Teaching two university classes a semester and handling business development and community outreach in the country’s largest transplant center seems like a lot for one person to handle, but that’s just a day in the life of Damion Jackson.
For several years now, the 44-year-old has deftly managed to marry his two passions – health care advocacy and business. It’s what he feels he was meant to do ever since he started his professional career.
The collective model we have is no patient should ever die waiting for a transplant.
“Not really sure how I find the time, but I love both roles,” said Jackson. “Neither really feels like work in the traditional sense of the word.”
Jackson grew up in Allapattah and Carol City as the son of a nurse, and has spent most of his life in Miami. He received a bachelor’s degree in law from the University of Miami, but it was health care – and not jurisprudence – that claimed his interest.
A job as a patient advocate for end-stage renal patients in the poor communities of central Florida and then Miami gave him his first taste of the industry. The work included writing letters for prescription discounts, finding housing and resolving transportation issues. A later role as a patient relations liaison at Mount Sinai Hospital, again working with end-stage renal patients, nudged him further down that road.
What cemented his path and commitment to community was seeing patients finally receive a life-saving transplant, only to be mired down by exorbitantly priced medications that insurance wouldn’t cover.
“Those types of issues were the ones that really rocked me to my core,” said Jackson.
He eventually went back to school to earn a doctorate in health care education from Nova Southeastern University and then, in 2016, found himself in charge of community health education for chronically ill patients at Memorial Hospital South.
Three years later, the Miami Transplant Institute, an affiliation between Jackson Health System and UHealth, landed on Jackson’s radar.
“I think this is the truest definition of serendipitous,” he said. “I saw the position at Miami Transplant Institute and it gave me an opportunity to do business development, community outreach and health care.”
The role was in line with everything Jackson had been working toward, and after a close friend underwent a transplant, he knew it was his next step.
“I don’t even necessarily think I found the job,” he said. “The job found me.”
Jackson wears his title like a badge of honor, and is proud to be a part of something bigger than himself.
“The collective model we have is no patient should ever die waiting for a transplant,” Jackson said. “And we work toward that goal every single day.”
Dual roles as a lecturer at UM and as an adjunct professor at Florida International University are an extension of his work. He’s taught patient advocacy at the former for almost five years, and teaches global health and health informatics at FIU, where his undergraduate classes often have upward of 25 students. Graduate classes aren’t as hefty, but they are no less demanding.
“I have a wealth of content [to share],” he said, “and I’m applying the things that I see and experience day to day to the coursework.”
This story was written for The Miami Times by Florida International University’s South Florida Media Network.