May 15, 2020 --
Cleveland Heights was the first place that really felt like home for Dr. Eddie Hackler, III. Growing up in Cleveland, he moved around a lot, often staying with his granddad. It wasn’t until just before his sophomore year that he moved to Cleveland Heights with his mother and siblings.
“It was the first time we really had a place that felt like our own,” said the 2007 Heights grad. “And when I started at Heights, I was integrated into a group of friends who had been in the schools together their whole lives and had known each other for ten or twelve years already. But they welcomed me in.”
He feels like his three years at Heights High laid the foundation he needed to succeed in adulthood. And succeed he has.
After earning his undergraduate degree from Bowling Green State University, Dr. Hackler attended Meharry Medical College in Nashville, TN. It was here where he began to truly be recognized as a leader when he was named Mr. Meharry, a tradition of Historically Black Colleges and Universities where fellow students choose a Campus King and Campus Queen.
As Mr. Meharry, Dr. Hackler served as the face of the college to the community and as Community Service Ambassador for students. He says that this is where he truly found his purpose. “I had to be selfless, had to give of myself not just to the community but to the students who had elected me.”
He also had the opportunity to put what he was learning in the classroom into practice when he hosted a men’s outreach event and sent volunteers into the community to talk to men about their health and health care. The racial disparities in both access to health care and in health outcomes have driven Dr. Hackler’s work ever since.
Dr. Eddie Hackler at his Heights High graduation, 2007.
“Representation matters,” he says of patients seeing doctors who look like them. He feels he has a special connection to many of his African-American patients, who “often tell me how proud they are of me for being a doctor. It makes my job so much more rewarding and makes me want to work even harder.”
He works plenty hard already. He spent time in South Africa and Ghana working in local hospitals and clinics, where he was shocked at the lack of medical equipment and supplies. “I remember seeing three premature babies together in one incubator and asking if they were triplets. But no, they just didn't have enough incubators.”
Dr. Hackler has also spent time in New York City at an undergraduate summer research program at Einstein College, did his residency at the University of Texas-Southwestern, and is now finally back in Cleveland as a Cardiology Fellow with Case Western Reserve University.
He currently splits his time between University Hospitals and the Veterans Affairs Hospital, though much of his schooling has been relegated online due to the coronavirus.
Dr. Hackler was featured recently in the podcast Black Men in White Coats
. He has mentored young people in high schools, colleges, and medical schools and is eager to return to Heights High.
“Even though I only spent three years there, I always tell people I’m from Cleveland Heights.”