KPSOM students, faculty, and staff have collectively made Black History Month a celebratory and memorable time for all with a bevy of in-person and virtual events to help uplift and educate members of the school community on Black culture, history, and achievement. The Student National Medical Association (SNMA), with support from the Office of Student Engagement and the Office of Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity, launched the festivities on January 31 with The Kickoff. This virtual event was open to all KPSOM students, staff, and faculty and included a compelling conversation on Black excellence, desserts from the Black-owned Butter Bakery Pasadena, and concluded with a Black History Month flag reveal.
On Fridays during February, the Black Alliance Staff and Faculty Community Group (BASFCG) presented Black Joy Fridays! virtually with support from Student Engagement and EID. The Black-led space was conceptualized because many Black members of the KPSOM community were working remotely or on the front lines and desired more connection and community. Makeen Yasar, KPSOM EID Coordinator and the event facilitator, said the series has been the high point of some participants’ weeks, helping them to connect and share family stories, roads traveled, aspirations, and values in an uplifting and vulnerable environment.
“It is wonderful to have the opportunity to come together as a school community to celebrate and center our conversations and activities on folks from across the African diaspora,” said Lindia Willies-Jacobo, KPSOM Senior Associate Dean for Admissions and Equity, Inclusion, and Diversity.
On February 14, SNMA presented a Black Physicians Panel with Drs. Mari Baldwin, Roberta Doucet, Lynn Goodloe, La Tanya Hines, Hascal Humes, and Chileshe Nkonde Price. Doucet, Hines, Humes, and Price are KPSOM faculty and all are Kaiser Permanente West Los Angeles physicians. Doucet, a KPSOM Instructor of Clinical Science, SNMA Advisor, and recently retired anesthesiologist, played a key role in assembling the panel.
Doucet said the event presented a unique opportunity for the physicians to share their stories, experiences, challenges, and perspectives on navigating the medical field as a Black doctor. Panelists aimed to empower, support, and encourage KPSOM medical students and provide a space for students to listen to the experiences of physicians on a similar professional path, particularly those who are the first in their family to pursue a career in medicine. Panelists discussed the importance of community support and having a mentor, tackling adversity with resilience, and seeking feedback from instructors and leaders. They also addressed Black physicians’ roles in ending health disparities and instances of having to prove oneself in learning and professional environments.
“I think as a minority student growing up in the U.S. educational system, attending an Ivy League institution, and now in the clinical phase of medical school, I have experienced and continue to experience [instances] where my knowledge is questioned, and I continually have to prove myself,” said second-year KPSOM student Shannan Moore, who co-moderated the panel.
Moore said attending a medical school with mentorship opportunities for students who are underrepresented in medicine—particularly the Black Physician Mentorship Program—as well as having access to Black faculty and staff with whom she and other students can confide and seek advice has been beneficial. “These opportunities and relationships have been invaluable for me, [someone] who is far from family, and navigating medicine as the first physician in my family.”
Laura Hamilton, KPSOM Director of Student Affairs, shared similar sentiments. “As a staff member focused on developing mentorship programs for the students, the highlight for me was the importance of seeking out mentorship and validating the ability for Black students to be successful in medicine despite challenges they may face due to racism and other forms of discrimination,” said Hamilton.
Rounding out Black History Month festivities was a screening of “Zinzun: A Revolutionary Activist.” The documentary film profiles the late civil rights activist Michael Zinzun, who grew up in Pasadena and was known for fighting against police brutality and his involvement in the civil rights movement. The final weekend of the month included The Cookout, an event hosted by the SNMA and BASFCG. Attendees were treated to food from Earle's on Crenshaw, music from singer Cherise Michelle, and a special community gathering of fellowship and fun at the Medical Education Building. Michelle succeeded at getting the crowd up on its feet with songs spanning many decades.
The month ended with a presentation by Dr. Deborah Prothrow-Stith, Dean of the College of Medicine at Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science and former Commissioner of Public Health for Massachusetts, as part of the KPSOM Speaker Series. In her presentation “Violence as a Public Health Problem,” Prothrow-Stith explained that violence is often considered a criminal justice problem rather than a health issue regardless of statistics showing that homicide is a leading cause of death for young black men and that 75 percent of children murdered worldwide are killed in the United States. Prothrow-Stith said public health has a huge responsibility to help patients upfront in instances of violence and stated more prevention efforts are needed. She further shared research showing that effective gun laws largely decrease the rate of violence in communities across our nation as well as community policing and programs aimed at reducing community violence.
“The events throughout Black History Month at our school were educational, fun, and moving,” said Mark Schuster, Founding Dean and CEO of KPSOM. “Thank you to all the students, faculty, and staff who worked to bring it all together. I’m glad that so many members of our school community were able to participate.”