When Henry Young moved to Georgia, he saw a need. And through his work with telemedicine in rural communities, he’s finding a way to meet it.
“My work is really centered on working collaboratively with patients and different stakeholders in addressing real-world problems, coming up with solutions to those problems, implementing those solutions, and measuring the outcomes of it,” he said. “I’m trying to identify needs that are coming from the community and implement things that can hopefully provide solutions to some of those problems.”
Young, Kroger Associate Professor and head of the College of Pharmacy’s clinical and administrative pharmacy department, is one of the recipients of the 2022 President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award. This award, presented at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. Freedom Breakfast, celebrates and recognizes students, faculty, staff and community members in Athens that work to fulfill the legacy of King through service and outreach.
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health is the most shocking and inhuman,” Young said during the virtual event. “Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. made this poignant statement in 1966, and while we have made great inroads in revision of health care for all of our citizens, 55 years later, we still have much to do. My work and research here at the University of Georgia has given me the privilege of working with community members to help them engage with one another and collaborate with health care providers to work toward better health outcomes. I am extremely grateful to UGA, President Morehead and the President’s Fulfilling the Dream Award committee for the recognition of this work. From the bottom of my heart, I thank you.”
Young was already passionate about health care in minority, rural and underserved populations when he came to UGA. When he joined the New Faculty Tour, coordinated by the Office of the Vice President for Public Service and Outreach, that’s when ideas started to form. The tour allowed him to not only see and experience parts of the state, but also to connect and engage with other faculty and staff members. In fact, it was during the tour that he connected with Michelle Elliott and the Archway Partnership. That led to a fellowship that allowed Young to research the health needs in those communities. Most recently, Young received a $900,000 USDA grant to develop a telemedicine program for rural Georgians.
“My whole idea is how do we help patients use medications safely and appropriately to achieve the things they want to achieve,” said Young, who is director of the Pharmaceutical Health Services, Outcomes and Policy Program. “There are a lot of different barriers in health care. Folks might have a lack of access to receive care, so how do we bridge that lack of access? Telehealth presented an opportunity to try to help overcome a barrier that patients had to receiving care.”
One project already making a significant impact is Fishers of Men, a project created with funds from the Kroger Professorship and Georgia Clinical and Translational Science Alliance. He sought to implement a community health worker model in a rural, African American community. The idea was to identify key stakeholders at local churches to serve as community health advocates—liaisons to help community members improve self-management of chronic diseases. Now, they’re creating a telehealth network through those churches, with help from UGA Archway Partnership, in and around Pulaski County. The project includes flat-panel screens, computers, internet connectivity and more.
Young hopes to soon complete the installation of a telehealth network and measure its effectiveness. He also plans to use this program as a model to potentially help mitigate other medical concerns such as medication management and substance abuse.
Young also has worked with the School of Social Work, the College of Public Health and the College of Family and Consumer Sciences, but his collaborations extend beyond his research. He is the current board chairperson of the Athens Neighborhood Health Center, and he served on the Presidential Task Force on Race, Ethnicity, and Community and as past president of the Black Faculty and Staff Organization.
“One of the things we’re learning from all of the different challenges that we’re seeing in the world today, especially around health, is that they’re multifaceted, and it’s going take a multidisciplinary approach to address those needs,” he said. “It takes talking with colleagues and bringing in diverse experiences and expertise to come up with solutions to address these problems. I see collaboration as an opportunity to address all of the different parts of multifaceted problems.”
While Young’s work certainly moves King’s dream forward, he also believes that’s something anyone can do.
“Do something,” he said. “Don’t just sit back. If you see injustice out there, if you see problems out there … you’ve got to do something. Sometimes you might fail, but that’s OK. You learn from that failure, and what you learn helps you.”