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Changing Lives From Rural Louisiana to Chicago: The Story of Kimberly Harden, M.D.

Dr. Kimberly Harden’s journey to becoming a doctor began in Houston, Texas and has taken her from the Caribbean to rural Louisiana to Chicago.

A Texas native, Dr. Harden majored in biology at Prairie View A&M University. And though she wanted to become a doctor, she worked corporate jobs for two years before she mustered the courage to sit for the MCAT. When she was wait-listed from the medical schools she applied to in Texas, she decided to look into programs in the Caribbean, rather than wait a whole year to reapply in the U.S.

Dr. Harden enrolled in American University of Antigua (AUA) College of Medicine, where she was impressed by the support she received from the faculty and administration.

“They knew where we wanted to go in our careers and prepared us well so we could get there,” she said in an interview with AUA Alumni Magazine. “It was also the first time I had been so far from home, so the decision seemed like a gamble at first, but it paid off.”

Dr. Harden also noted how significant it was to have such a diverse student body at AUA. It was the first time she had lived and attended school outside the black community within the U.S.

“It was really refreshing to be around so many people whose experience were different than my own,” she said. “That was how I wanted to live my life.”

Throughout medical school, Dr. Harden did rotations in New Orleans and the Chicago area. But after graduation, she was ready for a major change. She applied to the Louisiana State University (LSU) School of Medicine residency in Rural Family Medicine in Bogalusa, a town with a population of 12,000. She won a spot among only four residents in the hospital, beating out more than 1,000 other applicants.

During her time in Bogalusa, Dr. Harden treated patients for diverse medical conditions, but obesity was a recurring issue. While she lived in Louisiana, 32% to 35% of adults in the state were considered obese, and the number is slightly higher now.

“I can count the members of my extended family who are not overweight on one hand,” Dr. Harden said. “It’s an issue that’s near and dear to my heart.”

After seeing how lifestyle changes – like diet and exercise – were for her patients, Dr. Harden made changes in her own habits. She lost weight and was able to stop taking blood pressure medication.

Dr. Harden received certification from the American Board of Obesity Medicine, and is now practicing at Rush Oak Park Hospital in Oak Park, Illinois. Her certification in Obesity Medicine will serve her well in Oak Park. The hospital is opening a weight-loss clinic soon, and Dr. Harden plans to be actively involved, helping others along a journey to better health and wellness.

Read more AUA alumni success stories.