African-American/Black History Month is an annual observation which recognizes significant accomplishments of African and Black Americans throughout our nation’s history; through their contributions in medicine, sciences, arts, law, politics, sports and so much more. The history of Black History Month traces back to 1915, when the “Father of Black History Month,” Dr. Carter G. Woodson, founded the Association for the Study of Negro Life and History, and he introduced the first Negro History Week in February 1926. In 1976, nearly 50 years later, President Gerald Ford issued the first Black History Month proclamation, calling upon Americans to celebrate and observe the contributions and accomplishments of Americans with African heritage each February.
Black History is American history, and there is no shortage of Black American trailblazers, leaders and heroes to recognize and admire. In celebration of Black History Month 2022’s theme of Black Health and Wellness, and these are numerous firsts, whose contributions to Navy Medicine opened the doors for many others:
– Phillis Mae Dailey, the first African American Navy Nurse Corps Officer
– Ruth C. Isaacs, Katherine Horton, and Inez Patterson, first African American WAVES to enter the Hospital Corps School at the National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, Maryland.
– Lt. Thomas Watkins, Jr., became the first African American naval dentist.
– Donna P. Davis was commissioned as a LT in 1978, as the first African American female physician in the Navy.
– Joan Bynum<https://www.history.navy.mil/content/history/nhhc/our-collections/art/travelling-exhibits/women-in-uniform-/captain-joan-bynum.html>, a Navy nurse and the first African American woman to be promoted to Captain (O-6).
– Vice Admiral Adam M. Robinson, Jr.<https://www.navy.mil/Leadership/Biographies/BioDisplay/Article/2379017/vice-admiral-adam-m-robinson-jr/>, the first African American appointed as Surgeon General of the U.S. Navy. He served as the 36th Surgeon General of the Navy.
I am reminded every day of the mission criticality of diversity, inclusion and equity. Like many of you, as we walk the halls of our place of work or view webpages of our organization, it is apparent that our leadership and C-suite compositions are not always reflective of our entire demographics. I further recognize that even the position of the Surgeon General which I currently hold since its inception has lagged in terms of race, gender and Corps diversity. Complacency, deflection, and avoidance does not drive change – but action, empathy understanding and accountability does. We cannot erase past inequities and subjugations of our Nation and forefathers, but we learn from them and can collectively pledge to improve and embrace the diversity, equity and inclusion moving forward. This starts with each of us; the transparency and accountability for change we want to see in the future starts with us, right now. Admiral Zumwalt said, “There is no black Navy, no white Navy-just one Navy-the United States Navy.” I say, there is One Navy Medicine.
This February, Navy Medicine joins a greatful nation in honoring and celebrating the contributions Black Americans have made to our Nation and our Navy… “Black Health and Wellness”, the legacy of not only Black scholars and medical practitioners in Western medicine, but also other ways of knowing (e.g., birth workers, doulas, midwives, naturopaths, herbalists, etc.) throughout the African Diaspora,”
Join me in raising awareness of the contributions and celebrating the achievements of all Americans!