I first met Nailah almost three years ago while working side-by-side with her in Biloxi, Mississippi, during Kaiser Permanente’s annual volunteer trip to the Gulf Coast. We bonded immediately over women’s college hoops (have to admit I was a little jealous when I found out she’s practiced with the Stanford Women’s Team). She worked her butt off, and always with a smile. She even took time out to check out a scrape on my shin, reassuring me that I was not going to lose my leg anytime soon. I think she used her doctor skills a few more times that week, always jumping in to offer her expert advice when needed.
Since our time volunteering together, I have stayed in contact through Facebook, and it’s been such a pleasure to see all the amazing things she does with giving heart and vast knowledge in the medical field. I’m glad to call someone like “Dr. NaiNai” – as she told us to call her on that Biloxi trip – a friend. I am so glad that she was willing to take time out of her busy schedule to answer a few questions. She is the type of doctor everyone dreams of; fun, intelligent, kind and most of all compassionate. I have never met a doctor who talks about how much they care about their patients as much as Dr. NaiNai. She really is someone doing great things to change the world.
Nailah shared, “I was born in Hollywood, Ca. I was raised by an amazing, inspiring single mother who taught me and my sister that we could do anything we set our minds to if we worked hard. She supported me along the way and was my biggest fan and cheerleader as I played basketball and worked hard in school. As for my path to medicine, my sister being diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes motivated me to change my major in college and become Pre-Med. I wanted to learn more about what my sister was struggling with every day, in hopes that I could help her out someday. When my sister passed away in 2002, I dedicated my medical career to her and to helping those with diabetes live the healthiest life possible. My passion for chronic disease prevention remains, and now it has expanded to make sure that all people have equal opportunities for health.
I wanted Dr. NaiNai to explain what kind of medicine she practices. She said, “(I’m an) Internal Medicine and Primary Care Physician. That can mean different things depending on the day, I am a primary care physician but I am also a hypertension specialist and have a blood pressure clinic devoted to improving blood pressure control in African Americans, where unfortunately we see more hypertension which is diagnosed earlier, less well controlled and has more side effects.”
Nailah said she is most passionate about, “Improving the health and wellness of the African American community. This means recognizing and addressing the existing health disparities, and not only providing health care but focusing on all health barriers my patients face to provide them the path to their best health.”
When asked what she is most proud of Nailah continued, “I am a person who despite my extremely busy, stressful, hectic schedule, continues to volunteer and give back to my community. I do this in many ways which include, community health fairs and speaking engagements- where I speak about ways to stay healthy, partnering with KP, the NBA, and the Golden State Warriors “Get Fit” programs to help children learn the importance of healthy eating and healthy drinking and how those things can help improve their physical and academic life and overall fitness. I am also a board member of the downtown Oakland YMCA whose focus and commitment to youth development, healthy living, and social responsibility, mirror my values.
She ended the interview with a story that she felt best described her life, “At the age of 14 I was walking to the bus stop with my younger sister. She turned and looked up to the sky with a weird look on her face and then she began to scream and her head started to twitch. Minutes later she lay on the cement in full convulsions while the neighbor called my mom who came running down the street. That was my sister’s first seizure and the day she was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. She was 12 years-old at the time. Over the next few years, I watched her struggle with getting her diabetes under control, trying many insulins, and having many episodes of diabetic coma along the way. All the while continuing to have seizures. Even at a young age, I knew that just because you have diabetes doesn’t mean you couldn’t live a healthy life. My sister’s struggles motivated me in college to become Pre-Med and enter medical school. Today my commitment to helping people with diabetes live their healthiest life remains. Especially, when I learned about the health disparities that exist in this disease across cultures. My commitment now includes a focus on preventing diabetes, and other chronic diseases by helping people learn how to live the healthiest life they can.”
You can catch Dr. Nai Nai on Social Media here:
Facebook– NAINAI THOMPSON
If you could cure one disease in the world what it be? Why?
DIABETES IT IS A HORRIBLE DISEASE WHICH IS BECOMING AN EPIDEMIC. IT AFFECTS MANY VITAL ORGANS, INCLUDING THE BRAIN, EYES, HEART, NERVES, KIDNEYS. IT IS THE LEADING CAUSE OF BLINDNESS IN AMERICA, A LEADING CAUSE OF KIDNEY FAILURE REQUIRING DIALYSIS, AND AN INDEPENDENT RISK FACTOR FOR HEART ATTACK AND STROKE. BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY BECAUSE THIS HORRIBLE DISEASE TOOK MY SISTER FROM ME AT THE AGE OF 24.
What is your favorite City?
TO LIVE: SAN FRANCISCO
TO VISIT IN US: NEW YORK CITY
TO VISIT IN EUROPE: (SO FAR) VENICE
Name a place you would like to visit?
How important is music in your life?
WITHOUT MUSIC I WOULDN’T BE ME AND I COULDN’T DO WHAT I DO.
MUSIC MAKES ME HAPPY, MUSIC IS MY MEDICINE
I GREW UP LISTENING TO MUSIC AND SHARE THE LOVE OF MUSIC WITH MY PARENTS AND GRANDPARENTS, I LOVE MUSIC OF ALL KINDS. SINGING AND DANCING AND STILL DO ALL THREE PRETTY MUCH Every day. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LISTENING TO LIVE MUSIC AND I DO IT AS OFTEN AS I CAN.
Do you have a favorite animal?
I LOVE BUTTERFLIES. THEY REMIND ME THE IMPORTANCE OF CHANGE, JOY AND FINDING JOY IN EVERY MOMENT, AND THE BEAUTY OF COLOR
Do you have a pet? What’s its name? How’d it get that name? Supply a picture.
I HAVE A SPOILED 3.5 YEAR OLD PIT BULL NAMED SYLVER (SYLVESTER). WHEN WE GOT SYLVER FROM MY COUSIN’S LITTER I ASKED FOR A BOY AND MY YOUNG COUSIN CHOSE THE NAME SYLVESTER, IT WASN’T UNTIL A FEW DAYS LATER THAT WE REALIZED SYLVER WAS A SHE NOT A HE. NOW SHE IS SYLVER MOST OF THE TIME AND ONLY SYLVESTER WHEN SHE IS IN TROUBLE.
What is one attribute you got from your Mom? How has it been a benefit to your life?
FROM MY MOM, I GET MY COMPASSIONATE, AND MY HEART TO HELP OTHERS. MY MOM TAUGHT US FROM AN EARLY AGE TO GIVE BACK FROM HER WORK IN FOSTER CARE AND BRINGING CHILDREN INTO OUR HOME WHO COULDN’T BE WITH THEIR PARENTS, TO FEEDING THE HOMELESS TO BUILDING HOMES WITH OUR YOUTH GROUP I LEARNED EARLY TO ALWAYS GIVE BACK. FROM MY MOM, I ALSO LEARNED MY FAITH IN GOD. I LEARNED THAT NO MATTER MY SUCCESS, TO BE HUMBLE AND GRATEFUL TO GOD AND THE MANY AMAZING PEOPLE I HAVE IN MY LIFE WHO SUPPORT ME.
What is one attribute you got from your Dad? How has it been a benefit to your life?
FROM MY DAD, I GET MY COMPETITIVENESS IN BASKETBALL AND LIFE MY DAD TAUGHT AND CONTINUES TO TEACH ME MANY REAL-WORLD LESSONS WHETHER THEY BE IN RELATIONSHIPS OR THAT I CAN APPLY AT WORK
*FROM BOTH MY PARENTS I LEARNED TO LOVE TRAVELLING, THE WORLD, TO APPRECIATE OTHER CULTURES AND TO TRY NEW THINGS
Do you prefer to vacation with the locals or all-inclusive resort?
WHEN GIVEN A CHOICE IT IS ALWAYS BETTER TO VACATION WITH THE LOCALS FOR SOME PERIOD OF TIME TO GET A TRUE INTRODUCTION TO THE AREA, CULTURE AND FOODS, SOME OF MY MOST INTERESTING MEMORIES TRAVELING HAVE BEEN WITH LOCAL GUIDES WHO DECIDED TO TAKE US OFF THE BEATEN PATHS
Did you have a particular birthday cake you had every year when you were growing up?
SINCE MY SISTER HAD DIABETES WE DIDN’T EAT MUCH SUGAR SO I DON’T LIKE FROSTING OR THINGS THAT ARE TOO SWEET. MY FAVORITE CAKES WERE/ARE WHITE CAKE WITH STRAWBERRIES AND WHIPPED CREAM, WARM CHOCOLATE CAKE WITH NO FROSTING, PLAIN POUND CAKE BEST MADE BY MY GRANDMOTHER WHO IS NOW 86 AND MADE ME ONE LAST YEAR AT CHRISTMAS
Do you believe in God?
Have you ever cried when a celebrity died?
MOST RECENTLY PRINCE
What is your horoscope sign? Do you feel it fits you?
SCORPIO – YES I AM PASSIONATE, INDEPENDENT, LOYAL, PERSISTENT AND DETERMINED
What was your earliest memory?
ONE OF MY EARLIEST MEMORIES IS WHEN I WAS A YOUNG CHILD, WEARING A FLUFFY PURPLE DRESS AT MY DAD’S FRIENDS WEDDING. I HAD MY HAIR BRAIDED WITH BEADS ON MY BRAIDS AT THE END.
I AT ONE POINT WAS ON THE DANCE FLOOR MY MYSELF SPINNING AND DANCING WITH MY SPECIAL DRESS. MY DAD HAS A PICTURE SOMEWHERE OF ME DANCING AT THAT MOMENT, AND IT REMINDS ME OF ONE OF MY GOALS TO DANCE LIKE NO ONE IS WATCHING.
Did you ever have an imaginary friend? What was its name?
I HAD AN IMAGINARY FRIEND NAME B.B. HOAGIE, I WOULD MAKE MY MOM FIX HIM A PLATE AND MAKE SURE HE WAS IN THE CAR WHEN WE LEFT. WHEN MY SISTER WAS BORN WHEN IWAS 23 MONTHS HE WENT AWAY
What is your favorite time period?
I LOVE THE MUSIC, HAIRSTYLES, AND FASHION OF THE SEVENTIES
Do you enjoy hugs?
LONG HUGS ARE ABSOLUTELY ONE OF MY FAVORITE THING
What was the first concert you attended?
MY BEST FRIEND IN HIGH SCHOOL TOOK M TO SEE LUTHER VANDROSS AT THE OAKLAND COLISEUM
Do you collect anything?
SHELLS, ROCKS, AND MAGNETS FROM PLACES I TRAVEL
If this was your last day on earth, what would you do?
SPEND THE DAY DOING SOMETHING FUN WITH ALL THE PEOPLE I LOVE IN THE SAME PLACE
What do you think is the key to a healthy relationship?
BEING AUTHENTIC AND HONEST WITH YOURSELF AND THE OTHER PERSON ABOUT YOUR WANTS AND NEEDS. COMMUNICATION IS KEY TO MAKE SURE EACH OTHER’S EXPECTATIONS AND DESIRES ARE CLEAR
If you won the lottery what 3 things would you do first
*PAY OFF ALL MY MOM’S AND MY BILLS, AND PUT AWAY AND INVEST A PORTION OF THE MONEY TO HANDLE THOSE EXPENSES IN THE FUTURE
*TRAVEL AROUND THE WORLD
*GIVE BACK TO ORGANIZATIONS WHO SHARE MY VALUES/PASSION
What was your favorite toy as a child?
SPEAK-&-SPELL AND SPEAK-&-MATH
Do you think it’s fair that sports stars and celebrities get paid so much?
I THINK THAT WE HAVE CREATED A SYSTEM WHERE STARS AND CELEBRITIES ARE PAID SO MUCH. IN SPORTS WE BUY THEIR JERSEYS, SHOES, AND WATCH THEIR SHOWS. WE PAY HUNDREDS OF DOLLARS (SOME PEOPLE PAY THOUSANDS) TO WATCH A GAME. THE TEAMS ARE MAKING BILLIONS, SO I THINK THEY SPORTS STARS OR MOVIE STARS) SHOULD BE PAID APPROPRIATELY. NOW I DO BELIEVE STRONGLY THAT A PART OF THEIR JOB CONTRACT SHOULD BE TO GIVE BACK THEIR TIME AND ALSO BE REQUIRED TO DONATE TO THE COMMUNITY. MANY DO IN THEIR OWN NAMES/FOUNDATIONS AS WELL AS FOR THEIR TEAMS.
What do you think is the biggest waste of money?
THE WAY OUR COUNTRY SPENDS MONEY ON HEALTH CARE WITHOUT RESULTANT IMPROVEMENTS IN HEALTH OR HEALTH STATISTICS. FOR ALL THE MONEY WE SPEND WE ARE IN THE BOTTOM FOR MOST STATISTICS.
What’s the longest road trip you have ever taken?
SAN FRANCISCO TO KANSAS CITY ON THE WAY TO MEDICAL SCHOOL
ST. LOUIS TO SAN FRANCISCO ON THE WAY BACK FROM MEDICAL SCHOOL (I WAS DOING MY CLINICALS IN ST. LOUIS)