April Inniss, EekMD

photo of April Inniss, EekMD

April Inniss
EekMD
Boston, MA
eekmd.com

A series of experiential and immersive learning programs for elementary school age children that teach them how to advocate for their own health and communicate with healthcare providers.

eekMD stands for “empowering every kid for Maximum Development.” A key word there is “every”; I believe every child should see themselves reflected and acknowledged across a wide range of awesome possibilities for their lives—health professions included.

As a Black woman physician, I’ve had parents confide how excited they were to learn that a woman of color was at the helm of the organization. To them, the brand reflects what’s possible for their own children. To those from other racial/ethnic backgrounds, I reflect that physicians come in all colors. My contractors, guest speakers, and curricular images reflect this diversity, too. In short, the faces of the brand, for many, are a tacit affirmation of “yes, I see you.”

I was a newly minted doctor just training in Pediatrics when I was sent to draw an 8 year-old’s blood – but not just any 8 year-old: one who had had several previous hospital admissions and so had a profound fear and antipathy towards healthcare providers. In short, I was told he was a screamer, biter, and kicker. Yikes! So, I had to think fast. Before entering his room, I quickly sketched some funky characters (“Mike the Mad Macrophage” and “Nicolai the Natural Killer Cell,” as I recollect) to explain why I was doing the blood draw—and to my surprise, I had absolutely no trouble putting him at ease and getting the blood draw, and he actually enjoyed our encounter together!

I moved through my next two whirlwind years of residency not giving this encounter much more thought, until I met him again while working in the pediatric emergency room. The very first thing he said to me was, “I remember those characters you drew for me (2 years ago). When we learned about blood in school, I was the only one who knew already knew about white blood cells and how they worked!” I. Was. Floored! At that precise moment, I knew that I was on to something.  

Today, I have a clear vision for redefining a child’s place both inside and outside of the healthcare system. Even after several years of medical training now, I still do not see a consistent pattern of children who are encouraged to engage in their own health and wellness, and to contribute to the health and wellness of their communities. eekMD was born out of this initial vision.