My Path to a Career in Community Health | The New York Community Trust
April 18, 2019   |   By The New York Community Trust
My Path to a Career in Community Health

FIRST PERSON | By Dr. Renee McDonald-Fleming

DOCTORS IN TRAINING: With Trust support, National Medical Fellowships has trained dozens of City medical students in behavioral health. Grants totaling $213,000 over seven years have helped people like Dr. Renee McDonald-Fleming (above), who used the fellowship during her final year at SUNY Downstate College of Medicine to study ways to address the opioid crisis.

“I wanted to be a doctor since I was a child. My mom was a nurse, and growing up in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, I would watch the doctors at SUNY Downstate coming in and out of the hospital, and see how they talked with families in our neighborhood. I knew I wanted to help in the same way.

“After graduating from Medgar Evers College, I thought about getting an M.D.-PhD in Immunology. But my work after college in Washington, D.C., sparked my interest in community health. While I was there to do immunology research at the National Institutes of Health, I became an NIH Academy Health Disparities Fellow and educated women in homeless shelters about their sexual health.

“I’d also seen family members struggle with addiction and understood the gravity of the opioid crisis. When I returned to Brooklyn to attend medical school, I decided to specialize in anesthesiology so I could understand prescription-drug abuse and how to prescribe medications responsibly.

PREVENTING OVERDOSES: Dr. Renee McDonald-Fleming  used her National Medical Fellowship to train
volunteers in Staten Island, such as the woman shown here, to recognize overdoses and administer Narcan, a nasal inhalant that has saved the lives of people overdosing on opioids.

“In my last year, I was accepted into the National Medical Fellowship program and received support through a grant from The Trust to research which areas of New York are most affected by the opioid epidemic. Then the Fellowship connected me with doctors running Narcan trainings at Staten Island Hospital. I would gather supplies from a Brooklyn methadone clinic, reach out to churches in affected areas, and teach volunteers, teachers, and counselors how to recognize an overdose and administer Narcan to save lives.

“When I decided to become an anesthesiologist, I felt it was important to understand the impact of prescribing opioids. The National Medical Fellowship helped me understand the human side of medicine. I’ve also connected with other physicians who have benefited from Trust support through the program. Your donors’ funds continue to be put to good use.”


Dr. Joseph Richard Rongetti, Florence C. Oliveira, and Helen Speyer established funds in The Trust to support those entering the fields of medical research and psychiatry. Today their generosity is supporting these fellowships.

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