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Black History Month Spotlight: DSMc Student Tajuana Lordeus Shares Experiences and Insights

 _535_ Lordeus, PA-C, MS, a psychiatric physician assistant with Landmark Health and owner of Health Education and Lifestyle Programs (HELP), has overcome a road full of challenges and learning hurdles to get where she is today. 

As the first in her family to attend college following high school, Lordeus had to find a lot of her own answers when it came to understanding financial aid, counseling resources, building connections with professors, and balancing school and personal responsibilities and activities. 

“I am thankful that my mom gave me lots of love and support as I floundered initially but gradually found firmer footing,” said Lordeus. “And along the way, I developed nurturing friendships and mentoring relationships that were also very beneficial and for which I am very grateful.”

After her undergraduate studies, Lordeus enrolled in a master’s program to obtain the education and certification to become a physician assistant (PA). While working as a PA, Lordeus started HELP, through which she offers health lectures and CPR/AED training and supports community volunteer initiatives. In 2016, she completed the Mayo Clinic Wellness Coaching Program.

And with her continued commitment to professional development and her passion for healthcare, after 20 years working as a PA, Lordeus decided she wanted to find a doctoral program that “incorporated health leadership and psychiatry enhancements,” which led her to the Doctor of Medical Science (DMSc) program at Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions (RMUoHP). With a psychiatry track in the program, the DMSc “was very alluring,” said Lordeus. 

It wasn’t an easy decision, explains Lordeus, as she had to jump back into school after being out for almost 20 years, and “the learning environment and tools utilized have changed.” But she said, “it has been very rewarding to find that I am now understanding the platforms that other family members in my home are using to advance educational pursuits.”

Lordeus has already seen the impact her educational and work experiences have had on her view of healthcare. “As I work in a company that now has a more holistic and patient-centered approach to the delivery of health services, I am aware of the impacts on the social determinants of health on overall health outcomes. A lot of improvements are not seen because of poor health literacy or financial strain.”

As a medical professional, Lordeus works hard to build connections with her patients to better their overall health. “I am humble and always open to the idea that I can learn from my peers and clients alike. This makes me approachable and relatable in a non-judgemental or threatening way. I often admit to my clients that I am a mother, daughter, sister, etc., and that I wear similar hats that they do so I can provide empathy when they share their stories,” explains Lordeus. “This translates to clients that I am present, listening, and I care.”

Lordeus says that is especially important when working with underserved patient populations. “I have had the challenge of caring for clients that have had subpar health interactions that led to worsening of health conditions. These clients have an understandably deep mistrust and frustration with health systems as a result.”

Racism can have a deep and lasting impact on patient health. “Racism is a public health threat because it impacts lives personally, generationally, structurally, and institutionally,” said Lordeus. “When protocols and processes do not take into consideration the needs of marginalized populations and those lacking the socioeconomic resources as others, health is threatened. For example, vaccination drives are not successful, child health is subpar, chronic disease management is inadequate. Clients will not keep appointments and follow recommendations for their health when they perceive they are the target of racism.”

As a person of color, Lordeus aims to help those underserved populations. “When I have clients of color, they are most appreciative because many times they have rarely had a healthcare clinician participating in the management of their chronic diseases that is of the same race.”

She adds, “As a psychiatric physician assistant, I try to represent my profession and my race by giving my clients the best I can offer regardless of their gender, background, ethnicity, race, or religious affiliation.”

Diversity in healthcare makes a difference for healthcare institutions and their patients. “As a whole [it] brings fresh perspectives, decreased employment turnover rates, [and] increased satisfaction among clients served when they have more choices about who is providing care,” said Lordeus.

Lordeus says there are many ways to support diversity initiatives. “Become educated by staying abreast of the ways to eradicate personal biases. Read and interact with others that are different than yourself with openness and a welcoming disposition. Fund initiatives that bring about mass education and improvements in the systems that are oppressive. Encourage underrepresented children to go into fields of study that traditionally lack diversity. Be more proactive and mindful about networking outside of one’s comfort zone. Seek ways to promote and advance the careers of others not simply because of similarities and work quality but also how they can diversify the fabric of work culture thereby increasing the richness.”

With February being black history month, it’s a time to remember the focus on eliminating racism and supporting diversity. “This month of February, I am reminded of so many of our former activists and heroes–each person wanted improvements in the lives of those that have had hardship, injustices, and limited opportunities. It is still the same struggle for people of color today,” said Lordeus. 

“I try to learn daily and forgive quickly,” said Lordeus. “The old adage was ‘to treat people the way you would want to be treated,’ but recent learning is that we should attempt to ‘to treat people the way they request and desire to be treated’.” 

After graduating with her DMSc, Lordeus plans to continue practicing within the psychiatry field as a PA but also looks forward to more employment opportunities in leadership and administration. She also hopes to be able to do more consulting, speaking engagements, wellness coaching, and volunteering.