Black History Month celebrates pioneers
By Megan Hale | Journalist
Black History Month provides a concrete opportunity for people of all backgrounds and ethnicities to come together to celebrate the impact of black history on each of our lives.
“I believe that Black History Month has become this space where black creators and black visionaries can express themselves more about the things they are passionate about, but also a time for us to reflect on how black people contributed to the culture,” said Colleyville senior Dayo Olatunji.
According to a public health report published by the US National Library of Medicine, increasing minority representation in the healthcare workforce is key to supporting the diversity of values across the population as a whole while emphasizing cultural awareness in the way health care practices are delivered.
Olatunji said she grew up very aware of the sacrifice required to be a doctor. Watching her father’s career as a doctor, she saw the business of this lifestyle with her own eyes. However, after volunteering and shadowing at her father’s clinic, she realized the incredible impact he had on members of their community.
“I realized there were people who also needed him because they had never had access to quality health care,” Olatunji said. “And they would come to his clinic, and he knew them by name. He knew the names of their children. He knew what sports their children practiced. He knew their pets. And it was just these deep relationships that he made with them, and I really started to see medicine differently.
Olatunji said she realized through this experience and the example set by her father that caring for and serving others often requires sacrifice.
“I saw that there was a need for relationships in medicine, and I really wanted to be a part of that, and I wanted to be a vocal part of these people’s stories and work for them to get this quality health care. “, said Olatunji.
Olatunji said his personal historical inspiration is Dr. Patricia Era Bath. Bath was an African-American physician, inventor, and researcher. She was the first black woman to complete a residency in ophthalmology, and she is responsible for the invention of laser cataract surgery. While in college, Bath interned at Harlem Hospital in New York. The following year, she completed her fellowship at Columbia University.
“She was able to see, during her fellowship at Columbia, that black people are twice as likely to develop blindness and eight times as likely to develop glaucoma and just much more likely to develop all kinds of visual impairments than their counterparts. whites”, Olatunji mentioned. “And because of that, she’s basically dedicated a lot of her career to making sure people can get quality eye care, no matter what their circumstances.”
The influence of her unique experiences awakened Bath to the systematic issues of diversity in health care, and she dedicated the rest of her career to bringing about change.
Similar to Olatunji, McKinney senior Daphne Simo’s passion for medicine extends far beyond the classroom.
Growing up, Simo said she always had a natural fascination with science, medicine and how diseases affected different people of different ethnicities.
After hearing a lecture given by Dr. Alexa Irene Canady in first grade, Simo said his passion to pursue a career in healthcare was ignited.
“She was a woman who nearly dropped out of college due to her self-confidence and the fact that she didn’t feel empowered enough to continue her journey to become a doctor,” Simo said. “But then something clicked inside her to continue this journey, and so she went to medical school.”
Dr. Canady was the first black female neurosurgeon in the United States, and she eventually became chief of neurosurgery at Michigan Children’s Hospital.
“I told her story and she was really an inspiration to me,” Simo said.
Simo said she is also the president of Baylor’s Multicultural Association for Medical Students (MAPS). According to MAPS websitethis organization seeks to support students of all ethnicities by providing a space for members to learn and appreciate the diverse backgrounds of the individuals who make up patient populations.
“Once I joined MAPS, it really gave me a sense of community, so I could be with people of my color or who have similar experiences,” Simo said.
Olatunji said it’s vital to talk about topics you care about, no matter how popular they are.
“Talk about the things you are passionate about even if you seem like one of the few because there is someone who needs to hear that, and there are people waiting for you on the other side who will need you and who are going to need those insights that you have,” Olatunji said. “You should never be afraid to vocalize those things, no matter the situation.