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Olivia Nathan, PharmD, RPh at TEDx King-Lincoln Bronzeville

Since 2018, the TEDx King-Lincoln Bronzeville (TEDxKLB) has connected the history of the Bronzeville neighborhood—the heart of an affluent African-American business and entertainment district in the 1930s & 40s—to today’s thriving and revitalized King-Lincoln District. A unique platform in the Midwest, TEDxKLB amplifies the diverse voices of Black and Brown people, sharing their ideas, inspiration, and commitment to making their community and the world a better place to live.

In the time of COVID, many events have had to cancel or innovate to provide a safe experience. Luckily, innovation paved the way for this year’s TEDxKLB Drive-In. On Friday, October 23 from 7:30 PM – 11:30 PM, twelve speakers will give their talks live from the stage of the historic Lincoln Theater, which will stream live to a pop-up “drive-in” at Ohio State Outpatient Care’s parking lot on Taylor Avenue. This year’s theme – Kwanzaa 365: Driving the Conversation toward Liberation.

Olivia Nathan, a Staff Pharmacist at Equitas Health’s King-Lincoln Medical Center & Pharmacy, is one of this year’s TEDxKLB speakers. Olivia and I spoke about community, Kwanzaa, and how both inspire her work at Equitas Health in the King-Lincoln District.

During the interview we talk about the 7 Kwanzaa Principles: Unity, Self-Determination, Collective Work & Responsibility, Cooperative Economics, Purpose, Creativity, and Faith.

 

Sean Moseley: Good afternoon, Olivia. Thank you so much for taking the time to do this interview.

Olivia Nathan: Absolutely! I’m so excited about this event.

SM: Yes, let’s get to it! You are speaking at the third annual TEDx King-Lincoln Bronzeville. I was not aware that the King-Lincoln district had its own TEDx series, so this was a learning opportunity for me. What can you tell me about this year’s event?

ON: First, I want to say how appreciative I am that TEDxKLB has made this event happen in the midst of a pandemic. All of our practices and preparation have been virtual, and it has still been so powerful to connect with the organizers and the other speakers. I think that is going to translate to the event itself, because these talks have the ability to change people’s lives.

SM: This year’s theme is “Kwanzaa 365: Driving the Conversation toward Liberation.” How do you incorporate the seven principles of Kwanzaa into your professional life year round? Is there one principle in particular that aligns with the work you do at the King-Lincoln pharmacy?

ON: The third principle is Ujima, which translates as “Collective Work & Responsibility.” Ujima is all about uplifting your community. At Equitas, our mission is to provide care for all – no matter your background, your zip code, your gender identity or sexual orientation. One person cannot get that done. It is our collective work to treat every patient as a whole person to make sure they get the best care possible.

SM: You mentioned earlier that celebrating Black culture was important to you as a Black woman. How does being a Black woman inform your work as a pharmacist in a historically Black community?

ON: African-American pharmacists are extremely underrepresented in the profession, so being here in the King-Lincoln district is a huge opportunity to confront the racial health disparities that have excluded Black people from conversations about healthcare.

SM: So, as you meet the customer where they are and engage them in patient-focused care, does this make them part of that “collective work and responsibility?”

ON: The community and us, we are in this together. Our patients partner with us, and we partner with them. It has to be a joint effort. I will speak about this notion of a “community viral load” in my talk. How a community works together to get everybody to an undetectable status. How we get everybody access to PrEP. Ujima is success based on the strength of the community, not the individual. Life is better for everyone when we work together.

SM: What is one way Equitas Health can support the strength of the King-Lincoln community?

ON: We need to foster opportunities for Black women to be seen and heard. My colleagues and I have discussed how the Black community views HIV as a gay white male disease. If you look at the groups with the highest rates of infection in Ohio, this simply is not the case. Black women who identify as heterosexual have some of the highest rates of HIV infection. Dispelling the stigma and myths about HIV and engaging the Black community in conversations about PrEP and HIV are critical to fulfilling Equitas Health’s mission and the preserving the vibrant legacy of the King-Lincoln Bronzeville District.

SM: How does the Pharmacy engage in these conversations?

ON: A provider might see a patient once a year or every six months. Unless they use delivery or receive 90-day supplies, we see patients at least once a month when they pick-up their refills. That makes the pharmacy a high touch point that allows Equitas Health to stay connected to the community and vice versa.

SM: Let’s talk about community. Are you a Columbus native?

ON: I was born and raised in Columbus. I left to pursue my undergraduate education at Spelman College, an HBCU in Atlanta.

SM: Did you stay in Atlanta for your graduate studies?

ON: No, I went to the University of California at San Francisco School of Pharmacy for my graduate studies.

SM: That’s quite a hopscotch across the country!

ON: It was a big step in so many ways. The world unfolded before my eyes in San Francisco.

SM: How so?

ON: At UCSF, I had a rotation in HIV/AIDS care that changed my life. Otherwise, I am not sure I would have known about this important work. San Francisco changed my whole way of thinking, and I am so grateful to have had that experience.

SM: Leaning on another Kwanzaa principle, it sounds like San Francisco is where you found your Nia (Purpose).

ON: My purpose definitely came alive at pharmacy school. I don’t go to work every day. I go to purpose. Really, the work I do every day is Purpose Work, and it is an honor to do what I do every day.

SM: How is TEDxKLB part of your Purpose Work?

ON: I think having a Purpose makes you a little bit greedy. You always want to do more. Reach more people. TEDxKLB gives me the opportunity to talk about our services to a broader community that may not know everything that we do and everyone that we serve. Many people view Equitas Health as “the gay medical center.” There is a lot of education and outreach that needs to happen, especially in the Black community, about the availability and need for the services Equitas Health offers.

SM: What are some of the things you enjoy the most about working in the King-Lincoln neighborhood?

ON: I love working in, and being a part of a historically Black community with such a rich sense of history. I feel a sense of pride every day fulfilling my purpose in the King-Lincoln district, and see other organizations fulfilling theirs as well. Did you know that the King-Lincoln neighborhood is a food dessert? Every Friday, Local Matters has their Veggie Van in our parking lot. I love that service, because it provides community members access to affordable, fresh produce and food education. They even do live cooking demonstrations.

SM: That sounds like an amazing service. Are Equitas Health patients taking advantage?

ON: We definitely let them know it is there. I’m not sure how many of them do.

SM: Putting on my Marketing hat, maybe this would be great to push on social media, or with a lobby slide, as a value-added service for our King-Lincoln patients.

ON: Yes! They had to take some time off due to COVID.  That would be a great way to let everyone know they are back, up, and running with social distancing procedures in place.

SM: Okay, we will definitely loop back on that.

ON: And I have a contact person for you.

SM: See, this is how Nia and Ujima get done. We have to connect with each other, connect with community partners, and pool our resources to connect our patients, and the communities we serve, to these services.  Okay, take a breath, Moseley.

ON: It’s exciting, right?

SM: Yes, it is, and it speaks to the goals of TEDxKLB to act locally to contribute to global conversations about issues facing Black communities. How does the work that you do locally at the King-Lincoln pharmacy connect to those national and global conversations?

ON: I am going to talk about an issue affecting the Black community: HIV, and propose a solution: PrEP, that the pharmacy provides. According to the CDC only 1% of Black Americans who could benefit from PrEP are using it. That is alarming to say the least. So, I see my TEDxKLB talk as a way to have this conversation at a local level and plant a seed to get this information to people nationally and maybe globally as well.

SM: What do you think are some of the reasons only 1% of Black Americans who might need it are taking PrEP?

ON:  Many people think that they do not need PrEP, because they have seen it marketed in a certain way, or a provider presents it to them in a certain way. They see it, as they might see Equitas Health, as something for gay men when the rising number of Black Americans becoming HIV+ demonstrates a real need for safe and effective HIV prevention. The Black community needs PrEP.

SM: But do we want it?

ON: That’s the question. I can count on my hands the number of Black women that fill PrEP prescriptions at my pharmacy. That has to change. There is so much stigma in the Black community attached to conversations about sexual health. This is the most important part of my talk, getting the information out there and normalizing conversations about our sexual health. I am so grateful to Equitas Health and TEDxKLB for giving me a space where I feel safe to talk about this very important issue.

SM: One of the first projects I worked on at Equitas Health was how to change the narrative about PrEP and market it authentically to Black women.

ON: It’s all about building that trust. There are so many shameful and shocking chapters in our nation’s history where that trust has been shattered. In my practice, I have found that when you have someone who looks like you, who shares your same experiences, giving you information about your health, it goes a long way. People might trust me, because we look the same. It is hard to explain, but it is a powerful bond. Connecting and preserving the trust of my community is one of the most beautiful things about being a Black pharmacist. That is why representation in healthcare matters. If we are going to change the narrative, we need providers who represent the communities we are trying to reach.

SM: What affect do you think your talk will have in the King-Lincoln community?

ON: I keep telling myself if even one person leaves that room with more knowledge about PrEP and HIV than they drove in with, then it was a success. Every wave starts with a ripple.

SM: Exactly, we tend to be a society obsessed with immediate gratification. Oh, you did this talk, and now we want a 1000% increase in PrEP prescriptions to Black patients. Like, hey, if we get one Black woman who fills a PrEP prescription at King-Lincoln, because she heard your talk…

ON: I would definitely call that a win!

To reserve your parking spot for the TEDxKLB, please visit: www.tedxklb.org/events