Founder and chair, Kidney Health Fest for African American Families
Dr. Bessie Young discovered her calling during a rotation in the nephrology department as a medical resident at the University of Washington. “I’d been a chemistry major as an undergrad,” she says, “and while doing rounds and conducting tests, the electrolytes spoke to me.” Now she brings all of her considerable medical knowledge and research skills to bear on one major goal: the elimination of kidney disease.
As a physician at Veterans Affairs Puget Sound Health Care, Seattle Division and a researcher for both the Kidney Research Institute and the Seattle Epidemiologic Research and Information Center, Young works every day to better understand, treat and fight the disease. Her research interests include a focus on understanding racial and ethnic differences in access to health care, quality of care and resulting outcomes; as well as dialysis outcomes, diabetes and chronic kidney disease. “New research suggests some populations, especially black populations, may be genetically predisposed to kidney disease,” Young says. “Blacks with diabetes and other risk factors like high blood pressure are three to four times at more risk of developing kidney disease requiring dialysis than other populations.”
As a passionate advocate for those with kidney disease, diabetes and renal failure, Young takes her knowledge to those who need it most. She’s received numerous honors recognizing her work, including the prestigious Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center Community Action Award in 2004 for making a difference in health care access, education and the reduction of disparities in care. But she is best known in the community for her role as founder and chair of the Kidney Health Fest for African American Families. Established in 2002, this annual family event, held in South Seattle, is a celebration of community as well as an opportunity to provide free health screenings and information about kidney disease to an at-risk population. “Certain types of kidney disease are completely preventable, if people only knew what to do,” Young says. “It is imperative to get this message out to the African American community so that we can reduce the devastating statistics for people of color.”
Young was named Volunteer of the Year by Northwest Kidney Centers in 2012 and was described as the “the heart of the Fest” by Joyce Jackson, M.H.A., president and CEO of Northwest Kidney Centers. —S.M
Top Doctors 2013: Community Service Award Winners
| July 2013
Bessie Young, M.D., M.P.H.
The Puget Sound region is home to some of the most dedicated and knowledgeable health care practitioners in the world. But all of these resources can only make a difference in the life of an individual when he or she has access to them. This year as part of Top Doctors, we’re singling out for praise just a few of the many local health care practitioners and researchers—and their associated clinics and hospital outreach programs—who are making a difference in underserved, disenfranchised communities. These are doctors who are launching programs, volunteering their time and expertise, and building networks to improve health outlooks for people who, because of cultural and socio-economic barriers, might not otherwise get the care they need. Like many doctors in our region, these men and women go beyond the call to make our region healthier and happier. Seattle magazine, along with our Top Doctors Advisory Panel, is pleased to recognize these six outstanding leaders in the field.