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Meet Jemal Hussein of T’ena Health

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jemal Hussein.

Hi Jemal, thanks for sharing your story with us. To start, maybe you can tell our readers some of your backstory.
My story begins in a small town in Ethiopia where I lived with my family. My grandma owned the only bakery in the town and would sometimes encounter people seeking bread but did not have the money to pay for it. My first lesson of compassion happened when I saw that my grandma would never refuse people bread or food because they could not afford it and instead would ask them to simply pay her back when they could. Even during the difficult times, my own family faced, she would always ensure that everyone in our town was fed. This is something that always stuck with me as she would often explain that “money is not what makes a person rich, what makes a person rich is their health and being able to provide for others”. This is what birthed the concept for T’ena Health, a nonprofit focused on eradicating health disparities through spreading resources, knowledge, and compassion. Coming to America at the age of 11, I realized that all over the world people suffered from health inequities and disparities persisted.

As I would continue to grow up and learn more about the world, I wanted to be able to make impactful change. T’ena Health came to life when I was in my Master’s Program at Charles R Drew University of Medicine and Science and like-minded friends and I felt compelled to create something that all of the community could get involved in to help give back. This is what became our Homies Care project, which is our main initiative that people recognize T’ena Health for. Eventually, I was accepted into pharmacy school at Keck Graduate Institute, and as I progressed in my education and career, I wanted T’ena to follow suit. At this point, I was very closely acquainted with many healthcare professional students and programs throughout Southern California and was able to develop the Mobile Care Clinic. Now, as we provide our unhoused and underserved communities with Care Kits, we are also able to provide them with health screenings.

Would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Not quite a smooth road, but every obstacle has been worth it! Starting off, I knew nothing about what it takes to run a nonprofit organization, specifically one focused on healthcare. It was all such a new world to me learning how to lead a team, network with others, file legal documents, building relationships, and so much more. One of the greatest challenges I consistently face is balancing being a student, working, and running T’ena. I’m fortunate to have such a great team and solid support system that constantly encourages me to keep learning more and expanding our work.

As you know, we’re big fans of T’ena Health. For our readers who might not be as familiar what can you tell them about the brand?
T’ena Health was started by a group of friends who wanted to combine the knowledge they acquired through personal experiences and academic expertise to change the world. Recognizing the many health disparities much of the world faces, they set out to do what they do best; help others. Since the first-ever Homies Care event in July of 2019, the T’ena family has grown to include people from all ages, ethnicities, religions, and backgrounds that join together with the common purpose of serving others. T’ena Health recognizes access to health-related resources can be difficult to obtain in many underserved areas. To combat this, we host free health fairs for the community members throughout Los Angeles in which they are able to receive blood pressure and blood glucose screenings, physical examinations, dental screenings, and mental health and nutritional education workshops for free.

These health fairs involve healthcare students from various Southern California graduate programs, which enables them to not only receive hands-on learning experiences but learn more about a vulnerable population with such complex needs, deepening their compassion for serving others. Additionally, throughout the underserved communities in Los Angeles, the Inland Empire, and Riverside County, we continuously distribute hygiene kits, known as Care Kits, and meals to residents that have difficulty accessing these necessities. Compassion is at the core of everything we do. We value our connections with the communities we work with so we may advocate for them to our fullest potential. During the many events we host, whether we are on the local streets distributing meals or assembling Care Kits with our friends, we ensure each person feels valued and cared for.

Our logo represents the interconnection of the six social determinants of health – economic stability, physical environment, food, education, community and social life, and, of course, healthcare. These are the factors that our efforts to provide preventive medicine to the community are built upon. Many organizations and clinics do an excellent job at caring for people during stages of disease and illness, but we want to try and focus more on a person’s daily life and the habits and situations they are in that influence their overall health.

What are your plans for the future?
We are currently in the works of developing our T’ena Bus! This is a school bus that we will transform to be the site of our student-led Mobile Care Clinic, which will bring health screenings to underserved communities all throughout California. We are working to change the way healthcare is delivered and make it more accessible to receive care, such as a place as common as your local coffee shop. Another project we are working on is our high school student ambassador program. This program seeks students from underserved communities at statistically under-funded schools to provide them with professional development and life skills that will contribute towards their success in their next phases of life. We are so excited to see these projects develop and hope to expand the impact we have on the world around us.

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Tena Health

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