The need to create an oral history of leaders in the health disparities movement
The lost of our elders and their oral history and its impact on addressing health inequities. With the lost of two dear friends (Frank Talamantes & Gil Friedell); friends and colleagues on the battlefield in addressing health inequities, the question comes to mind, will we remember the knowledge they gained or will it be lost as we remain in our silos and continue to reinvent the wheel. Therefore, such will dooms us to continue to repeat the errors of the past and addressing inequities will remain an elusive target.
This Goes Beyond Race & Racism
To paraphrase what Benjamin Franklin once said: If we do not all hang together, we will all hang separately. The question that remains is: how do we get people and/or organizations out of their silos, especially in terms of health equity? We sure are not effectively addressing health inequities by remaining in our silos, especially scientific and advocacy silos.
Are we really addressing the health disparities/inequities gap in a serious and meaningful way?
Answer this question, given the number of centers focused on health disparities/inequities and the emphasis by major foundations on this topic, why are we not seeing a major reduction in the health disparities/inequities gap? Are we continuing to do just a modification of what we have always done, hoping that we are doing the right thing, when in reality we continue to get what we have always gotten, health disparities/inequities.
Do We Really Want to Address Either? My Perception is NO
Thirty years ago I wrote my first NIH on addressing breast cancer in African American Women. In that grant I included a section on the impact of racism on outcomes. The grant was not score. In fact, I was told that it really was not reviewed. Ten years later I wrote an article for "The Scientist" entitled "Racism Has An Impact On Research And Health Care Policy." Around the same time, serving on the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Integration Panel, I asked this question - how many Black women needed to die before we really did anything to really address inequities. Guess who not involved back to serve? Today, Racism is now a topic as it relates to health. Let me just say, it has been a topic for years. The question I continue to ask is whether anyone(s) in significant leadership position be held accountable. Only then will we truly see progress.
Do We Really Want to Address Either? My Perception is NO
Thirty years ago I wrote my first NIH grant on addressing breast cancer in African American Women. In that grant I included a section on the impact of racism on outcomes. The grant was not scored. In fact, I was told that it really was not reviewed. The basic statement was that everyone knew that Black women delayed in seeking care. Ten years later I wrote an article for "The Scientist" entitled "Racism Has An Impact On Research And Health Care Policy." Around the same time, serving on the Department of Defense Breast Cancer Integration Panel, I asked this question - how many Black women needed to die before we really do something about address this issue. Guess which member has never been invited back to serve? Today, Racism is now a topic, as it relates to health. However, let me just say that this is not new. it has been a topic for years. It is just coming up with a new set of people. So, the question I have continued ask is when will it not just be a topic of discussion and someone be held accountable for all these deaths. Only then will we truly see progress and not a topic of an article, a presentation or a panel discussion.
The Life of Donald J. Coffey
For a dishwater with dyslexia to being one the top science in Cancer Research, Don Coffey never forgot where he came from. This was one of his greatest achievements in terms of how he related to people of all ethnic and economic backgrounds.
The negative impact of creating more silos, more health inequities
As humans, we are always striving to receive credit for creating and/or doing something new. What I have learned, is that, for most things, they are not new, we are just improving on a concept. But when does improving and/or reinventing something become detrimental to the process? That is the question I am asking, especially in terms of health inequities, where the funds to address this issue is not limitless, but the knowledge brought together is.
Where are they now?
It is often said that the spirit of an individual lives as long as they live in the memories of those they have impacted. Howard Bern, is one whose spirit burns brightly in my soul. For he often said, "one's legacy to science is not the work that you do, but the people you leave behind." This is a phrase you have heard me say and written about numerous times, and will continue to hear me say and include in my writing so long as I am on this earth. It is almost my hope that this saying will be embedded in the souls of ones I have impacted so long as there is work to be done.
Time is precious. And there is a time when one has to decided about what needs to be done by ones-self or done by others. The biggest issue to this is the management of ones "EGO'. It is about not Edging God Out (EGO).
Is Addressing Health Inequities in a Holitic Mannner "A Bridge Too Far?"
A question I am asking this year is whether or not addressing health disparities/inequities is "A Bridge Too Far." What I mean is whether or not there is a willing to truly address this issue outside of those of us truly on the battle field. Ate we still in the age of the "Health Disparities Pimps." The other question is how do we make people feel that it is worth their time and/or investment to solve the issue. As one of this year's co-chairs of the 15th Annual Disparities in Health in America: Working Toward Social Justice Workshop said,, "I attended as a student, and it literally changed my life and impacted my career goals and aspirations deeply." The Disparities in America: Working Toward Social Justice Workshop has had such an impact on individuals. But again, I ask is such an effort “A Bridge Too Far.”