News and Commentary The Need for Black Representation in the Health Professions

Throughout the month of February and in celebration of Black History Month, we are excited to feature—via the Macy Notes blog—the stories, experiences, and voices of learners who are underrepresented in the health professions. Spanning medicine and nursing, and representing various points in the continuum of education, these contributors share their reflections on how the accomplishments and contributions of African Americans in the health professions have affected their own personal and professional lives—and how they will carry this legacy forward. This year’s Black History Month theme is “African Americans and the Arts,” and so it is most fitting that we are able to share these thoughtful and powerful written reflections with the Macy community.

By Kya’ Willis

Bachelor of Science in Nursing Student

Creighton University College of Nursing

I am originally from Colorado Springs, CO, and I attend Creighton University as a junior in the College of Nursing; I am also a proud member of the undergraduate Tau Alpha Chapter of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Incorporated. Given the deep-rooted history of racism and oppression of African Americans, it is essential that Black history be spotlighted to celebrate the various achievements that they have accomplished. Personally, as I dive into the career of nursing as a woman of color, I have found it so empowering knowing some history about Black pioneers in the health professions. For example, Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who was a nurse in the 1860s, ultimately ended up becoming the first Black woman in the United States to receive an MD degree. After attaining her degree, she then went on to care for formerly enslaved people. Dr. Crumpler was a trailblazer of her time, all while dealing with the trials and tribulations of sexism and racism. Knowing this history encourages me to continue pursuing my nursing career and persevere through any hardships that I may encounter along the way. It also emphasizes the importance of Black representation in a predominantly White setting. Upon graduation, I want to be that same representation for others who typically don’t see someone who looks like them in the healthcare field.

More News and Commentary


Paying Tribute to Black Trailblazers in Nursing

The fourth Black History Month series post comes from Mackenzie Higgins, a nursing student at Miami University, who pays tribute to Black trailblazers in nursing.

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The third Black History Month series post comes from Tolu Akinpelu, a third-year medical student at the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley School of Medicine, who highlights Black pioneers in medicine.

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The second Black History Month series post comes from Jessica M. Hippolyte, MD, MPH, who contemplates the legacy of Black physicians that have paved the way.

Our Family Tree: Living History of Black Excellence

The first post of our Black History Month blog series comes from sisters Kayla Karvonen, MD, MAS, and Kristine Karvonen, MD, MS, who reflect on their family history and roots.