Abdi Bile: Serving Medically Underserved Communities

Abdi Bile Headshot

Abdi Bile
Class of 2018
Campus: Twin Cities

Why are you interested in serving patients in medically underserved communities?

What continues to serve as my reason for getting up every morning is my motivation to help and serve Minnesota’s underserved communities and people of color. When I was starting pharmacy school, polio was making a comeback in Somalia, and just as I was entering my final year in pharmacy school we had the largest measles epidemic in over a decade right here in the Twin Cities.

Issues with health literacy and inequities really hit home and affect me greatly. For as great as the health care access is in Minnesota compared to other states, African Americans are dying at rate double that of white babies. Our youth also have the highest rates of obesity and undiagnosed mental illness. These statistics are not random but the result of the social and economic conditions in these medically underserved communities.

I attended schools in nine different schools districts during my K-12 education, my parents were very mobile because it was difficult to live in the same location if rent was increased. Not many health care professionals understand the struggles of growing up poor in America. We need more providers who can truly understand and can comprehend all of the factors that are contributing to their patients’ health. That is why I’m passionate about serving this community.

Why did you choose the U of M College of Pharmacy?

I chose the University of Minnesota because I knew the institution placed a large emphasis on leadership development. In order to achieve many of the lofty goals I have for myself, it was imperative that I develop my leadership skills more.

In addition to being able to specialize my Pharm.D. with a Leadership Emphasis, I got to partake in a Professional Development sequence throughout my didactic education where I was able to further hone my skills and identify ways to apply them to my pharmacy career. While I was researching programs I did not come across a single program that approached leadership and career development like the U of M College of Pharmacy does.

How is the College of Pharmacy helping you prepare for your career to serve underserved communities?

Throughout my LEA experience and Quality Improvement classes, I learned the art of implementation science. I learned how to properly track metrics and set end point goals. I learned how to reflect on my quality improvement measures and make necessary changes to facilitate continuous improvement and growth. This, coupled with the education I’ve received on the social determinants of health and healthcare inequity, has changed my thought process on how we can begin to improve the care we provide by conducting a series of quality improvement measures that first tackle those economic and social determinants that affect the health of our patients.

How has the Peters Scholarship for Future Practitioners in Medically Underserved Communities helped you in your education?

The scholarship has served as a reminder of the commitment I made to myself. All too often it is easy to get consumed in the busy life that is a pharmacy student, but it’s important to realize that I pursue this career path for a reason and this scholarship serves as a reminder of that.

Through the requirement of the scholarship I’ve had the pleasure of meeting with faculty and other students each year so that we could mentor and help each other as we identify novel and innovative ways to start our work as students and continue our work after graduation. Just in the past few months I began educating uninsured Somali families on how to navigate the healthcare online exchange website and sign up for government insurance. There should be no reason a family of six avoids the doctor's office because of costs, when their income would otherwise qualify them for free health insurance. Tackling simple barrier to care such as access is where I’m going to start.