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If you asked Lamarr Holland a few years ago if he expected to become a TikTok influencer, he probably would have laughed and said, "No. I run a hemodialysis technician school, not a social media account." Still, here he is—an incredible educator making short, punchy, and informative videos about kidney disease that reach people worldwide.
This is Lamarr's story.
Changing career paths
Twenty-five years ago, Lamarr worked as a dialysis technician to pay his way through mortician school when his life changed. He was very good at this job, so good that he was asked to train new employees. Lamarr fell in love with this work and decided to forgo mortician school. Instead, he embarked on a new venture: opening a dialysis school with a coworker.
"My father told me that I would gain success from something I love to do. That was the best advice he could give me," said Lamarr. "I stayed in this field and it elevated me. I challenged myself to open up a school, get licensed, and become approved by the Education Department. The love of the field encouraged me to get uncomfortable, to take this business opportunity and train people how to do this job very well."
While teaching students about the technical aspects of dialysis is incredibly important, Lamarr also focuses on another area–compassion.
"Teaching compassion is almost impossible, but it's the most important thing we can do for our students. You're signing up to take on someone's burden and to provide a service, so you cannot let your emotions get complacent," said Lamarr. "We're here to make a difference in our patient's lives. It can be hard because we, the caregivers, often have our own troubles and health issues. However, it's not fair for a patient to have to deal with anything other than great compassion and understanding. That's what makes a great professional.
Sharing his knowledge with family
Lamarr’s experience with kidney disease isn’t limited to teaching.
"Diabetes and hypertension have featured heavily in my family. I also have an aunt who went through acute kidney failure after catching COVID-19. Luckily, it reversed after two months of dialysis but it was terrifying," Lamarr said. "It's my role as an educator to teach everyone, including family, but I can't tell them what to do because they won't listen."
Instead, Lamarr shares stories like the following and hopes that people listen.
"A very close friend of mine had diabetes and I'd been telling her for years it could send her into kidney failure. She had all the signs–she started losing her vision and had very high blood pressure. Unfortunately, she passed away because she was non-compliant," said Lamarr. "When someone isn't listening it could be because they are depressed. One patient explained it’s not that they aren't listening, it's instead too much emotional stress. I bring this story to my students so they can hopefully help others in a similar situation.”
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When COVID-19 hit, Lamarr's school shut down. Instead of giving up, he and his business partner pivoted to online teaching. This sparked an idea–what he shared their knowledge with more than just their students? Lamarr once again pushed himself past his comfort zone to create a TikTok account. He expected a few people to find the page, but it quickly exploded in popularity.
"Kidney disease is on the rise due to diabetes, the number one cause for kidney failure, and high blood pressure, the 2nd leading cause. Our goal is to not just train people to be the best technicians and nurses but to provide education to prevent people from getting to end-stage kidney failure," said Lamarr. "It's all about education, intervention, and making a difference in people's lives. TikTok has been awesome for that."
Now, Lamarr blends his work by doing TikTok lives while teaching class.
"I answer questions on break or at the end of class. I didn't realize how many people want to learn how the kidneys work, what causes kidney disease, and how to prevent it," said Lamarr. "I reach quite a few different audiences including those who are recently diagnosed, those on dialysis, and people looking to change careers. It's amazing how many people I connect to and I love making a positive change in people's lives."
Do you also want to make a positive difference in the lives of people with kidney disease? Become a Voices for Kidney Health Advocate. By telling your story, you can help make real change happen in the government. Sign up as an Advocate today, and we'll show you how.
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