Ever since Catherine McQueen was in grade school, she had a curiosity about health and wellness. When her mother was at work, she used to spend time with her grandmother, who was a cleaning lady in a doctor’s office.
The sight of the elaborate medical library birthed a desire to gather information about medicine. And her own experiences dealing with health care professionals and the treatment they offered led her to create a website that provides dossiers and video commentary from medical professionals on health care options and treatment, specifically to the black community.
“I was interested in helping people with illnesses,” said McQueen, who grew up in the Austin community. “Although I was not interested in working in the medical field per se, I wanted to know as much as I could about diseases and preventative methods.”
She suppressed the desire to pursue this interest in health care issues during her college years, attending DePaul University for a year-and-a-half for business and later Concordia University for teaching.
However, it was not until later, while she attended Harold Washington College, that her mother contracted lupus.
“This was a difficult time for me, because I was a mother of four, working two jobs, attending school, and now I was taking care of my mother,” said McQueen.
During her mother’s treatment, McQueen became aware of a disconnect between what the doctors were telling her (a feeling that his explanations were delivered with a jargonistic simplicity) and her belief about her mother’s illness-that the doctor knew more than he conveyed.
“For example, one day during my mother’s treatment I asked the doctor why she had a lump in her pelvic area. His response was that her bladder was hanging in the vaginal cavity, which I had a difficult time believing,” said McQueen.
“I later researched it and discovered that her bladder, even if it had dropped, would still not be that low. I concluded that her problem was probably related to the ureter, which is connected to the bladder and the kidneys.”
This experience inspired McQueen to begin researching medical treatment within the African-American community.
“Through my research, reading medical journals and talking with African-Americans throughout the country, I both wanted to assess illnesses that primarily affect our community, and why we often receive inferior treatment for ailments that impact our community, such as prostate cancer,” McQueen said.
McQueen said she discovered that an alarming number of African-American patients she spoke with received inadequate or insufficient treatment for their illnesses.
“The more people I spoke with, the more I saw how doctors can be the patient’s worst enemy if they are not informed,” said McQueen. “It’s one thing to know you’re being treated for a viral infection, but if you do not know the causes, how it manifests, what feeds it and how to prevent it again, you really are at risk of being taken advantage of.”
Her nearly decade-long look at medical practice within the black community would eventually lead to the creation of the website-commerceconnections.tv.
The website includes information on the benefits of early detection of breast cancer, a “Cook Smart” section that encourages a decrease in the consumption of pork-related foods, and special links that provide synopses into the symptoms of sexually transmitted diseases. There are also audio and video testimonials by medical professionals.
McQueen added that there are good doctors in the African-American community, but that there are those whose diagnoses impact the way they treat certain patients.
“There are situations where a doctor may prescribe a medication because he’s addressing your symptoms and not your illness,” said McQueen. For example, she explained, there may be a patient complaining of lower back pain who is given Eazol, a pain reliever. What might not be discovered is that the back pain is being caused by a disease that’s kidney-related.
“It is vital that we become more informed in the community and begin to learn more about the health of people in our community, “McQueen said. “We can’t afford not to.”
After five years of providing information on public health, McQueen still speaks publicly about her research at health fairs, churches and local libraries.
In 2005, McQueen received an award from Mentor Inc. to assist in her effort to educate women on the topic of female urinary incontinence. McQueen recently became a member of the American Society For Microbiology as well.
For more information visit the website at commerceconnections.tv.