I think most of us recall the story that went viral last year, of Dr. Tamika Cross and her encounter with a clueless flight attendant. She could not believe that Cross was in fact a medical doctor and could assist a passenger who was in distress. When the sister MD was trying to make her way to the passenger, the attendant told her to sit back down! I am getting annoyed just recalling this incident but I do so with the purpose of lifting up the name of Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first black female medical doctor in the United States. I am so tempted to write the rest of this post in all CAPS just to illustrate by pride in my people. I digress.
In 1864, just one year after the Emancipation Proclamation, Dr. Crumpler became the only African-American graduate of New England Female Medical College. The historical significance of her accomplishment at that time is truly astounding. While Dr. Crumpler was making history she undoubtedly was dedicated to the liberation of Black people; working with the Freedmen’s Bureau to provide health care to newly freed African Americans. Crumpler even authored a medical text focused on the health and care of women and children. Indeed Dr. Crumpler is among the many “hidden figures” of women of color who have made significant contributions to our people.
Despite incidents of ignorance and disrespect like what Dr. Cross experienced, there are Black female physicians dedicated to continuing a legacy of Dr. Crumpler’s excellence and achievement in the field of medicine. The Changing Faces of Medicine Initiative is doing just that. The“Changing the Face of Medicine Initiative (CFMI) is a groundbreaking multimedia project that includes an educational tour, a biographical photo-essay book and a documentary film. This initiative celebrates the history and current status of Black women in medicine, while designing diversity and inclusion solutions to change outcomes for the future.”
Programs and partnerships like CFMI are important but we must also give our children everyday opportunities to see the brilliance within themselves. Cristi Smith Jones and her daughter Lola celebrated BHM by dressing up as historical Black women. Lola said dressing as Dr. Jemison was her favorite because she too loves science and math.
This month is definitely about honoring women like Dr. Crumpler and it is about our daughters, young sisters, nieces and the girls we teach every day. This month is for them to be reminded that they can do anything they put their minds to. And this month is a reminder to us as the adults in their lives to be ever present as their educators, mentors and all-around cheerleaders of their talent and brilliance.
Peace and love good people!
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