Nakyda Dean ’08: Young Alumna Award citation & response
Nakyda Dean ’08, you were the first generation in your family to attend and receive a university-level degree. You came to Cornell from a Chicago neighborhood where college was an unobtainable dream for most of your classmates. During your time at Cornell, you pursued a demanding course schedule in biochemistry and molecular biology while at the same time holding down a campus food service job and several others.
You earned your medical doctor degree at Loyola of Chicago and completed your OB/GYN residency at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago last year. You are now entering the second year of a Health, Equity, Action, and Leadership (HEAL) Fellowship at the University of California, San Francisco Department of Medicine. As a fellow, you are spending two years helping to build a community of front-line health professionals committed to serving the underserved. You are taking care of patients in Malawi and Navajo Nation. You have chosen to dedicate your career to helping less-advantaged people gain access to quality health care. The roots of this dedication were evident when you did volunteer work in Africa on two separate occasions.
Today, your work with underserved populations is closer to home. You currently work in Navajo Nation, where the COVID-19 outbreak has brought to light the huge disparities in health care to national attention. You are at the center of one of the most serious pandemic hot spots in the country. In circumstances like this, you can bring your healing skills, your advocacy talent, and your leadership abilities together to address a dire situation affecting Americans. Situations like this exist not only in Indian country but in rural and urban areas as well.
What you have accomplished in your 12 years since leaving Cornell is astonishing. Ahead of you lies a future in dire need of your skills, a future in which you will be what Martin Luther King described as the arc that bends toward justice. We are immensely proud to present you with this 2020 Young Alumni Achievement Award and we look forward to following the arc of an amazing career and life.