Dr. Truddie Darden
Breaking down barriers to care
Growing up in rural Alabama, Dr. Truddie Darden, got a firsthand look at the inadequacy of health care available to her family and community. And the death of a beloved aunt, due in part to that lack of access to medical services, led to an enduring commitment to bring quality care to people in need.
“One day, my aunt, who was one of the most dear people I knew in my childhood, was alive and vibrant,” said Dr. Darden. “Less than three days later, she was gone. I was in my early teens at the time and I remember thinking, ‘how could this possibly happen?’ I made a promise, to myself and to others, that I would become a doctor. From that point on, there was never a question in my mind what my path would be.”
The Road to Morehouse
After graduating from the University of West Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham School of Medicine, Dr. Darden served her pediatrics residency at the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center. In 1989, she joined the faculty and staff of Morehouse; today, she is associate professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Morehouse School of Medicine and Quality Director of Morehouse Healthcare (MHC).
“What really struck me about Morehouse was the mission of the medical school and the impact it was having on local and global communities,” said Dr. Darden. “I really love the idea of not only impacting the lives of children clinically but also training committed, talented physicians to go out and take care of children in the city, state, country and throughout the world. That was, and still is, a very powerful thought to me.”
An Unsettling Trend
As a general pediatrician, Dr. Darden sees every childhood condition and illness imaginable. She notes that the majority of what she sees on a daily basis is preventative and well-child care visits, followed by infectious disease cases, including colds, and then chronic diseases such as asthma and diabetes. However, “One of the most troubling developments we’re seeing today is the dramatic rise of overweight and obese children,” she said. “When I contrast what I’m seeing now to what I saw at the time I came out of residency, the numbers are staggering.” She noted that this trend is prevalent throughout the country nowadays, particularly in urban communities.
At the end of the day, it’s the personal, one-on-one interactions that bring satisfaction to Dr. Darden. “To feel that you are impacting the health and well-being of an individual remains pretty phenomenal in my view,” she said. “When patients come in and are unable to communicate what is going on with their bodies or illness, I enjoy putting them at ease and creating an environment of engagement where they are comfortable having a conversation about their condition. And then to be able to make a diagnosis and create a treatment plan that helps patients feel empowered in their own care is so rewarding. In the end, people really do want to be involved in their care.”
While many in the patient communities Morehouse serves look to MHC for family medicine and pediatrics care, Dr. Darden is quick to point out other aspects of the practice that warrant greater visibility. “MHC is active in clinical trials and research opportunities associated with conditions that affect our community in a disproportionate way,” she said. “Diabetes, stroke, hypertension—these are areas where MHC is highly engaged in research and our patients can benefit from our knowledge.”
In addition, Dr. Darden observes that a number of subspecialties are flourishing at MHC. “Key areas such as cardiology, nephrology, and neurology are well-represented here,” she said. “Many of our patients need to know that Morehouse offers a wide range of specialized care.”
Impacting Care on a Larger Stage
Outside of her MHC commitments, Dr. Darden has been active in a number of professional associations, including the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), American College of Physicians, and the National Medical Association. As a board member of the Georgia chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, she has been especially engaged in health issues affecting children and adolescents statewide. “Being on the board has allowed me to be a voice for communities that might not otherwise have a voice,” she said.
She is also chair of the annual medical education conference held each fall by the Georgia chapter of AAP and leads a committee that addresses topics and issues affecting pediatricians in the state. “The conference also has an impact on care beyond Georgia as pediatricians from surrounding states, such as Alabama and South Carolina, often attend as well.”
In Her Spare Time
In between her multitude of responsibilities, Dr. Darden still somehow finds time for herself. “I’m basically a country girl at heart—I love the outdoors. I enjoy walking, biking, and gardening.”
“I also do a lot of reading. I recently re-read “Who Moved My Cheese,” which I think is such a fundamentally important book. I was able to look at it from a different perspective than when I first read it many years ago, but it still has invaluable insights for anyone.”