Seeing Is Believing for Emmanuel Chandler

Emmanuel Chandler, MD, brings passion to all the work he does, in and outside the medical center.

As the medical director of Adolescent and Transition Medicine and an advocate for health equity and physician diversity, Chandler continually demonstrates stellar leadership, professionalism, and passion. In fact, he was recently named a Rising Star Medical Leader 2020 by Venue Magazine. This award honors the most respected young medical professionals and their dedication and work to expand, evolve and improve healthcare in the Cincinnati area.

A Lifelong Dream

From the time he was a child, Chandler knew he wanted to be a doctor. His interest started when he noticed his parents watching a documentary on cardiothoracic surgery. He looked at his mom and said, “That is what I want to do.” Chandler found inspiration to keep pursuing this dream from his pediatrician, Charles Whittenberg, MD.

“I really enjoyed going to see Dr. Whittenberg and learning about his work as a pediatrician. I was also drawn to him because he was a black male. There are not many black male physicians. So being able to see someone who looked like me, doing what I wanted to do, was extremely encouraging and motivating for me as a child.” Chandler explained.

At the age of 16, Chandler was diagnosed with scoliosis. Everything he was doing came to a halt, as he had to undergo spinal surgery. For an active and involved junior in high school, this was crushing.

The nurses and physicians who helped in my recovery taught me so much about perseverance. I also witnessed first-hand the impact medical providers can have on a patient’s life and how important that physician/patient relationship is to young adults.”

Having such positive medical role models in early childhood motivated Chandler to continue his journey into medicine.

“I wanted to be able to provide the same care and passion that I received when I was 16 to young adults going through similar things,” he said.

Finding a Fit

At the Medical University of South Carolina, Chandler was involved in a program called, “A Gentleman and a Scholar.” This is a mentorship program where minority male medical students offer guidance to high school and college minority males who have an interest in studying medicine.

“I am the first physician in my family” said Chandler. “I did not have the mentorship and other resources that a lot of my counterparts might have had growing up. Because of what I did not have, I wanted to be a mentor to minority males and help them navigate through this process.”

This mentorship program helped solidify Chandler’s interest in adolescent medicine and his passion for improving physician diversity and inclusion in the workforce.

“I had a patient in my adolescent medicine rotation whom I still remember. He was coming in for routine acne care. He told me how shocked he was to see a medical student look like him.

“That medical rotation was only four weeks, but it was extremely influential to my career. I learned that I connected really well with adolescents. I had found my passion and wanted to develop meaningful relationships with teenagers and help them through the transition of becoming healthy, thriving adults.”

Making an Impact

Part of Chandler’s fellowship at Cincinnati Children’s was to provide care for the youth at the Hamilton County Juvenile Detention Center.

“I fell in love with the work, the kids and the impact I was making. These kids are in such a crossroads moment in their life. I have an opportunity to help change the trajectory of the path they are taking.”

Chandler recently saw a patient at the Juvenile center who made a lasting impression and who demonstrates the importance of health equity and access to care for adolescents.

“This patient was brought into the juvenile center for being a lookout while one of his friends broke into cars,” he said. “As we talked, he shared with me his reasoning on why he was there, and I could tell how remorseful he was for his actions. He needed to provide for his family, they had no food in their house. So when the opportunity arose to make some money, he couldn’t turn it down.

“Was this the best decision for this patient to make? Absolutely not. However, his story touched me. He made a decision because he did not know any other way to get the resources to feed his family.”

Wrestling with Self-Doubt

One of the biggest challenges Chandler has faced and continues to deal with is “imposter syndrome.” Impostor syndrome is when an individual doubts their accomplishments or talents and has a persistent internalized fear of being exposed as a “fraud."

“Not always seeing people who look like you in physician roles is a major reason why I struggle with this,” he acknowledged. “I had to realize I do belong and that I am capable and have the qualities to perform in my role.”

Chandler tackles his imposter syndrome with the help of his mentors and sponsors. Chandler’s division director, Jessica Kahn, MD, MPH, has been an influential figure throughout his time at Cincinnati Children’s. Kahn and Chandler’s many other mentors have helped affirm that he is doing what he is supposed to be doing and that being a physician is his purpose and passion.

Promoting Health Equity and Increasing Diversity

Within Adolescent Medicine, Chandler has been part of the division’s work to improve health equity for adolescents in the Cincinnati community. Part of that work, co-led by Chandler, is to decrease behavioral health admissions for adolescents. This work involves addressing the areas that prohibit adolescents from getting the mental healthcare they need. Chandler and the Adolescent Medicine team hope to provide them with better access to care and resources for mental health in their home and in the community.

“In the wake of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor, our division director made sure we were addressing racial injustice. I co-facilitated discussions around the topic of racism, how to be anti-racist, and how black and brown people experience racism within our hospital system.”

These discussions, co-led by Chandler, have played a part in Adolescent Medicine’s implementation of anti-racist practices within their strategic division pillars: Clinical, Community, Culture, Education and Research.

Community Involvement

Chandler’s work to promote racial equality goes beyond the medical center. He first became involved with the First Ladies Health Initiative when he was a fellow here.

The First Ladies Health Initiative, a faith-based organization devoted to provide health education and screenings for disparaged minority communities, visited Chandler’s church to provide health screening for kids. Chandler immediately volunteered to serve as a resource at this event if families had questions. He has been involved with the organization ever since. They recently recruited him to educate Cincinnati’s minority population on the importance of equal representation in the COVID-19 vaccine research study.

“My work has been focused on educating Cincinnati’s African American community on COVID-19 and the importance of minorities being involved in the COVID-19 vaccine trials,” he said. “We are not here to perpetuate any negative history of racism in research. We are here to help and show that we need their participation to ensure that this vaccine works for everyone.”

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