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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Trailblazing ODU Graduate, Harvard Medical School Student, Off to Duke Hospital System

By Brendan O'Hallarn

His straight-out-of-a-storybook journey has taken Dr. DeVon Taylor from the mean streets of Flint, Mich., to Harvard Medical School. Now a new journey awaits.

Taylor, who graduated from Old Dominion University in 2012 and went to Harvard Medical School on a full scholarship, received his medical degree May 26 from the Ivy League institution. He will continue his career in emergency medicine at Duke University Medical Center in North Carolina. In his three-year residency, Taylor said he will be the only African-American physician out of 50 in the emergency medicine department of the hospital system.

"I chose this residency not only for the academic and clinical excellence that Duke Hospital represents, but because more than half of the patients in the Duke emergency department are African American, with no African-American providers," Taylor said. "Studies have consistently shown that diversity in provider staff improves care of minority populations, so I endeavor to make a real difference in that way."

The desire to give back has motivated Taylor throughout his adult life.

As a teenager in Flint, Taylor lived in a run-down home in a poor neighborhood and barely managed to graduate from high school. He joined the Navy, and for nearly a decade he worked in the service's nuclear power program. In the back of his mind lingered a longstanding dream to be a physician. He wanted to provide health care to the less fortunate, to people such as the neighbors he remembered from Flint who didn't see a doctor very often and were uncomfortable with the interaction when they did.

Taylor graduated with a 4.0 grade point average from Old Dominion's College of Health Sciences in 2012. He was selected that year as the Outstanding University Scholar. He then became the first Old Dominion graduate to go directly to Harvard Medical School.

Taylor continues to stay connected with Old Dominion. He will begin serving on the Advisory Board of the College of Health Sciences in July. He also helped found the ODU Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students, last year assisting the students in travel to the American Medical Education Conference in Austin, Texas.

Mentoring future medical students is a passion of Taylor's. "There is not a day that passes that I do not answer at least one email from a premed student. I have worked extensively on this in multiple avenues, from running workshops at national conferences to individual mentorship," he said.

Taylor also came back to Norfolk once per semester during his medical studies to visit biology classes and offer advising and counseling to students, "as a way to give back to ODU."

While at Harvard, Taylor was national speaker of the House of Delegates for the Student National Medical Association (SNMA), elected by students representing every medical school in the nation. He has been on the board of directors for SNMA, leading lobbying efforts as the Northeastern region's political advocacy liaison.

Academically, Taylor participated in several research projects while in medical school, studying the roll-out of the Pioneer Accountable Care Organizations (Pioneer ACO), a new risk-sharing payment model that came out of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare).

"I was given access to the inner workings of community-based hospital organizations, which represented only three of the 32 participating ACO programs nationally," Taylor said. He presented his findings to the Medicare Payment Advisory Commission and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

Taylor would like to practice in a medically underserved community.

"This will allow me to make great use of my ODU degree in Public Health in addition to my medical training," he said.

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