Growing up, Jahmil Lacey knew there was something different about his grandfather, but he couldn’t quite pinpoint what it was. As a child, he would wonder why his grandfather pricked his finger and made it bleed. He felt confused when his grandmother would serve his grandfather different food than the rest of the family.
But it wasn’t until he was older that Lacey realized exactly what was going on: His grandfather had type 2 diabetes. Unfortunately, his grandfather wasn’t able to properly care for himself with the disorder and passed away due to complications.
The loss of both of his grandparents deeply impacted the young Lacey, and he knew that when he became an adult he wanted to do something to change the world for the better. He especially wanted to help men like his grandfather embrace a healthy lifestyle.
The motivated student, who’ll be attending the Post Baccalaureate Graduate Program at Charles Drew before enrolling in medical school at the has already made enormous strides within his community. Recently, he founded , a healthcare startup that partners with local barbershops in order to bring healthcare and resources to black men in Lacey’s community.
In part because of the struggles that he watched his grandfather go through, Lacey wanted to focus on helping this historically disadvantaged group in a place where they felt at home.
“TrapMedicine was really born as a vehicle for educating people, but then it grew into, ‘Oh, we could actually use this space to also provide services on site,’” Lacey says.
What began as a connection with one barbershop in his hometown has now grown into two fruitful relationships with shops in Oakland and San Francisco. He brings medical students and physicians directly into the barbershops where they do basic health checkups, including hypertension screenings, blood pressure readings, and blood sugar readings, as well as provide basic education. The readings stay at the barbershop so that the health coach working there can keep tabs on the clients from week to week.
Lacey notes that his healthcare model is especially important because there’s an important racial history to be considered when it comes to black men seeking medical care. He links a present-day distrust between black men and youth with healthcare institutions.
“They're discriminated against and made to feel less than in an exam room at a hospital,” Lacey explains. “As a result of that, people would rather just WebMD something, or just forget about whatever they're going through and try to have their own self-remedies to address some of the health issues that they have instead of going to the doctor.”
Research corroborates with Lacey’s observations. Examples date back to the in the 1940s, in which black men were unknowingly infected with syphilis, to recent studies, which suggest there’s a measurable difference in quality of , , and between whites and blacks.
But the motivated doctor-to-be is hoping that the funds from Healthline’s scholarship will enable him to bring a new future of healthcare, for black men especially.
He’s pouring his energies into his studies and his new startup and looks forward to standing as a pillar of new direction in his community. “I've taken countless years in school and have spent countless time investing in trying to put myself in this position to be able to be a voice for people,” Lacey explains. “I don't take that lightly.”
Chaunie Brusie, BSN, is a registered nurse with experience in labor and delivery, critical care, and long-term care nursing. She lives in Michigan with her husband and four young children, and she’s the author of the book “.”