Blake Kruger on being a Distinguished Communicator
Earning the Distinguished Communicator distinction has a long-lasting impact beyond your time at LSU. Take it from 2017 alum Blake Kruger (BS, Chemistry) who is consistently using the skills he developed as a science communicator to serve patients and participate in impactful medical research. Hear from him as he shares his path from LSU to med school and the role being a Distinguished Communicator has played his career so far.
My time developing as a Distinguished Communicator was a vital component of my liberal arts education in the Ogden Honors College and is foundational to the work that I do with patients and businesses today. By developing in the four disciplines of communication, I was able to compete for an Roger Hadfield Ogden Honors Leaders Program award that funded my undergraduate thesis, 'A Novel Kaposi's Sarcoma Therapy'—the results of which I presented at research conferences across the United States and published in two manuscripts. Kaposi's Sarcoma is a cancer of the vasculature that results in purple maculopapular lesions across the genitalia, lower limbs, and face that results from co-infection of HIV with another virus, HHV-8. This is particularly germane given that, Louisiana's HIV prevalence was fifth highest in the nation (518 cases per 100,000 people) in 2016. As of 2016, Louisiana also has the highest rate of incident cases of HIV in the nation (tied with Georgia at 29 new cases annually per 100,000 people). This large disease burden is further complicated by demographic inequity where 68% of Louisiana's HIV patients identify as African American (13,742 of 20,085 cases) compared to the 25% that identify as White (4,936 of 20,085 cases), from the same 2016 data. This work laid the foundation for my love of science, medicine, and social justice that took me to The Dartmouth Institute for Health Policy and Clinical Practice, where I earned my Master of Public Health degree.
At Dartmouth, I used my writing, speaking, visual, and technological skills developed as a Distinguished Communicator to learn about healthcare policy and clinical practice patterns across the United States and globe. As a Global Health Fellow, I helped assess how effective it is to provide Hepatitis C care to patients in rural areas using telemedicine and worked to connect New Hampshirites and Vermonters with pre-exposure prophylaxis against HIV with Granite State PrEP Connect. I also completed my thesis work, 'Healthcare Spending in the State of Louisiana,' where I evaluated the intensity and cost of healthcare service delivery in relation to mortality rates across the State. These experiences put my skills as a communicator to the test and helped me further temper my abilities as I progressed to my medical education at the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences (JSMBS) at SUNY University at Buffalo.
As a second-year medical student at JSMBS, I am implementing my Distinguished Communicator skills in a new and exciting way -- instead of focusing on presentations or grant-writing, I am now engaging in active listening with patients, understanding and eliciting their concerns, while educating in this partnership where appropriate. Additionally, as Treasurer and Research Director for UBHEALS, a 501(c)3 homeless medicine outreach organization, I collaborate with incredible peers to best provide medical and social services possible to the homeless of Buffalo, NY. Lastly, I have started an entirely new experience as a cofounder of a medical startup company, Limitless Medical Technologies, where we are pitching our ideas to potential investors and building a business that we hope will improve surgical anastomosis care morbidity and mortality. No matter the experience, I consistently return to the skills I accrued as a Distinguished Communicator.