Dr. Griffin Rodgers is a familiar, comforting voice to radio listeners. His “Healthy Moments” commentaries are broadcast to audiences across the country and it is his mission to help black Americans understand what stands between them and good health and how to address it.
Rodgers is director of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases and oversees NKDEP (a program of the National Institutes of Health’s National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK)) and recently led an initiative, Kidney Sundays, to help African Americans raise awareness of kidney disease in their local community and its link to other diseases seen disproportionately in the black community.
One out of every six African American adults has some sign of kidney disease and black Americans are more than three times as likely to develop kidney failure as white Americans. And 80 percent of new cases of kidney failure among black patients are directly tied to high blood pressure and diabetes.
In March, National Kidney Month, NKDEP, the American Diabetes Association’s Live Empowered Initiative and Chi Eta Phi, a national nursing sorority, sponsored Kidney Sundays, an event in churches around the country, providing kidney education sessions and blood pressure screenings for congregants.
In an interview with Brown Medicine, the alumni magazine of Brown University’s medical school, Rodgers credited his mother, a public health nurse, with showing him how personal intervention with patients could help them make better life choices.
“Many of my mother’s patients weren’t able to get to the clinic during the work week. She’d take it upon herself to visit them at their homes during the weekend,” Rodgers said in the interview.
“…I learned quite a bit this way. Her knowledge, compassion, and ability to get along with people went a long way in getting them to follow instructions, do follow-up.”
Further, Rodgers said, “I saw that diabetes, obesity, and kidney disease hit African Americans harder than others. This was my first exposure to the effects and interaction of genetics and the environment.”
After he lost three friends to sickle cell anemia, Rodgers focused on hematology – the study of blood disorders – and, subsequently, began to look at the interconnection between a number of ailments that affected black people disproportionately and he began to focus on ways to improve health outcomes for the community.
On NIDDK’s home page, Rodgers said making better choices, along with strides in research, can lead to better health outcomes.
“The research advances of the past 60 years have saved lives, improved quality of life, and laid the foundation for today’s progress,” Rodgers said in the statement. “Most often, these advances resulted not from dramatic breakthroughs but from the steady, incremental findings of persistent investigative study. That investment is now paying off in unprecedented scientific opportunities.”
For more information about Rodgers’ research or ways to address kidney disease, visit www.nkdep.nih.gov.