When Fende Bokossah, R.N., was in nursing school more than five years ago, she didn’t realize she would eventually be among the statistics she learned about in her textbooks. However, when she was diagnosed with diabetes in 2011, Bokossah knew her family history of diabetes played an integral role.
“It didn’t hit home until I actually got diagnosed,” Bokossah said. After losing several loved ones to poorly managed diabetes, the Cameroon, West Africa native recommitted her life to raising awareness and knowledge of the disease by becoming a diabetes educator.
Her passion to learn about preventing the diabetes complications suffered by her family inspired Bokossah to make significant strides in transforming her diet, losing weight and lowering her blood sugar. She credits the mentorship of Michele McBride, a certified diabetes educator and coordinator of the Outpatient Diabetes Education Program at Adventist HealthCare, and Project BEAT IT! with helping her attain her goals.
Adventist HealthCare oversees Project BEAT IT! to help increase access to culturally competent care in Washington, D.C., a region that is home to the second largest African immigrant population in the nation. Through training and education, the program aims to address local communities’ unique health needs and eliminate health disparities. By empowering both the providers and recipients of health care, Project BEAT IT! breaks down barriers that have historically contributed to health disparities in African immigrant and other minority populations.
McBride says the project has helped her grow as both an educator and a leader. “The BEAT IT! project has made me more culturally sensitive as an educator and also a more effective mentor to Fende,” she said.
McBride also credits Bokossah with teaching her about certain West African cultural elements, which have helped McBride in her treatment of West African immigrant patients. “She’s taught me a lot,” McBride said of Bokossah.
Likewise, Bokossah recognizes that what she has learned from working with McBride has empowered her to help herself. Inspired by what she’s learned as a caregiver and educator, Bokossah has taken steps to improve her own health. She attributes her loss of nearly 50 pounds in just four months to her success in applying the best practices she promotes in her work.
“That’s why programs like Project BEAT IT! are so important,” Bokossah said. “They empower educators as well as communities to lead healthier lives.”