Medical school student, researcher, patient advocate
His story: When Christopher Chambliss entered Morehouse School of Medicine in 2016, he was clear about what he wanted to study—and why. To him, biomedical research was the way to find answers about the insidious disease he had suffered from all his life. Born outside Atlanta, he already had been involved with the sickle cell community for years—raising awareness, organizing support groups, and fundraising. It was this dedication, along with his notable academic achievements, that earned Chambliss Scholar of the Year from the Sickle Cell Association of Georgia, and the opportunity to work with noted scientists and mentor other aspiring young researchers. He is currently studying sickle cell disease in Ghana, as part of the NIH’s Minority Health and Health Disparities International Research Training Program.
Unimaginable hurdle: “In 2012, during my second year as an undergrad, I got really sick and was in the hospital for three months. They had to remove part of my liver and treat me for some lung issues. I ended up having to sit out of school for a year and a half just to recover. That set me back so much. It was a really bad time.”
How he survived: “To keep my mind off the pain and all the things you think about when everything slows down, I tried to focus on my school work. I just kept refocusing and re-centering and thinking about my ultimate purpose.”
His motivator: “A lot of the research focus is on genetic studies. But knowing the community this disease affects, and knowing that many will never be able to afford some of the new treatments and operations, makes me stay focused on the big picture. I want to make sure new discoveries will actually reach the community.”
What gives him hope: “Until I was 18 we didn’t really talk to anyone about the disease except my brother. There were such negative connotations around it. There are still issues on the care side that carry over to how patients see themselves, but there’s more awareness raising. And there’s so much going on in the research community, and that’s just huge for me.”