NASHVILLE, Tenn. Titilola Ogunsola was always interested in making a difference in marginalized communities. Throughout her education, she’s worked with adolescents and adults faced with health disparities and difficult circumstances.
She hopes to spearhead both intervention and prevention efforts that will bring about positive change.
“This is just my heart,” the Baltimore native explained.
Summer Research Training Program
Ogunsola, a second-year medical student at New York Medical College, is a part of the Summer Research Training Program (SRTP). She’s working with Vanderbilt University Professor of Medicine, Health and Society Derek Griffith, PhD, and her research focuses on mortality and morbidity rates from chronic disease in both Latino and African American men.
“To me, it confronts a key health disparity,” she said. “According to the CDC, in 2015 the leading causes of death in black men included heart disease, diabetes and cancer.”
Among African American and Latino men, the prevalence of obesity is highest in African American and Latino men between 40 and 59 years of age. The focal point of Ogunsola’s work is eating practices, which she says are a major factor.
“My research is going to be really important long-term,” she said. “It will help inform interventions that focus on this area, to help prevent obesity and increase weight loss.”
‘A tremendous job’
“Picking up qualitative research isn’t easy, but she has done a tremendous job dealing with the complexity of the work and the challenges inherent in analyzing unstructured data,” Griffith said of his time working with Ogunsola. “She has been diligent and conscientious in moving her project along and she also has even pitched-in on another project on trust in research where her insights as a medical student were particularly valuable.”
John Stafford, Assistant Professor at Vanderbilt’s Diabetes, Endocrinology & Metabolism Division and the Director of the SRTP, agreed. “Titiloa has worked extremely hard on her project with Dr. Griffith's team to understand how eating patterns in African American and Latino men impact diabetes outcomes,” he noted. “Titiloa's contributions are important to help us understand how to better address treatments and prevention of complications from diabetes.”
“In sum,” Griffith added, “working with Titi has been a delight for me and our team, and I think and hope she has gained some valuable research experience along the way.”
In 2012, Ogunsola traveled to the Dominican Republic to conduct public research on teenage pregnancy. It was part of a full-ride fellowship she received after earning a Bachelors of Science Degree in Human Biology from Brown University.
“It was important to me because, as part of my senior honors thesis in undergrad, I looked at teen pregnancy in incarcerated adolescents,” she recalled. “So I was able to continue the research I’d started, but in a different light.”
The girls she worked with lived in a cycle of poverty, and Ogunsola strove to show them that education was an avenue of escape. She also worked with children who, in spite of their circumstances, had an incredible amount of joy.
“It made working with them a joy, but also sad to know their circumstances and wonder what’s being done about it,” she said.
Back in the states, Ogunsola completed her pre-med requirements and took various courses and programs at different institutions. In 2015, she did a Post-Baccalaureate in Advanced Biomedical Sciences with George Mason University and Georgetown University in a program called “George Squared.”
After that, she worked at the Boston Veterans Affairs Hospital in Cardiac Surgery as a Research Assistant. From there, she was accepted into New York Medical College.
Then, she came to Nashville for the SRTP.
When looking to the future, Ogunsola mostly sees more school.
“A lot of people ask what kind of doctor do you want to be,” Ogunsola said. “I can’t say with certainty. I do have a lot of interests, for sure.”
She was drawn to the medical field because of her desire to make a difference. She hopes to care for and be an advocate for patients.
“I want to have a positive impact on the community I serve, whether it’s here or abroad,” she said. “I will, for sure, find avenues to go back abroad.”'
About the Meharry-Vanderbilt Alliance
Founded in 1999, the Alliance bridges the institutions of Meharry Medical College and Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Its mission is to enrich learning and advance clinical research in three primary areas -- community engagement, interprofessional education and research -- by developing and supporting mutually beneficial partnerships between Meharry Medical College, Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the communities they serve. Through community engagement, the Alliance serves a large community of stakeholders including surrounding universities and colleges, community organizations, faith-based outlets and community health centers. Its interprofessional education enhances students' interdisciplinary understanding and improves patient outcomes through integrated care. The research conducted provides access to experienced grant writers and materials supporting the grant application process and facilitates grant-writing workshop.