Black History Month Physician Spotlight: Advocating for Equity

Celebrating the contributions and journeys of Black physicians from our community

Feb 20, 2024 · Dox Spotlight

During Black History Month, we take a moment to deeply honor and reflect on the significant contributions and leadership roles that Black individuals, both past and present, have made in the realm of medicine. This month serves as a powerful reminder of their enduring legacy and the profound impact they have had on healthcare. Recognizing the importance of these contributions, we are dedicating each week to spotlight prominent Black members within the Doximity network. This week, we had the privilege of interviewing, Enitza George, MD, Darlene Lawrence, MD, and Ashley Jeanlus, MD

How does Black history influence your life as a physician?

Dr. George - To celebrate Black history as a physician is the opportunity to stand on the shoulders of men and women who sacrificed their lives so that I could be free, study, have a good life for my family, and contribute to society as a whole and to my Black patients in particular.

Dr. Lawrence - Black history is full of positive and negative, encouraging and challenging experiences that have influenced my life as a physician of more than 30 years. From growing up in a close-knit community in Washington, DC, in a family without traditional health insurance as it exists today, to experiencing the effects of economic, educational, racial, and other social determinants of health, all these experiences have influenced me to choose primary care as a field of practice and my own community as the location to settle.

Dr. Jeanlus - As an OBGYN, Black history influences all aspects of my career. I hold space to honor Anarcha, Betsey, and Lucy - The True Mothers of Gynecology. Their stories underscore the historical exploitation and mistreatment of Black bodies in the name of medical advancement and highlight the importance of ethical medical research and patient consent. Additionally, I incorporate reproductive justice principles into practice, a framework created by 14 Black women that goes beyond reproductive rights.

Why is it important to you that we celebrate Black History Month in medicine?

Dr. George - In 2022, there were an estimated 47.9 million people who self-identified as Black, making up 14.4% of the country's population. And yet, less than 6% of doctors in the US are Black. Studies confirm that health outcomes are better when people are cared for by doctors of their same race/ethnicity. Having more Black physicians means better care experiences for Black patients as we make efforts towards the Triple AIM of healthcare.

Dr. Lawrence - Lest we forget from where we came. It is important to celebrate Black History Month in Medicine lest we never have the chance to one day be remembered as the prolific teacher of students and Residents in Family Medicine that I am.

Dr. Jeanlus - Black History Month serves as a reminder of the ongoing need for cultural sensitivity, equity, and social justice in healthcare. As an OBGYN, BHM prompts and amplifies important conversations about healthcare disparities and the impact of systemic racism on health outcomes.

What has your journey been like as a Black physician?

Dr. George - I have been in clinical practice and leadership roles for almost 33 years. It has not been easy at all! I have especially found it difficult in leadership roles. As a Black woman, I've felt that I have to work much harder than my White colleagues, and still have people question my leadership and capabilities.

Dr. Lawrence - The journey has been a winding path through the 1990s, 2000s, 2010s, and now the 2020s, with all of its generational changes, socio-political events, economic burdens, infectious disease whirlwinds, and scientific and research advances.

Dr. Jeanlus - Tough.

What can we do to support Black individuals pursuing or interested in pursuing medicine?

Dr. George - Doximity has done an excellent job so far. I would say to open more doors and keep them open so that more people of color and of all races/ethnicities can become visible. Sponsorship, mentorship, and allyship are important strategies to promote more Black individuals in medicine.

Dr. Lawrence - Allow folks to see what they can be! Model success in Medicine. Invite conversation and shadowing. Mentor and celebrate. Put on repeat. Join CMMP (Comprehensive Medical Mentorship Program) Matriculating Minorities into Medicine.

Dr. Jeanlus - Increasing DEI efforts, not sunsetting them is crucial. Creating safe environments where Black individuals pursuing or interested in pursuing medicine can have a voice that's valued and respected.

How is Doximity helping you?

Dr. George - The article written in 2023, where I was recognized as "Top Physicians and Clinicians to Follow in Digital Health," really helped my career and set me up for success.

Dr. Lawrence - Doximity is helping me to develop my tech savvy and social media voice. It has been a slow process teaching this old dog new tricks, but the knowledge is cumulative.

Dr. Jeanlus - Increasing the visibility of Black physicians and healthcare professionals as role models and mentors, via projects such as this blog!

Keep an eye out for further insights from our community members as they share their unique experiences and perspectives throughout Black History Month.

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