By Washington Clark Hill, MD, FACOG
How can the senior physicians honor Black health and wellness? As a senior physician—or as some may say, an "old guy"—I can think of three ways the senior physicians among us should be honoring Black health and wellness.
The first is to identify pathways where our Black and brown young people will know what we do and want to be involved in doing it in their future. Mentoring is so important. These pathways can start in middle, elementary, and high school by visits, allowing shadowing at our place of work and hospital (or questioning why we can't), answering their questions, and just meeting them where they are, to name just a few. It is never too early. If you can't see it, you can't be it—or, put another way, you can't be what you don't see. For better Black health and wellness in the future we need more health care professionals who look like us. We also need to get out of the office and into the community serving it and showing our young folk how we serve their friends and family and that with hard work, support, and desire, they can do it also.
The second is that we should encourage Black colleagues (medical students, residents, fellows, and junior faculty) in their early and midcareers wherever and whenever we meet them along the way. Seek them out, answer their questions, quell their fears, give them mock board exams, cry with them, be an ear for them, advocate for their advancement, pass your success on, and give them advice and wisdom we have learned from others. Many have taken on or volunteered for new responsibilities in Black health, wellness, diversity, equity, and inclusion. We need to encourage and support them so they will keep addressing those political and social determinants of health to reduce health disparities by educating our own departments, communities, and decision makers. Use your platforms to improve diversity and inclusion. Many of our colleagues need that encouragement and the wisdom from our lived experiences to carry on the torch for Black health and wellness, as this is hard work.
Finally, as a senior Black physician myself, we need to pass the torch for doing this work on to all our colleagues, partners, friends, communities, health care leaders, families, and organizations before it's too late (my twin is 83 on February 19, 2022) so they can carry it on. I hope and pray that the senior physicians among us will do their part to keep the ball started by the National Medical Association Obstetrics and Gynecology Section rolling toward true diversity, equity, and inclusion in Black health and wellness for all and from all of us.
You young people out there: hold us to this!
I am an obstetrician–gynecologist and maternal–fetal medicine specialist with CenterPlace Health and Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Sarasota, Florida. I have been an obstetrician–gynecologist for 57 years, a member of ACOG for most of that time, and have been practicing in Sarasota almost 32 years, all within the Sarasota Memorial Health Care System. It is fair to say I am a Black senior physician.