Black History Month and Diversity in Healthcare

February is Black History Month. My professional association (American Physical Therapy Association) has made improving diversity in health care a focus. Considering how we might gain diversity in our field led to me to think of why I chose health care. I have always loved science, but seeing my mother’s passion for working in health care was a major driving force. She was the first one in her family to attend college, and she always wanted to be a nurse.

It is one thing to pave a new path, but another to encourage others along the way. I loved how my Mother led this way in her management position-she encouraged and supported the nurses that worked with her to progress their education as much as they could; all ages, nationalities, and races. I remember her excitement when one of her co workers would advance their degree or get a promotion!

Watching someone go before you and succeed is a courage giving experience. I wanted to take this time to celebrate Black History Month, and honor some of the great African American women who paved the way for nursing and therapy, and for diversity in health care. Their stories can inspire us all!

The following ladies remind me of the of the example my Mom set for me, and then some. These female African American nurses and therapists went forward in even more exemplary courage to achieve great things. They considered their peers and future professionals, and paved the way to inspire future women and minorities to do so as well.

Harriet Tubman is known for her courage in helping bring many people to freedom through the Underground Railroad. But she also went on to become a nurse during the Civil War, and helped care for sick and wounded soldiers. She is an amazing example of bravery and selfless care for others.

Bessie Blount Griffin was the first black woman to become a physical therapist. She worked with injured veterans during world War II. She designed and developed many scientific inventions to help her patients. She was a vocal advocate for veterans, children, and women in science.

Lela LLorens was recognized as one of the top 100 contributors to the occupational therapy profession. She has contributed greatly with writing, developing, treating, researching, speaking, and serving on committees. Even in retirement she mentors co-professionals.

Hallie Quinn Brown paved the way for African American inclusion in education, women’s education, and the development of Speech Therapy. She was an author, speaker, and professor, and worked to improve literacy for both children and adults.

These women not only pushed through unbelievably difficult barriers to become educated and provide health care for others, but they also worked hard to contribute to the development of their professions. They are great examples of bravery, leadership, dedication, compassion, and fortitude.

My Take Aways from these Amazing Women:

  1. Never stop learning. Encourage your coworkers to do the same.
  2. Never stop helping. Look for ways to improve the lives of people in your community.
  3. Contribute to your profession. Be involved, and try to add value.
  4. Come along side others who are new in the profession. Encourage and support the next generation of leaders.

What other women of color have inspired you? Who was your mentor, or role model to pursue a career in health care?

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