HealthCorps Interview: Calvin Lambert

Calvin Lambert

Guest post by HealthCorps Coordinator Nathan Allen.

Calvin Lambert is an exceptional HealthCorps Coordinator at a High School in Brooklyn, NY.  Apart from his brilliant work with HealthCorps, Calvin is known for having a laugh that can bring an entire room together.

Calvin is concluding is term with HealthCorps this year and has been admitted to several top-tier medical schools (which he asked to remain undisclosed, as his decision is still pending).  I was fortunate to find a short break in his world-changing to catch up and throw a few questions at him.

Nathan:  I read, on your phenomenal school blog, that you intend to start a program for students where you will serve as a positive male role model for students who may not have one. What will this look like?

Calvin: I envision a forum where young men can come and discuss issues that they are passionate about…there are lots of things these kids deal with day-to-day that they don’t get a chance to express and this will be a place to open up about these feelings. I also want to design workshops here to address things like how to be a gentleman, things like respect, attitude, being professional, sexual education…

I noticed how many guys don’t seem to have respect for themselves and a lot of the time these guys are not focused in the classroom. I know there is a reason for this. I want to give them an opportunity to talk about these things so I can understand and then try to pull the potential out of them.

Nathan: It seems that improving health in all communities requires multifaceted approaches. Some things work— some things don’t.  Do you believe that there are health related initiatives that your school community responds to more or less than others?

Calvin: When I bring in foods that they might not have heard of, it is a point of concern that these students might not be able to get in their own communities.  But many of these foods can be bought right down the street, and hearing it from me it makes the message real to them.  Because I share their ethnicity, they see me preparing these foods, or doing yoga or whatever…being that example…it is a huge advantage to getting my message across to them.  There will always be a cultural divide when we talk about these habits, but there’s also always a bridge to it regardless of your background.  Students can tell an empty message from a passionate message, and whoever you are they will be able to sense who is being real with them.  If you are being one-hundred with them you will be A OK.

Nathan: As I understand it, you have been set on attending med school for several years now.  However, instead of immediately entering med school after finishing your undergraduate degree, you have spent the past two years serving at a high school through HealthCorps. How have these two years changed your direction within the medical profession?

Calvin: This has opened up my eyes to how important the human aspect of the medical profession needs to be.  Building relationships and showing people how you care for their well being, and seeing how that compassion and concern for an individuals life really changes the effectiveness of your work with them.  A lot of times doctors can treat a patient like a number rather than caring about who they are and how they grew up.

Nathan: What skill have you developed as HealthCorps coordinator that you would like to take with you into the medical field?

Calvin: Mobilizing people as a group.  Its about an ability to use a vision that you hold and then to infect other people with it, so to speak.  The real challenge in enacting change is to find a way to get other people to be agents in your work too.  I have learned how to get others to share a vision and how much more of a difference it makes when everyone is bouncing the same passion back to each other.  Having different voices in a cause makes achieving a certain goal so much more effective.

Nathan: What do you plan to do during your final months of freedom this summer before the rest of your life hits you in the fall?

Calvin: I want to try to relax.  Visit another part of the world.  Do some self-reflection before I embark on a very arduous journey.  I want to get my head right so that will be able to think about people other than myself as a health professional.

Nathan: Calvin, I want to close with a short quiz so that you can share your health knowledge with us for free before we lose the chance. I will give you a few open-ended phrases, and I want you to finish them with words of wisdom…

1:When I collaborate with another nonprofit worker, I first want to make sure that she or he is …..open minded.

2: When I find that I am having trouble motivating others I… try to find the root of the problem in my approach.

3: As an educator, the most effective way to connect with a high school student is to… be authentic. Mean what you say, show that you are invested in them. Kids can smell b.s. from a mile away.

4: If Walmart proactively changes the healthiness of their products, the world will…buy the food revolution.

5:  I have a friend who can’t resist consuming another mouthful of peanut butter because all he has to do is reach in for another scoop. He thinks its normal — twirling the spoon around the jar like its a pint of Ben and Jerry’s… Your advice for him is… …stop eating peanut butter son, you want me to shake you!? Think about all the jars of peanut butter you eat a week!

5:  A healthy habit you are excited about these days is…working out at least 30 minutes every day. Running mostly.

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