June 27, 2011

advice from my mom

I turn 25 next week and have been a health literacy trainer since the ripe age of 23. Just writing that sentence is liberating. In my job, I feel like I am constantly avoiding any discussion about my age or "credentials." Healthcare providers are incessantly asking me how old I am and what my background is. To them, 25 is the same as 23, and 23 is the same as 18. At least that's how it feels to me when I walk into a room of established healthcare providers who have been taking care of their patients for more years than I have age. And credentials...well, I have my B.A. I double-majored and did two internships abroad. Both things I'm very proud of, but when everyone else in the room has an MD, RN or MPH...well, my BA is something I'd rather keep tucked away.

But c'est la vie! I'm 25 (wait, 24!) and don't have any degrees above a BA...judge me if you will, doc. But I'm also a damn good trainer (excuse my french). And in my two years of researching health communication, patient-centered care, patient-empowerment, yada yada yda, I've become a subject matter expert. And in our research-based, half-day workshops that teach healthcare providers about the prevalence of low health literacy and their role in improved communication with patients, the providers learn A LOT! 96% of providers who attended our workshop reported increase awareness and knowledge of health literacy, and learned at least 3 communication interventions that they planned to utilize with their patients. I think those numbers are something to call home about.

So that's what I did. I talked to my mom about the ageism hangups I was experiencing and, per usual, she had some great advice for me.

"You have a unique knowledge, this health literacy thing that you do. It's obviously important and will help the doctors provide better care for their patients...maybe even save lives. If you go into the trainings with the mindset of, 'I have this knowledge that you all don't, and it's my duty to share it with you.' Then your age won't matter. You've studied this stuff because they don't have time to. And you're sharing it with them because you know it's important...and they'll learn that it's important."

Thanks, mom!


  1. I was meeting with a favorite student one day and I realized I was getting late for class. I said, "excuse me, I have to go teach." He kidded me by saying, "no Bob, you have the opportunity to go teach". I remember that like it was yesterday.

    You have unique knowledge, a talent and a receptive audience. What an opportunity! Have fun Pete!