By Candace Nall, MD, Physician, Emergency Medicine
When I reflect on what Juneteenth represents to me personally, it elicits a sense of pride. As I celebrate this day, I am mindful that each generation of Black women in my family have experienced the same healthcare system inequalities. Despite our change in income and privilege, we all at some point in our lives have fallen victim to the same healthcare disparities, bias and inequality. It is this knowledge that fuels my passion and desire to create better quality of care for my patients. Even when the fight seems lost, I charge forward hoping to improve the system for the next generation.
Generations of Strong Women
I am told that my great grandmother never received any formal education. She lived a hard life in Mississippi, like many Black women did in Jim Crow South. My grandmother faired a little better but never attended high school. She raised her children as a woman with an 8th grade education, sheer will and determination on meager earnings. As a child I remember her sharing stories of picking cotton with her mother on a farm.
My mother, the oldest of five, was the first to attend college. She embraced the emergence of new opportunities in the 1960s and 1970s, viewing education as a pathway to a better life than her humble beginnings. She defied her critics, alternating school for a year and working for a year until a friend told her of financial aid opportunities. She valued education, and it was her weapon of choice against poverty. She fought hard for her independence long before being an independent woman was popular. My mother’s primary goal was to ensure my sister and I became independent women that could weather any storm. She valued education and instilled that value by example. In part due to her efforts, my sister and I became successful in our own right. In the span of four generations, the family line of a poor Black woman from Mississippi growing up in Jim Crow South had produced a doctor and a lawyer.
The Fight to End Healthcare Disparities
From the outside looking in, as a family, we did everything right. In producing a lawyer and doctor, my family elevated its socioeconomic status in a way that many in my community aspire to do. We had achieved what many would define as the American dream with intergenerational ascension and achievement but still face disparities in healthcare like many other black people disproportionately face. It is this knowledge that fuels my desire to provide quality care for every patient.
On this day of freedom for my community, I am grateful to be in a position to advocate for the marginalized, serve my community and work to eliminate the impact of bias in creating health disparities. My focus is to bring awareness to the inequalities of our healthcare system and mentor the next generation.
Reflecting on Juneteenth 2022
As a TeamHealth physician, I am proud of the steps my organization has taken to address health disparities, and I look forward to the opportunity to do more. As we celebrate Juneteenth, I call on all of my fellow physicians to take a moment to reflect on how they can continue to further our progress.
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