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Milele Bynum is a third year medical student at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. But she is not just a future physician. She is a mother. She is a woman who has struggled with her weight. And she is an activist. Using her life experience and her new knowledge from medical school, Bynum designed a project that sought to take a collaborative approach to effectively address the growing epidemic of obesity within the African American community. Her work earned her the Community Outreach Award from the American Academy of Family Physicians. She will be honored at the 2014 National Conference of Family Medicine Residents and Medical Students in Kansas City, Missouri.

Milele Bynum is a third year medical student interested in pursuing a career in family medicine. Ultimately, she envisions herself working in a medical setting seeing patients, teaching students, and conducting research. She believes that by employing this three prong approach, she can help patients focus on the medical and non-medical influences on health; guide students to be attentive to their patients’ needs; and add to the knowledge base to better understand the causes of health disparities.

Working with First Calvary Baptist Church in Durham, Bynum implemented Walking in Faith, a faith-based nutrition education and walking program. “As a person who has and continues to struggle with weight, I understand the health consequences that are associated with being overweight. As a mother and future physician, I want to serve as a model for my children and patients”, she says proudly. “Through Walking in Faith, I hope to empower myself and others to take control of our health by increasing physical activity and improving health behaviors.”

Walking in Faith was designed to encourage faith-based communities to become more physically active and to eat more healthful foods. The 8-week program used principles of faith to addressed healthy eating and physical activity, while providing participants strategies to achieve their health goals and overcome barriers. The nutrition sessions were coupled with a walking program to further encourage increased physical activity. The primary objectives of Walking in Faith were to:

  • Equip lay leaders to service as co-facilitators for the program
  • Increase physical activity of participants by offering an organized walking program
  • Improve knowledge and skills related to nutrition and healthy eating behaviors
  • Increase awareness of health disparities, chronic diseases and other health concerns affecting African Americans

Milele Bynum’s mentors for the project are Dr. Giselle Corbie-Smith, Dr. Keisha Gibson, and Ms. Melissa Green. Additional support and guidance were provided by Pastor Fredrick A. Davis, Min. John Carter, Dr. Tamera Coyne-Beasley and the First Calvary Baptist Church Health and Wellness Ministry. Funding for the program was provided by the North Carolina Albert Schweitzer Fellowship, the SNMA/Pfizer Medical Humanities Initiative David M. Satcher Fellowship and the UNC School of Medicine Zollicoffer-Cross Community Health Fellowship.