of medicine. There is an art to medicine as well. Empowering people to be vital members of their own health care team is invaluable. Empowered patients have the ability to help curtail medical errors; decrease the need for excessive, redundant and sometimes potentially dangerous testing; expedite their own diagnosis; and slash their medical bills, while helping to decrease medical expenditures to the health care system as a whole. I have been trying to empower patients since my 3rd year of medical school, but I believe that of all my endeavors, the Patient Whiz has the greatest potential to create a paradigm shift in the way people approach their health and their health care. I teach them to think like doctors and actually predict the questions physicians will ask them.
Me: What inspires you on a daily basis, especially when things get hard?
Dr. Hester: Being in the healthcare field makes one really count her blessings. One day it may be me or a loved one lying in that hospital bed, unsure of what the future will bring. But my greatest inspiration comes from above. I’ll never forget the words to a song that was sung at my father’s funeral, “If I can help somebody along the way, my living will not be in vain.”
Me: What do you think it will take for our healthcare system improve?
Dr. Hester: We focus so much on the “system” and forget who we are serving, the patient. Until we dedicate the time and resources to inspiring and equipping people to be their own best health advocate we will fall short of our goals. You don’t have to be a doctor or nurse to master what I call basic “patient skills” that will allow you to streamline your own excellent medical care. Unfortunately, we have not prepared the average person to live out his potential to optimize his healthcare.
Me: How does religion play into your career? I know that you’re working on health publications specifically for Christians…
Dr. Hester: Being a Christian is a vital part of who I am. The app I’m working on, Total Health for African American Christians, takes a mind, body, and spiritual approach to wholeness. It emphasizes health conditions which hit the African American community disproportionately. I hope to have a version for the general public, as well as a Spanish version in the next few months.
Me: I’m looking forward to check it out Dr. Hester. Maybe we can introduce all its features here when it’s ready. Thank you so much for taking the time to discuss your thoughts and background. You are a leader that I look up to in the field of public health and medicine.