Get to know Lillee: aspiring physician, podcaster, and coffee-lover
Lillee Izadi joined the Coleman Research Group in August 2022 as a Scholar in the Doctoral Diversity Program. She quickly became a vital part of our team. We sat down to learn more about her and her aspirations!
SS: Thanks for sitting down to chat, Lillee! To start, tell us a little about yourself and why you decided to join the Coleman Research Group?
LI: Of course! So, I graduated from Florida Southern College in May 2022 and decided to do a Post-Bacc through the Doctoral Diversity Program here. I decided to join Dr. Coleman’s research team specifically for a few reasons. I have always been interested in health disparities, and I’ve really enjoyed my previous experiences in clinical research. So, when I underwent rotations through different labs and finally interviewed with this one, I was really inspired by the passion Dr. Coleman has for racial and ethnic disparities in women’s health. Although I didn’t know a whole lot about the OB/GYN field when I first started, the exposure I’ve received to women’s health so far through this position has uncovered a fascination I didn’t know existed. With that said, I look forward to learning even more about the field throughout the duration of my post-bacc.
SS: What made you interested in the research we conduct in this division?
LI: The main motivator for me continuing with this type of research is the idea that, first and foremost, women’s health is something that is extremely important. It is simultaneously something that has not been taken seriously in many realms of mainstream research until recently. Unfortunately, women also face a lot of stigmas when challenges in their sexual and reproductive health arise, so contributing to a body of research that helps to de-stigmatize this makes me feel like I am shaping a better future for research and healthcare services. Two, digital health outreach is the future of healthcare delivery. So, if there is a lack of this type of research in certain areas or populations, it will only end up increasing the disparities we currently see in healthcare resources. Since our research projects and initiatives help to target populations that have been underrepresented in medical research, as well as help bridge gaps for those who lack routine and proper medical care, it reminds me that even though I am not a physician yet, I can still indirectly bring a positive impact on those I want to serve in the future.
SS: That's awesome! So one of the big projects you work on is the CHIPPER study, which focuses on HIV prevention for women through PrEP. What are you most looking forward to for the future of HIV prevention?
LI: So, I had the honor of presenting our team's research at the International
Women & HIV conference this year, and there were honestly so many thrilling projects discussed. But something that stuck with me since the conference is that there are currently dual prevention forms of contraception undergoing research. The thought that women might one day be able to take one pill a day, or have a small device implanted to prevent both pregnancy and HIV simultaneously is astounding to me. In addition to dual prevention efforts and more methods of long-acting HIV prevention, I think what I am most looking forward to is just having HIV and ways to prevent it be more of a mainstream conversation. Our society has made HIV, and STDs in general, a very taboo topic even in the clinical realm. Having conversations at this conference about reframing the stigma of HIV risk to simply having reasons to protect yourself from acquiring HIV is something that will reshape the future of HIV prevention for the better, and I plan to use that language and mindset in my daily life moving forward.
SS: So you mention wanting to be a physician. Tell me more about where that desire came from and what you picture yourself doing in the future - are there perhaps a few areas you see yourself in?
LI: There isn't just one moment in my life that really inspired me to pursue medicine, but rather a culmination of experiences. Coming from an intersection of marginalized groups, I have been fortunate enough to gain insight into the needs of communities that often go forgotten. Witnessing family members who were uninsured, homeless, or incarcerated struggle to manage their chronic illnesses on the daily made me realize that many Americans lack access to routine preventative healthcare. Realizing this, I started to engage in advocacy work with a local physician, who became my mentor while in high school. I channeled this desire to help my community into her non-profit, where I collaborated with her and other organizations in the area to create community health programs for free mammogram screening, smoking cessation workshops, and uterine fibroids treatment. This was really my beginning into medicine, and since then, I have tried to pursue opportunities that allow me to decrease gender, race, or income-based health disparities in some capacity. I don't know exactly where I see myself specialty-wise as a physician, but I have thought about pursuing fields like Infectious Disease, Cardiology, and/or Family Medicine. Regardless, my goal is to use my personal experiences to help increase healthcare access in underserved communities wherever I end up.
SS: That's amazing. Now outside of work, you have a lot of hobbies and do so much. I personally follow you on TikTok and love seeing your coffee recipes. Tell me a bit more about those activities outside of work!
LI: Being the oldest of four, I felt like I spent a lot of my life teaching myself how to do things, and then teaching my sisters. I think this really created an enjoyment for mentoring, teaching, and helping people. So, honestly, my hobbies are really just another outlet for me to teach people things. My social media profiles, like TikTok, is geared more towards coffee-making and coffee tasting, but as I progress with the medical school application cycle, I want to include more videos on navigating this rigorous process as a disadvantaged student. My podcast is a little different, where me and my partner share medical malpractice crimes that have occurred throughout history and what has been done (or what should have been done) to prevent these incidences in the future.
SS: Thank you so much for chatting with me today about your experiences!