The Tragedy & Triumph of Black Healthcare History

By Kyle Jones on February 23rd, 2021

This is a special month in America. February has been designated as the time we place special emphasis on the contributions of Black Americans. In the field of healthcare, there have been amazing moments of triumph organized and accomplished by Black Americans. While I cannot cover them all, the work of surgeon Charles R. Drew, who developed improved techniques for blood transfusion and storage, stands out. The feats of Ben Carson, who performed groundbreaking surgeries, is also a historical highlight. And I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge the great accomplishments of Arkansas’ own (Minnie) Joycelyn Elders, who’s difficult beginnings and distinguished service to our nation serve as an inspiration to us all.

While these great triumphs are of worthy of celebration, there is a tragic portion of this history that we must be cognizant of to understand current challenges and healthcare service disparities. The cervical cells of Henrietta Lacks have provided one of the greatest medical contributions to our fight against cervical and other cancers. But those cells were harvested without her knowledge or consent. The “Father of Gynecology” James Marion Sims made great advances in the field. But he performed many procedures and experiments on enslaved women, often without anesthesia.

CLICK HERE for a deeper look at how African Americans are at risk of not dying well.

In totality, these are all contributions to the advancement of medical care. This is a triumph. But portions of this history (see Tuskegee Experiment) perpetuate negative perceptions among Black Americans and other minorities — a tragedy. This history impacts the rate at which minorities seek medical treatment of any form. When it comes to end-of-life and palliative care, these perceptions are costing many Black Americans and other minority groups the opportunity to “die well.” Faced with this challenge, Arkansas Hospice is currently engaged in minority outreach efforts to change this trend. Through education, research, and other on-going opportunities, we hope to increase access for all underserved populations in our service area. We look forward to sharing more information via our website as we engage our community to triumph over the current tragedy we face. As opportunities are presented, we hope that you will join us in this effort!

CLICK HERE to donate to our Diversity Equity and Inclusion fund and help African Americans with end-of-life-care.

About the author

Rev. Kyle L. Jones

Arkansas Hospice Minority Outreach Coordinator Kyle L. Jones is a native of Arkadelphia, AR. He remained home to attend Henderson State University where he became a brother of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc., in the Fall of 2002. He received his bachelor’s degree in Political Science in 2005 & later obtained his master’s degree in Higher Education from the University of Arkansas at Little Rock in 2008. Rev. Jones is currently pursuing his PhD. For the past year Rev. Jones has served as the Pastor of the Munn’s Chapel Baptist Church in Prescott, AR. Jones has been married to his beautiful wife, LaQuita K. Jones (Principal of Wilson Intermediate School in Malvern, AR) for fourteen years. They share three beautiful children.

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