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In Focus

Leading the Future of Community Health: Nabil Abdulhay

By September 10, 2018Community Health
Nabil Abdulhay

In our most recent Journal of Change issue, we feature six leaders who are making a difference in community health in Philadelphia and across our region. These dynamic individuals were named Future Leaders because although each one has a unique cause, they all share a dedication to the people and communities they serve. Over the next few months, we’ll be interviewing each leader to find out more about their passion, their vision, and their impact.

Increasing Bystander Intervention through CPR Education

Nabil Abdulhay, a graduate of Temple University, is currently a clinical research coordinator at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. A community volunteer at Prevention Point Philadelphia and a volunteer EMT with the Springfield Ambulance Corps, Abdulhay constantly seeks ways to improve the health of his community. Over the past year, Abdulhay has served as the project coordinator for The Mobile CPR Project, an initiative designed to educate the public about hands-only cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). Nabil believes that through education, it is possible to increase bystander intervention and reduce deaths due to cardiac arrest.

IBC Foundation: How did The Mobile CPR Project originate?

Abdulhay: The Mobile CPR Project originated from the need to expand CPR education throughout all of Philadelphia. Certain entities, including Penn Medicine, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, Jefferson Health, the Philadelphia Fire Department, the American Heart Association, and the American Red Cross all came together to create the CPR Ready Coalition. Our mission is to teach CPR to as many people as possible in Philadelphia. According to coalition statistics from the CARES (Cardiac Arrest Registry to Enhance Survival) registry, in Philadelphia, if a person goes into cardiac arrest, they have a 15 percent chance of someone performing CPR on them. The national average is 39 percent. We realized that there needs to be a much better education method than currently exists, and to reach populations that don’t have access to CPR education. We recognize that cost and access to education are major barriers to CPR training. The Mobile CPR Project hopes to address these issues and reach at-risk communities.

IBC Foundation: What are some of your short-term and long-term goals for the project?

Abdulhay: Every day we are just trying to offer more classes and teach more people CPR. Our short-term goals include: reaching new communities, reaching organizations that we have yet to contact, and building new relationships. One long-term goal is to increase bystander intervention to sudden cardiac arrest. Another long-term goal is to create an environment where more people feel confident in intervening. We want to create a way for people to access resources and education, and to empower them to act when someone in their community is in trouble.

IBC Foundation: How has your experience in academia shaped The Mobile CPR Project?

Abdulhay: The combination of both of my experiences (as a teacher and as an EMT) has helped me quite a bit. As a former science teacher, I am used to going over material hundreds of time. Working on an ambulance gives me the EMS situational experience where I’m actually responding to cardiac arrest. I think my professional EMS experience and my teaching experience really allowed me to create a narrative for the class to ensure that everyone fully understands the material.

IBC Foundation: What is one thing that you believe can be done to improve the health of the community?

Abdulhay: I think that’s a question that public health professionals ask themselves all the time. Aside from CPR education, I think everything fundamentally relies on education. Having access to quality education at a very young age is one of the most important aspects of any community. How do you direct people to make good health decisions? I think that’s a really good question to ask. What is a way to nudge people in a way that is proven to help community health?

IBC Foundation: In the Journal of Change article, you state, “I think it’s critical to try to communicate with others in your community, especially those who are not in your normal circle.” How, in your opinion, do we open that line of communication?

Abdulhay: One thing I have found that works is that if you’re just walking down the street, it’s really critical that you just open the dialogue. You don’t actually have to have a conversation with the other person at first. Just say “hello” and ask them how their day is going. I know that sounds pretty simple, but that’s what works for me — just talking to people and learning about them and their communities. I think one of the better ways to open a dialogue is to first go in with no expectations. I think going in with that attitude puts people immediately at ease. You can’t go into a community and expect to make a change. It’s not your community, you’re a guest.

IBC Foundation: What is one instance of adversity you have faced during your career and how did you manage to overcome it?

Abdulhay: I think of myself as a pretty privileged person, I don’t like to make excuses. As it relates to my current job or obtaining education, I have not received any level of adversity. I’m trying to contextualize it in a way that is fair to the people that I meet every day. It’s very difficult for me because everyone struggles, no matter who you are. Because I work in public health, I see huge inequality in my backyard, so it’s hard for me to say I’ve faced adversity.

IBC Foundation: When you manage to find some free time, how do you spend it?

Abdulhay: That’s a question I can answer easily. I play music. I’ve been playing music for almost 20 years. I’m a drummer in some bands with friends; we play small local shows when we can. I hop on some blues jams, some open music jams. I enjoy playing funk music. You may see me playing music somewhere.

IBC Foundation: What is one thing you want to be sure to accomplish (or at least try) in your lifetime?

Abdulhay: I want to understand health policy in the United States, specifically, how problems with the health care system are causing an incredible amount of heartache for people in the United States. I think my next goal is to educate myself more on health care policy and help make an impact on that end. There are hundreds of millions of people in the United States that require health care. I think health care should be a fundamental right, no matter who you are, and I think as a society, it is everyone’s duty to protect their neighbor. If I could help accomplish something it would be progress on health care policy and health care for everyone who needs it. I think that’s the question for the ages, so I’m focusing on that as a larger goal.


Jake Dianno

Jake returned to the Foundation as a college intern after completing a two-week rotation in 2017. Throughout his internship, he researched work related to interprofessional collaboration and corporate citizenship, and supported the launch of the Foundation’s newest grant program, Community Innovation.