I’m Lynn Todman, PhD
I am passionate about population health and, in particular, the health of communities of color and raising awareness of how racism can impact health.
Most recently, my research examined the relationship between urban food deserts and community challenges, such as violence. My working hypothesis was that the diets of people who live in food deserts may contribute to problems such as poor educational outcomes, unemployment, poverty, incarceration and a host of other challenges faced by low income communities. To test this hypothesis, I led a transdisciplinary team of professionals and community residents in an observational study to determine if dietary changes could lead to behavioral changes and improved academic outcomes in youth.
I am the Executive Director for Population Health at Lakeland Health System in St. Joseph, Michigan. In this role, I support the strategic efforts to improve the health of the regional population.
I’ve been a keynoter, a panelist, and a moderator at conferences throughout the U.S., Canada, and Europe on a variety of topics, including social exclusion, the social determinants of mental health, mental health impact assessment, and health equity. I have also addressed issues such as poverty, unemployment, food insecurity, incarceration, violence, and homelessness.
Here is what I am working on right now.
Community Grand Rounds: Healing the Trauma of Racism. My current focus is a speaker series titled, Community Grand Rounds (CGR). Launching in 2018 and concluding in 2020, the series will host speakers who will travel to Southwest Michigan, home of Lakeland Health, to share their knowledge of and insights into the emerging science underlying racialized health inequities. Speakers will address themes such as the health implications of psychological trauma and racism as well as the emerging science of epigenetics and social genomics. The audience for this series will include health care providers, government leaders and community residents.
Welcome to Lakeland Health’s Community Grand Rounds, a speaker series that examines how the trauma of racism affects the health of the people we serve, and how to be more aware of and better address those impacts in our professional encounters.
In Southwest Michigan’s Berrien County, poor people, and especially African Americans, experience high rates of the illnesses identified as Priority Health Needs in Lakeland’s Community Health Needs Assessment. Data provided by the Berrien County Health Department finds blacks have higher rates of obesity, diabetes, stroke and psychological distress when compared to whites. While these differences are attributable to poor access to resources required for good health, like healthy food, quality education and safe housing, emerging science is showing there’s something deeper at work.
New knowledge in the field of neuroscience and in the emerging fields of epigenetics and social genomics suggests that the experience of discrimination is strongly associated with health inequities. In particular, we are learning that the social environment we live in impacts our genes, our hormones, inflammation in our bodies, our immune systems and, therefore, our overall health. For health care providers and others, awareness of the health effects of discrimination, such as racism, is critical to optimizing patient and population health.
Community Grand Rounds is Lakeland’s effort to raise awareness and understanding of this new science and its implications for health. In a series of speakers and discussions between 2018 and 2020, Lakeland’s doctors, nurses, other clinical staff, board members as well as government and community leaders will learn from experts about the impact of racism on health. The goal is to inform and to set the stage for further discussions and actions leading to improved health outcomes across the population served by Lakeland.
Community Grand Rounds is a collaborative effort between Lakeland health and The Todman Family Foundation.
For more information, contact Lynn Todman, PhD through the contact form below.
“In the United States, as in other racialized countries in the world, racially stigmatized and disenfranchised populations have worse health than their more advantaged counter evident in higher rates of mortality, earlier onset of disease, greater severity and progression of disease, and higher levels of comorbidity and impairment. In addition, disadvantaged racial populations tend to have both lower levels of access to medical care and to receive care that is poorer in quality.” - David Williams
Beatty (2018) Everyday Discrimination and Metabolic Syndrome - Racially Diverse Women's Health.
For every 1 point increase in discrimination score, 3% increase in incidence of Metabolic Syndrome (hypertension, obesity, lipids).
Goosby (2015). Discrimination and Cardiovascular Risk in Low-Income African American Youth.
Increase in perceived discrimination among youth aged 10-15 significantly associated with higher inflammatory markers and onset of hypertension
Wheaton (2018) Discrimination and Depression among African American Men.
Everyday discrimination is a consistent predictor of depression among African American men throughout their life.
Roughly a third of all African Americans report being personally racially discriminated against when going to a doctor or health clinic.
of African Americans say they have avoided going to a doctor or seeking health care out of concern that they would be discriminated against or treated poorly because of their race.
Mortality rate in 2015 per 100,000 in the state of Michigan - Whites
Mortality rate in 2015 per 100,000 in the state of Michigan - Blacks
Mortality rate in 2015 per 100,000 in the state of Michigan - Black Males
The acclaimed author of A Raisin in the Sun and civil rights activist, Lorraine Hansberry, died of pancreatic cancer at age 34 in 1965. At her funeral, author James Baldwin said: “It is not at all farfetched to suspect that what she saw contributed to the strain which killed her, for the effort to which Lorraine was dedicated is more than enough to kill a man.”
Dr. Loren B. Hamel, President & CEO of Lakeland Health, interviews Dr. Patricia Rush about her research on the impact of psychological trauma on the brain and on chronic disease and health inequities.
It was exciting to be a part of “Navigating a New World Order” at the Hope Global Forum in Atlanta, Georgia on March 26-28, 2018.
These short animated videos tell my story of growing up on the South Side of Chicago and my observations about implicit bias.
Does a better diet lead to better behavior? While the science indicates that it does, children in one Benton Harbor, Michigan, school helped to demonstrate the link between better mental health and a food palate that involves less sugar, preservatives, trans fats and other additives and more fish, whole grains and green leafy vegetables. During the 12-week project, the students at Sorter ate meals based on scientific studies over the past 20 years that show a strong correlation between diets high in omega 3 fatty acids, vitamins and other essential nutrients help to reduce aggressive and anti-social behavior. Here’s what we learned from Sorter School’s staff and project leads.
Important Ted Talks on the subject.
The new field of epigenetics sees that genes can be turned on and off and expressed differently through changes in environment and behavior. Rachel Yehuda is a pioneer in understanding how the effects of stress and trauma can transmit biologically, beyond cataclysmic events, to the next generation. [Listen to her podcast here]
Medical Science Is Solving a Mystery for a Physician Who Wondered for Years What Was Happening to Her Patientsread more
Lakeland Health Embarks on 3-year ‘Conversation’ to Help a Racially Polarized Community Understand the Latest Scienceread more
How a Foundation and Health System Teamed Up to Fight the Local Scourge of High Rates of Disease, Early Death for Blacksread more