This February, a range of Einstein students, faculty, and staff honored the contributions of Black Americans and celebrated Black History Month with virtual events, community initiatives, and profiles of Black Americans.
Black Women in Science
Einstein’s office of diversity and inclusion recognized the contributions of Black women at Einstein, the borough, and the country with “Lab Fab,” a story featuring five Einstein students and graduates and their journeys, challenges, and triumphs as Black women in science. The women address microaggressions, imposter syndrome, and the importance of role models for Black children, among other topics.
While institutional racism and significant challenges to equity remain, many of the alumni see progress. Chisanga Lwatula, Ph.D. ’13, a senior global product manager for infectious diseases at QIAGEN, noted: “Many organizations recognize the need for more diversity and inclusion, because you have better solutions and innovative ideas when you have different voices at the table. I think organizations realize that and are trying to move toward that.”
Medicine and the Making of Black History Month
The Carol E. Burnett Black Student Union, which is named after the first Black woman to receive a medical degree from Einstein, published a blog on the origins of Black History Month and the contributions that Black Americans have made to medical knowledge. Here is an excerpt:
“While many of us have been aware, or have recently learned, of the ethical horrors of the Tuskegee syphilis experiment and the gynecological experiments conducted on enslaved women by J. Marion Sims, these were not the first instances that the scientific and medical communities exploited the bodies of Black Americans to build modern medicine. Western medicine was established through the suffering of enslaved Africans as white physicians often used them for unethical experimentation and continued to do so well into the late 20th century. Willingly—and often unwillingly—Black Americans have contributed so much to medical knowledge. Even as their cultural traditions were wiped away, African methods of smallpox inoculation were introduced in America to protect everyone against that deadly virus. These events are why Black history is also the story of medical history in the United States.”
The authors expect this blog to be the first in a series documenting Black history in medicine and healthcare.
As part of its ongoing wellness series, the Black Student Union also offered multiple virtual wellness checks with Dr. Ryan DeLapp to support Black and Indigenous People of Color in response to some of the traumatic events that have occurred in this country and abroad.
Honoring the Legacy of Marie M. Daly, Ph.D.
On February 2, the Graduate Division of Biomedical Sciences and the Einstein Minority Scientist Association (EMSA) hosted the seventh annual Marie M. Daly memorial lecture. This year, Kizzmekia S. Corbett, Ph.D., discussed her work with the novel coronavirus vaccine and immunopathogenesis.
Dr. Corbett became a national figure as the leader of the coronavirus vaccines & immunopathogenesis team at the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, part of the National Institutes of Health. She and her team have contributed to the development of an mRNA COVID-19 vaccine and previously worked to develop vaccines against diseases caused by other coronaviruses, including MERS and SARS.
The annual event commemorates the legacy of Marie Daly, Ph.D., the first African American woman in the United States to earn a Ph.D. in chemistry. Dr. Daly received her doctoral degree from Columbia University in 1947 and was later on the faculty at Einstein, leading investigations into the effects of diet on the vascular system. She also championed greater representation of minority scientists in medicine and science.
Supporting the Community
The Einstein chapter of the Student National Medical Association (SNMA) developed a slate of events highlighting Black excellence and celebrating minority medical students on campus. Their major initiative for the month was a partnership with the Westchester Bronx Society of Black Physicians to provide feminine hygiene products to women and others who need them.
Every month, untold numbers of women, girls, and transgender men who still menstruate struggle to afford feminine hygiene products. Organizers collected sanitary pads, tampons, and feminine wipes so individuals in need can face their monthly cycle more comfortably and with dignity. Donated items are being given to the Living Room and Women in Need, two Bronx nonprofits that provide services and housing for homeless adults, and Einstein's student-run ECHO free health clinic.
Other Einstein SNMA events during February included:
Connecting with the Alumni
In partnership with SNMA and the office of diversity & inclusion, the office of alumni relations hosted a virtual panel/networking event on February 18 titled “Black History Month: Career Opportunities and Challenges for Black Physicians and Scientists.”
More than fifty current students and alumni participated. The alumni panelists, who were from Johns Hopkins, North Shore-LIJ, and private practice, discussed what it means to be Black in medicine, how to strike a work-life balance, and provided tips for students on how to manage loans. The panel discussion was moderated by Dominique Aimee Jean, M.D., ’05 and featured Timothy K. Amukele, M.D., Ph.D, ’06; Monique De Four Jones, M.D., ’89 M.B.A., M.S.; Jude A. Pierre, M.D., ’97; and Assumpta Madu, M.D., ’93.
Awarded for Service
The Bronx Borough president’s office honored the dedication and hard work of four members of the Einstein and Montefiore community with awards in honor of Black History Month. The annual award honors African American leaders who go above and beyond to contribute to the betterment of our community.
This year COVID-19 has impacted the way which we gather to celebrate such an event, but a small group came together on Wednesday, February 17, to recognize four outstanding employees:
- Deborah White, M.D., associate professor and vice chair of emergency medicine at Einstein and Montefiore;
- Sadie Young, security sergeant on the Einstein campus;
- Richard Assam, security officer on the Einstein campus;
- Virgil Robinson, security officer on the Einstein campus.
Training the Trainers
Each year, Einstein hosts Davidoff Day, dedicated to continuing education for Einstein and Montefiore faculty and instructors. While not a part of Black History Month programming, this year’s theme was timely: the impact of racism and bias on the learning environment.
A range of Einstein and Montefiore leaders presented during the virtual conference, including:
- Rhonda Acholonu, M.D., vice chair of education, co-director of the Leadership, Engagement, and Diversity Program, and a hospitalist at Children’s Hospital at Montefiore, and assistant professor of pediatrics at Einstein
- Cristina Gonzalez, M.D., M.Ed., professor of medicine at Einstein and a hospitalist at Einstein
- Robert Shochet, M.D., senior director of patient experience, Network Performance Group at Montefiore
The half-day virtual event helped attendees focus on how they, as educators, can respond professionally to incidents of bias and racism in the healthcare setting and understand the impact of bias and racism on the learning environment.
Posted on: Friday, March 05, 2021