C. Daniel Mullins, PhD, joined trainer and fitness activist Chauncey Whitehead on the Marc Steiner show.

By: Laura Bogart
Thursday, January 8, 2015

C. Daniel Mullins, PhD, professor and chair of the Department of Pharmaceutical Health Services Research at the University of Maryland School of Pharmacy and director of the Patient-Centered Involvement in Evaluating the Effectiveness of Treatments (PATIENTS) program, joined trainer and fitness activist Chauncey Whitehead on the Marc Steiner show on Jan. 8. Together, they talked about the ways in which patients can become more active and empowered in their health care, and offered tips for Baltimoreans who want to prioritize fitness well beyond the gym rush of early January.

Whitehead talked about the community walks he co-leads with the celebrated “Mama Ernestine Shepherd,” who has held the Guinness Book of World Records title of World’s Oldest Female Bodybuilder. Once a month, people of all ages and fitness levels from the community gather in Druid Hill Park to walk, share stories, and make new friendships.  “The community that walks together, talks together,” says Whitehead.

It is the community spirit of this event that draws members of the PATIENTS team out every month. The Druid Hill walks provide an ideal opportunity for members of the PATIENTS program to hear about people’s health concerns and develop ways to address those concerns in the research process, ultimately conducting more patient-centered research that can lead to better clinical outcomes.

To illustrate why it is important for patients to be included in every step of the research process, consider this example: people with hypertension may know that high blood pressure can lead to heart attacks and stroke, but patients might also be worried that their medication may give them dry mouth or other unpleasant side effects. Clinical research can address all of these concerns, which underscores why it is crucial to ensure that patients’ voices are heard across every step of the research process. “We view patients as partners in our research,” adds Mullins. “We want to be able to say to researchers, ‘this is what the West Baltimore community wants to know,’ and get that information back to the community.”

Mullins and Whitehead also spoke about ways that individuals can turn a New Year’s resolution into a year-round reality. “People overwhelm themselves by trying to break all of their bad habits at once,” explains Whitehead. “We recommend starting slowly and setting reasonable goals. Find what you like to do, start doing it, and keep doing it.”   

Showing up for the community walks – which begin with a warm-up at 7:30 a.m. – is a great way to start slowly, and meet some new friends.  “Showing up for a monthly walk is the beginning of a commitment,” says Mullins. “Maybe that becomes a weekly walk, and then a daily walk. That can inspire you to learn more about nutrition and how to take your medication.”

The next community walk in Druid Hill Park is scheduled for Saturday, Feb. 7. Interested individuals can join Chauncey, “Mama Ernestine,” and members of the PATIENTS team near the tennis courts at 7:30 a.m.