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Nigel Deen, '08

Posted: 9/1/2014

Nigel what are some of your favorite memories from HSP? My best memories were made around the lunch table, in the bus on the way to games, in the locker room before games, and in the classroom. HSP had a lot of personalities and I’m glad I got to spend quality time with those people: my classmates and my teachers. 

Mr. Radosta, Ms. Defillippi, and Dr. Voss expanded my literary appetite and exposed me to a diverse range of books. Ms. Defilippis’s This I Believe project got us to write a speech, stand up in front of the entire class, and deliver it. It was an amazing introduction into public speaking. I also enjoyed the philosophical debates in Mr. Verlander’s class. I was privileged to be taught religion by two different teaching styles. Mr. Verlander forced us to go back and forth with one another so we managed to discover the answers through our dialogue. Ms. Hunter-Kilmer allowed us to pepper her with tough, gritty questions. Both teaching styles allowed me to express my thoughts and to learn from others in the classroom. Mrs. Lee’s AP Bio class, Mr. Petrauskis' physics and calculus classes - I have good memories all around. Dr. Evans and Mr. Pietrantonio got us into Latin; it’s hard to get teenagers to learn a dead language, but they taught it well and we learned and appreciated it. I have a collection of great memories from football and basketball; anyone witnessing the HSP vs. Pinecrest games from 2005-2008 remembers the fun, stress, and anxiety caused by those games.

How did your time at HSP prepare you or encourage you to study Neurobiology? Are there any particular teachers who inspired you? After you've been in a room with my dad, you start to understand his passion for learning. When you've lived with him, it starts to rub off on you. I carried this passion for learning to college. I studied neurobiology mainly because I wanted to learn something new, but also because I didn't want to stop learning biology - I wanted to go deeper into the subject. Also, a number of pre-med classes double counted for the major so I felt that I could kill two birds with one stone. It was challenging but interesting; it’s incredible but it’s a field that is constantly changing as we learn more and more about our brains and our interactions with the world around us.

Can you tell us about your experience as a student at Harvard? I enjoyed my experience at Harvard. I started studying global health and health policy during my sophomore year and ended up getting a minor in it. At the time, Sierra Leone had the highest maternal mortality rate in the world. My sister and I are second-generation Sierra Leoneans, so I was drawn to the topic. I managed to get a job as a research assistant and studied the quality of care in Sierra Leone; I focused on the causes of maternal and infant mortality. I spent 5 weeks on the ground in Sierra Leone collecting data - I interviewed 75 women and recorded their maternal history. It was insightful, thought provoking, and it changed the way I think about healthcare. When I came back I dedicated my time to studying maternal mortality - the causes and solutions. It’s a topic that drives everything I do. You can tell a lot about a country by looking at the health of its women and children.

How do you aspire to serve God and the world through your field? What are your plans for your future? I seek justice and equality in healthcare. Much of the work that I’m passionate about centers on ensuring equal access to high quality care regardless of race, income, creed, or gender. The story of Jesus cleansing the temple comes to mind - health equity drives me and I get fired up about the topic. We’re brought into this world by the grace of God; I think it’s important to recognize the potential of our society and the improvements that we still need to make in order to realize an equitable healthcare system. With regard to my future - it depends. I've spent the last two years working for a healthcare nonprofit and I’m moving on to a healthcare tech company. I plan to go to grad school at some point but I want to make sure I have plenty of work experience under my belt to guide my decision. My passions lie in health tech, health equity, maternal and child health, and community organizing. I’ll find a path that binds all of that together into something meaningful. I'm blessed with a great support system and a number of mentors to help me. Right now my main focus is to learn as much as I can and to gain valuable work experience along the way.

Can you tell us about a recent neat experience? I recently got to tour with mobile health clinics in Boston - these are folks that have transformed RVs, vans, trucks, etc. into moving clinics and who are providing care to under-served areas of Boston. It was amazing to talk with them, to listen to their breakthroughs, challenges, and barriers. It was also amazing to see how innovative they were. They deal with cost constraints but manage to find creative ways to deliver care under trying circumstances. I learned a lot from them and it’s an area I will monitor closely.

Nigel Deen graduated from Harvard University with a Bachelor of Arts in Neurobiology. He currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts, where he most currently served as a Research Assistant for the Institute for Healthcare Improvement.