The movement fueling #ThisIsOurLane may fail Black Americans who endure a significant burden of gun violence. Responding to a tweet from the National Rifle Association (NRA) demanding we “stay in [our] lane” the medical community rose to the challenge. A new hashtag gained traction, thousands signed an open letter, and many shared graphic photos and stories from treating victims of gun violence.Read More
My family enjoyed the 4th of July with a patriotic celebration of flags, sparklers, and fireworks. But for me, the seeds of patriotism sprouted in a far corner of South Carolina on my father’s family farm. As a preschooler, I chased chickens that clucked and ran and flapped. I slurped cheeks full of fresh watermelon picked from the field. America. The only thing missing was apple pie.
My ancestors worked that farm as slaves when it was part of a larger plantation. The land was ceded to my great-great-great-grandfather - a gift from his former master. Today my cousins grow soybeans, but for generations escaping the farm was a wartime ritual for the men.Read More
I had the honor of delivering the commencement address to the Loyola Stritch School of Medicine Class of 2018. Being in the presence of 165 exuberant new medical doctors was inspiring, and a reminder of how fortunate I am to serve in this profession.
With a nod to St. Ignatius of Loyola, my address centered on three themes for the new MDs:
Humanity - Guard it. It is one of the greatest gifts you have.
Authenticity - Do not trade it for acceptance.
Vulnerability - It is a source of power, not weakness.
I received the following response to my recent op-ed published in the Dallas Morning News:
“She’d be better served if you put as much energy into teaching her that with hard work, and education – she can do anything she wants to do in life. Let her dream her dreams instead of burdening her with your hangups.”
Initially, I dismissed this comment, convinced there was no way this individual actually read the piece. But for several days the phrase “with hard work and education” stuck with me. Eventually, I chose to seize this opportunity and elaborate on my point about systemic racism.
The American Dream
Of course I understand the importance of hard work and education. I graduated from the United States Air Force Academy, went to medical school, trained at Harvard and Emory, and taught at one of the largest medical centers in the country. I understand, as well as anyone, the value of hard work and education. It is an ethos I continuously work to instill in my daughter.Read More
“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”
– Martin Luther King, Jr.
I’m not feeling Black History Month this year. The annual observance, meant to ensure the contributions of African-Americans are not forgotten, was founded by Carter G. Woodson in 1926 as Negro History Week. It often relies on a curated selection of African-American greats to celebrate what is essentially American history. However, the richness of Black history, its hardships and triumphs, is interwoven into American history and attempts to separate the two must end.Read More
Resilience is our ability to recover from tragedy. It’s a quality that trauma professionals need all the time — so why then do we wait to discuss resilience only after a mass casualty incident like the Las Vegas shooting dominates the news?
Simply, we should not. Your level of resilience is greatly influenced by your prior experiences, so the time to start laying the personal groundwork for greater resilience is now.Read More
Congratulations to Jeff Holmquist (Senior Editor) and Ryan Hall (Photography & Video Specialist) from the Association of Graduates at my alma mater, the United States Air Force Academy. Their article “We’re In This Together” took top honors (Gold Award) for the Council for Advancement and Support of Education (CASE), District VI as Best Article of the Year!Read More
Remember in Pearls of Leadership I asked “if you could go back in time to advise your college self about leadership, what one pearl of wisdom would you give?” Well that was in preparation for the Gilbert Leadership Conference I wrote about in Part 2. Thank you for your responses and as promised here is your Top 10 list of leadership wisdom.Read More
“As a white male what can I do to help?”
It is Friday evening and I’m meeting 40 college freshman from Texas A&M gathered in a conference room of a Fortune 500 company in downtown Dallas. Selected through a competitive process to participate in the Gilbert Leadership Conference, they traveled several hours by bus earlier this day for a weekend of activities in the Big D.
Going overtime, we evolve from a robust discussion about leadership into a respectful dialogue regarding individual responsibilities to address racism and social equity.Read More
Dr. Nii Darko made a special trip to Dallas this weekend to record his very first in-person podcast for Docs Outside the Box. In less than two years he has gained a loyal following, an expanding guest list, and corporate sponsors.
Nii and I first connected in Atlanta, GA in 2009 while training at the iconic Grady Memorial Hospital. He was nearing the completion of his general surgery residency, and I was in the second (final) year of my fellowship in trauma surgery and critical care medicine. Fast-forward a few years and he is now blazing an envious path as a trauma surgeon and entrepreneur.Read More
If you could go back in time to advise your college self about leadership, what one pearl of wisdom would you give? I would tell myself “closed mouths don’t get fed.” You must ask for what makes you feel valued or you may never get it.Read More
In Where are all the Black Men… in White Coats? I lamented the decades long decline of African-American men entering medical school. In contrast, the United States criminal justice system has done exceedingly well over the same period. Our country incarcerates a larger percentage of its black population than South Africa did at the height of apartheid.
While African-American men make up 6% of the US population, we constitute 40% of its prison population. One in three African-American men has a felony conviction, and one in three black boys born today will be processed through the criminal justice system at least once in their lifetime. It is a devastatingly efficient system Michelle Alexander calls “The New Jim Crow.” This systematic disenfranchisement of a targeted community of men cannot continue.Read More
After the Dallas shooting in July 2016 I received an outpouring of support from law enforcement agencies around the country, and even the Deputy Director of the Dubai Police. I was inundated with letters, emails, phone messages and weighed down with challenge coins.
However, there were some who shared their displeasure about remarks I made during the press conference held days after the shooting. It is one reason, as mentioned in a previous post, I was uneasy when invited to speak at an annual conference for police chiefs in Bend, Oregon. I was an African-American man, with no law enforcement credentials, whose lecture integrated topics related to police use of force. That could be a disaster.Read More
There is a dearth of African-American men in medicine. Statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges show that 542 black males entered medical school in 1978 compared to 515 who entered in 2014. This drop is alarming considering the increase to nearly 180 schools accepting over 20,000 students annually during the interval 35 years. Medical education is another example where more opportunity has not translated into more equity for African-American men.
Enter Dr. Dale Okorodudu – a tireless advocate working to elevate minorities pursuing careers in medicine. His mission is to connect aspiring doctors, particularly African-American men, with identifiable role models. We were introduced two years ago by our mutual faculty mentor regarding Dr. Okorodudu’s ‘Black Men in White Coats‘ video series. This was well before my media virality, and I was still reticent about doing anything on camera.Read More
Another mass shooting has the eyes of the world focused on America. The ensuing discussion will rightfully center on lives lost, grieving families, gun control, and more. What we invariably overlook is the impact on the frontline healthcare professionals who witness the dehumanizing results in graphic detail. Resilience is key in the aftermath because it embodies the ability to recover after tragedies like the one unfolding in Las Vegas.
Scores of first responders and personnel in emergency departments and trauma centers around the country routinely deal with the end result of mass shootings. It comes with the profession we have chosen. But there is a psychological toll that is unacknowledged, underreported and poorly managed. The opportunity for downtime to recover after an adverse event can be elusive – sometimes discouraged. This approach is a disservice to the individual, to future patients, and to the hospital.Read More
Anonymity. Sudden fame. Unemployment. All in one unprecedented year. Thank you for returning for the conclusion of this story.
Part II ended with the press conference held a few days after the Dallas shooting. The personal thoughts and feelings I shared about police interactions, violence, and racism catapulted me into the national spotlight – and I was unprepared for the media response. A year later, after news spread of my decision to resign, I faced a similar whirlwind of questions about my innermost thoughts and feelings – only this time from colleagues and friends.Read More
The last time we met I began telling the story of my journey from international fame to unemployment (Part I). It was a whirlwind adventure lasting 369 days.
Prior to all this I was oh-so-comfortable living a life of anonymity. Valuing my privacy, I rarely participated in on-camera interviews, did minimal public speaking, and only had a token presence on social media.Read More
What was I thinking a few weeks ago when I quit my job?
I have responsibilities and bills. I have a beautiful wife and daughter, and a not so beautiful mortgage, car payment, and unpaid medical school loans. Oh, and a dog – can’t forget Disco.
It wasn’t to take the long-awaited dream job. I was living the dream and had the bills, responsibilities, and dog to prove it. I was an associate professor at a major medical school. I was a trauma surgeon at one of the premier hospitals in the country. I was well paid. And, I trained for 13 years to earn my position after my former career as an aeronautical engineer in the US Air Force.
Would you advise me to quit? Wait – before you answer there is more.
You see, back in July 2016, I found myself at the center of a national discussion about race. This happened after a sniper shot 12 Dallas police officers at an anti-police brutality protest. It was the deadliest day for US law enforcement since 9/11.Read More