Growing up in Cameroon, Max Jordan Nguemeni Tiako had a mind for math. His penchant for proofs and problem-solving primed him for engineering. As a teenager, he came to the United States to study civil and environmental engineering at Howard University with the thought of one day returning home to help build roads and bridges.
While living in Washington, D.C., he paid close attention to the environment and infrastructure around him. He saw inequities firsthand in a city that has among the largest life span gaps between Black men and white men in the country. A course in Africana studies also illuminated for him the inequities that Black Americans have long faced. After graduation, he entered a master’s program in bioengineering at Georgia Institute of Technology in Atlanta. There, too, he saw inequities in urban design.
“The combination of life experiences, exposures, and witnessing different parts of the cities in which I’ve lived in, made me keenly aware of just how unequal the environments we live in are,” he said. “And we know environments shape health.”
He felt compelled to make a difference and bridge the gaps in health equity, so he shifted his career plans and applied to medical school, ultimately enrolling at Yale University. But as a med student he felt his education didn’t have a strong enough focus on racial inequities in health care, so he started a podcast called “Flip the Script,” where he interviews historians, anthropologists and other experts in health disparities. Now, as a resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, he has recorded nearly 50 episodes on a broad array of issues like the role physicians played in the slave trade to the disastrous effects of the Black maternal health crisis and the opioid epidemic.
“Talking to people from various walks of life with various kinds of expertise is incredibly valuable in finding solutions to ultimately move the needle towards health equity,” he said.
— Nicholas St. Fleur