Black History Month: 5 Health Pioneers

Black people have made a huge impact in the health field. In this article, we will explore the attributes of 5 Health Pioneers.

Ethics and Disease Research: Henrietta Lacks was a patient at Johns Hopkins receiving treatment for cervical cancer. While getting treatment her cancer cells were collected and later used for medical research. Due to the longevity of her cells researchers were able to use her cells to develop polio vaccines, and side effects of viruses, toxins, and drugs. Henrietta’s cells are nicknamed HeLa cells. Having no involvement in the decision to use her cells for research has brought up ethical policies to protect the rights of patients.   

Racism, A Public Health Issue: W.E.B. Du Bois not only made an impact as an activist, historian, author, and writer, he also revealed the negative impact racism has on health. He was one of the first to show through research the health disparities between white and black Americans. His findings and call to action are in The Health and Physique of the American Negro.  

”Father of the blood bank”: Doctor and Scientist, Charles Richard Drew organized large scale blood bank systems and created methods for long term blood storage. His discovery made an instant global mark by helping supply blood while Britain was battling Germany. Organizations such as the Red Cross adopted his blood organizing programs. Through Dr. Drew’s pathology research he was able to break medical myths about race. 

“Excellence of performance will transcend artificial barriers created by man.” Charles Richard Drew

Global Health Leadership: Dr. Helene Gayle has led the efforts in HIV, Tuberculosis, and Sexual Transmitted Disease on a global level. Dr. Gayle’s program and policy research has helped combat infectious disease in communities across the globe. She has worked for the Centers for Disease Control, named an Assistant Surgeon General and Rear Admiral in the United States Public Health Service, and served as the CEO of McKinsey Social Initiative. Currently, she is the CEO of The Chicago Community Trust and has published several articles focusing on equity, social justice, gender equality.

COVID 19 Vaccine Research: Leading the US COVID Vaccine research, Dr. Kizzmekia Corbett is paving the way to end the COVID pandemic. Dr. Corbett is able to lead a team of scientists as the scientific lead for the Coronavirus Vaccines & Immunopathogenesis Team at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Vaccine Research Center (VRC). She is also opening doors for others by advocating for vaccine education and serving on the NIH Fellows committee.

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