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Exhibit highlights African-American achievement in health care

BY LILY ABROMEIT | MARCH 04, 2014 5:00 AM

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The creation of an exhibit that would honor African-American members of the health-sciences field came as a spur-of-the-moment idea to exhibit curator Andre Lee, who decided African Americans in the health fields do not get as much recognition as their counterparts in sports or entertainment.

Now, after creating Black Health Legends, an exhibit that travels around the country, Lee and others hope it will shed light on where black health scientists have been and where they are moving in the future. Raynard Kington, the president of Grinnell College, will speak at the exhibit today.

“We anticipate that persons who view the exhibit will have an opportunity to learn not just about the historical foundations of health care but also about how far we’ve come; from segregated hospitals to … facilities that serve a very diverse patient population and providers who strive to deliver culturally responsive healthcare,” said Sherree Wilson, the associate dean of cultural affairs and diversity initiatives in the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans make up roughly 25 percent of the U.S. population, while only 6 percent of physicians are from this group.

The medical school paired with the UI College of Public Health to bring the first part of the exhibit, Black Health Legends — Who Was First? to the College of Public Health on Feb. 18. Today marks the exhibit’s official opening in the medical school.

“[It is] important because this exhibit tells of black health legends, and it talks about physicians, nursing, administration, dentistry — so it covers all the health sciences,” said Kate Check, the diversity recruitment coordinator for the public-health school. “I think we’re lucky to have all those health sciences on our campus.”

The exhibit consists of five panels, covering approximately 150 African-American leaders in the health sciences.

Lee said he hopes the project will encourage more minority students to go into the health sciences.
“I want people who haven’t made up their mind for what career they want to pursue [to learn] … and get people interested in health care in a good way,” he said.

Check also said an important aspect of the exhibit is that it was displayed during Black History Month, drawing more attention to the monthlong celebration.

“We brought it to pay our respect to Black History Month … [but] also, I … think that we haven’t really been given a chance to give recognition to minorities who have been in health care … this may just be the first step to bring this exhibit in and show that appreciation.”

Timothy Havens, a UI associate professor of communication studies and African-American Studies, said it is important for people to remember that African-American contributions to society did not begin during the civil-rights era.

“I think it’s important for students to recognize the fact that Africa-American contributions to things like health sciences … are long-standing and have been going on for a long time,” he said. “That’s a really important element for exhibits like that, [and] it’s a really important thing for students to encounter and realize.”


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