TheGrio’s 100: Winston Gandy, filling the gaps for health care have-nots

TheGrio's 100 - Dr. Winston Gandy understands that America's uneven access to health care is deadly. People of color live an average of six years fewer than their white counterparts...

Luther Vandross was outed as gay after his death.

Dr. Winston Gandy understands that America’s uneven access to health care is deadly. People of color live an average of six years fewer than their white counterparts; minorities suffer from less access and lower quality of health care. Gandy helped start several foundations to provide medical equipment and funding, combating these statistics by increasing resources for patients and professionals alike.

Winston Gandy is making history … by filling the gaps in the medical field. A world-class cardiologist practicing at Piedmont Heart Institute, Gandy has also taken on a personal commitment to improving quality of care outside of his hospital. Gandy founded the Maynard H. Jackson Foundation, named after the late Atlanta mayor who struggled with obesity and heart disease. Where resources like computers and medical equipment are lacking in Georgia, Gandy turns to MHJ’s partners, like the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. To increase patient access to low or no-cost prescription drugs, Gandy reaches out non-profit arms of pharmaceutical companies. To increase the disproportionately low number of black cardiologists, Gandy’s organization provides $60,000 in funding, precisely the difference between the cost of training and the value a young cardiologist provides to a medical institution.

At the same time, the cardiologist works closely with student athletes to monitor their heart health, since cardiac arrest is the number one killer of young athletes. As medical director of an organization called Athlete’s Heart Beat, he and his team visit University of Georgia several times a year to provide screenings to student athletes — a battery of tests that would cost more than a thousand dollars in a medical facility. In more than a dozen years with Athlete’s Heart Beat, he’s disqualified only one player from competition, but he’s been able to identify early warning signs in others, who required changes in their workouts and further monitoring for safety’s sake. He also works with the NCAA and other athletic organizations to raise awareness about the importance of heart health in young athletes, hoping to save lives by increased understanding.

What’s next for Winston?

In 2009, Gandy instituted an endowment fund at his alma mater, University of Maryland. This fund, he hopes, will increase engagement in his field. “I am going to do everything within my power to come up with innovative ideas to engage the alumni, create ways to grow the relationship between the university’s departments and industry and potentially partner with other universities, businesses and foundations to continue to foster the great research and tremendous education at the University of Maryland,” he told The Campaign for Maryland Brief the same year.

In his own words …

“We want to raise awareness and focus on the disparities in a global way so we can improve the playing field,” said Gandy to Atlanta Woman magazine in 2006. “We plan to be the funding source for progress and for anyone who can address these disparities.”

A little-known fact …

According to the CDC, African-Americans have the highest rate of high blood pressure of all ethnic groups, and tend to develop it younger than other demographics.

Click here for more …