Episode #22: Akilah Cadet

 
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Dr. Akilah Cadet, MPH has 15+ years in management and building successful projects, teams, and leaders. She has worked various multimillion-dollar projects ranging from health to education. Dr. Cadet is the founder of Change Cadet, an Oakland based organizational development consulting firm specializing in diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI). Change Cadet aims to support women, people of color, and underserved communities, through coaching, strategy, innovation, and organizational change. Cadet is a French term that means soldier and Change Cadet prepares soldiers of change to overcome barriers in the workforce so there can be more opportunity for women and people of color. As a woman of color, she uses her personal and professional experiences as well as a touch of Beyoncé to inspire her work. Dr. Cadet holds a Bachelor of Science in Health Education in Community Based Public Health, a Master of Public Health, and a Doctorate of Health Sciences in Leadership and Organizational Behavior.

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With three degrees — including a PhD — in health science, Akilah Cadet is a self-professed health nerd. Her familiarity with the health system has proven particularly useful over the last fifteen months, as she’s navigated hospitals stays and appointments with specialists in search of a primary diagnosis for her heart-related symptoms. Akilah has been diagnosed with pericarditis, coronary artery spasms, and orthostatic hypotension, but she’s still searching for a reason why she’s experiencing intense and chronic pain on the left side of her body. Thanks to her extensive knowledge of healthcare, she also knows about the research indicating that women who present with heart problems are not always taken seriously by medical staff. As a woman of color, Akilah has furthermore dealt with incidents of bias that have made her journey even more challenging. On today’s episode, Akilah and I talk about why she no longer thinks of her health journey as a temporary bump in the road, why she decided to start talking about her health with clients, and how she continually advocates for herself so that she ultimately can find answers.

Recently I’ve accepted that since it’s month 15, that this is now part of my life. That it’s not a temporary situation.

Here are some of the things that Akilah and I chatted about:

  • The symptoms she had on a family trip last summer that started her search for a diagnosis

  • What it was like to be celebrating her 35th birthday in Vegas while wearing a heart monitor

  • The downside of having lots of doctors working your case: being bounced from one to the next

  • Her experience searching for a primary diagnosis to make sense of her secondary diagnoses

  • Dropping the “I’m a doctor too” card when she has faced stereotyping in the health system

  • Witnessing a white woman with similar symptoms receive drastically different care in the ER

  • Her hesitation about sharing her health story publicly, and why that sentiment has changed

  • Why saying “how can I help you” or “how can I support you” is better than “I’m so sorry”

  • Sharing a dog with her twin sister, and how he’s now part of her daily health routine

  • Why it’s essential to know your rights as a patient, do research, and find the right doctors

  • Effective ways to to call attention to bias and negative experiences in health systems

It’s important, particularly for women and women of color, to not feel rushed during your appointments. If you feel rushed, that’s not the doctor for you.

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