HSC to celebrate, inspire and bridge health disparities with Black History

By Diane Smith-Pinckney

Stephan Davis Web
Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE

In 1976, when President Gerald R. Ford issued the first Message on the Observance of Black History Month, it was the culmination of about 60 years of efforts to highlight achievements by Black Americans. 

Starting in 1915, Carter G. Woodson, known as the “Father of Black History,” made it his mission to document the accomplishments of Black researchers, scientists and scholars. 

That mission continues at The University of North Texas Health Science Center at Fort Worth (HSC) this month during a series of webinars, forums, virtual discussions and social media campaigns focused on honoring, educating and inspiring. 

“We can celebrate achievements today that were not possible decades ago,” said Stephan Davis, DNP, MHSA, FACHE, who is helping coordinate Black History Month at HSC, “achievements that happened because of lives that were lost and lives that were dedicated to civil rights. To me, that’s what Black history is all about. 

Black History Month creates spaces in which communities can talk about Black Americans’ unique journey since the nation’s beginnings, said Dr. Davis, Assistant Professor and Director of HSC’s Master of Health Administration (MHA) program at the School of Public Health. 

“It is important to remember where we came from,” Dr. Davis said. “I think it’s crucial to reflect on the past tragedies that were imposed on Black Americans in terms of slavery, civil rights, health inequities and other injustices – and to also focus our minds, hearts and energies today on how we move forward from here together.” 

Reflecting on the successes of Black Americans and inspiring future Black leaders is also part of this journey. 

“This month is really a celebration of the progress that has been made and serves as a time for us to pause and reflect on where it is we need to go,” Dr. Davis said. 

‘Why Black Americans feel marginalized in healthcare’

Educating healthcare providers, leaders and public health experts on how yesterday’s missteps created health disparities is a central theme to some of HSC’s Black History Month events. 

One HSC discussion planned for Feb. 17, “Thriving as a Black Leader, will center on how Black students can invest in their own resilience in order to become effective advocates for change.  Featuring national Black leaders, the discussion will also tackle how young Black health professionals can influence the future of health.  

Dr. Davis noted that discussions on health disparities are particularly relevant to current events as the nation grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and ways to encourage more Black Americans to get vaccinated. 

Those themes will likely emerge again during a Feb. 24 discussion: “Black at HSC: Past, Present and Future.”  

The program is expected to raise difficult questions such as: “How did we get here in terms of healthcare and health disparities affecting Black America? How do we create systems to support improved health for Black Americans?”  

The infamous Tuskegee Study, which took place decades ago, is an example of unethical research on Black men that sowed mistrust, Dr. Davis said. There are other examples as well, such as the legacy of African American cancer patient Henrietta Lacks, whose cells were studied for discovery and profit without her consent. Today, however, systems are in place to protect people, from Institutional Review Board (IRB) regulations on research to the protocols protecting patients’ safety, privacy, right to information and consent. 

“We really do have to educate the public that while the history of healthcare delivery in this country has not been just or equitable, when it comes to the COVID-19 vaccine, we are truly all in this together,” Dr. Davis said. 

One answer is to lift up and center the voices of more Black healthcare providers and public health experts, Dr. Davis said, and to highlight how Black healthcare professionals, public health experts and researchers are at the forefront of this pandemic. 

“It is important to understand why Black Americans feel marginalized in healthcare and why there is mistrust among this population when it comes to interfacing with the healthcare community,” Dr. Davis said. “As we recognize Black History Month, honoring the past and looking to the future, in the midst of the pandemic, it feels like the right moment for healthcare and public health professionals to have these critical conversations to advance health for Black Americans.”  

Those meaningful discussions are underway at HSC. 

“With the formation of RISE (Redefining Inclusive Solutions for Equity, HSC’s commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion has put Our Values at the forefront” said Desiree Ramirez, HSC’s Chief Compliance and Integrity Officer and Chair of RISE. Our Values of Serving Other First, Respect, Integrity, Collaboration and Being Visionary is what will position HSC to continue to fight racism through minimizing health disparities and health inequity; creating pathways for students, faculty and staff through our recruitment and retention efforts and focusing on research that directly impact underrepresented communities.  

HSC will continue to celebrate diversity not only during Black History but throughout the years to come to forge a lasting legacy of inclusion.  

Black History Month

These are some of the activities and events to highlight the diverse culture of the campus community.  Additionally, HSC will be highlighting Black/African American staff and students nominated throughout the campus. 

Throughout the month of February  

  • “Hidden Figures: Unsung Heroes of the Pandemic.” Black Professional Pharmacy Association (BPPA) shares daily highlights of Black/African-American figures in healthcare who are making an impact during the COVID-19 pandemic.   
  • Student Org Black Out. Black history is American history and BPPA challenges HSC pharmacy organizations to highlight Black history found within each of their respective organizations.   
  • Texas College of Osteopathic Medicine 
    • National Historical Spotlight
    • TCOM Historical Spotlight
    • Alumni Spotlight
    • Faculty/Staff Spotlight
    • Student Spotlight
  • Office of Student Development 

DEI Book Club “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks.” 

Feb. 9 

  • Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Speaker Series. Dr. April Stull. 

Feb. 11, 6:00-7:30 p.m. via Zoom 

  • “Hidden Figures on Campus.” BPPA hosts a “meet the faculty night” to allow Black/African-American HSC faculty, staff and professors to introduce themselves to students and provide a brief summary of their specialties and current interests. An interactive game will follow. 

Feb. 16, 2-3 p.m. via Zoom 

  • Joint meeting with the HSC College of Pharmacy and Psychiatric and Neurological Pharmacy. BPPA will be have its second general meeting focused primarily on mental health and health stigmas in Black communities. 

Feb. 17, noon (CST) 

  • Webinar: “Thriving as a Black Leader: Influencing the Future of Health.” Noon-1 p.m. (CST). Event is open to both HSC and external audiences. Capacity for 500 attendees. Speakers are listed at this Zoom link: https://unthsc.zoom.us/webinar/register/WN_llxGoNwSSWOuOURbsum-Qg  
  • Workshop: African/Black American Culture in Healthcare 

A Q&A panel featuring Kathryn Reed, PA-C from the National Society of Black Physician Assistants, Jim Anderson, PA-C from Physician Assistants for Health Equity, and another representative from Texas Academy of Physician Assistants. 

A fundraiser for the BLM movement will also be held: (https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/19Y_sTeCM3qEN7mzAKIJfGGwitim6q4AT-a06t1LbAQ8/edit#gid=0). 

Feb. 23 

  • Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences Speaker Series. Dr. Kedra Wallace.  

Feb. 24, noon 

  • “Black at HSC: Past, Present and Future,” from noon-1pm. Keynote speaker is Dr. Daniel Dawes, Executive Director of the Satcher Health Leadership Institute at Morehouse School of Medicine.  

Feb. 25. 6-8 p.m.  

  • TCOM Virtual Event: Moderated Forum and Keynote Speaker  

Dr. Dralves Edwards, TCOM’s first African-American student and graduate.  


  • Projected date Feb. 16-18: BPPA will host a keynote speakerto be announced, who will share his or her journey and experience as a Black leader and healthcare provider. 
  •  Projected date, Feb. 26: Student Forum: More information to come.

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