Monday, December 7, 2009
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Friday’s are half days at the office. I thought it would be an opportunity to let my staff get home a little early and have a light day. Unfortunately for them, they are workaholics and use the afternoon to catch up and get things accomplished that they can’t get done with me around. After seeing patients I headed to Ville Platte, Louisiana, about an hour and a half drive, to speak to middle school and high school students on the negative impact of drinking and driving. Over three hundred students attended the event and I think the presentation went over very well. I drove back to Ryan Airport in Baton Rouge ready in some nasty weather to fly to Little Rock Arkansas, home of Philander Smith College. Despite a relatively smooth flight, I don’t sleep well on planes so I read articles on the health care issue and flipped through a cooking magazine I bought in the airport. Check in went smoothly at the hotel and after checking emails, listening to my daughters sweet “goodnight Daddy” message, and unpacking, I was in the bed at 12:30 a.m. Saturday morning.
Saturday August 29, 2009 brought in pleasant vibes. I woke up early and went for a run in downtown Little Rock. The weather was perfect and I had a chance to collect my thoughts and refresh for the day. Due to the short stay in Little Rock, I was not able to visit the Bill Clinton Museum, but I did run by the buildingJ. I had a scheduled brunch with former Surgeon General Dr. Jocelyn Elders which gave me just enough time to go over my presentation for the students of Philander later that evening. After speaking to my daughter about how she slept and what she had planned for the day, I headed down to brunch to meet with Dr. Elders, Dr. Creshelle Nash (Arkansas Minority Health Commission Medical Director), Dr. Billy Thomas (President of the Arkansas Medical, Dental, and Pharmaceutical Association), and my cousin Dr. Anika Whitfield (Podiatrist).
I would be remiss if I did not tell you a little about my connection to Little Rock. My father, the oldest of six children, was raised in Little Rock. I spent several summers there and visited frequently as a child. My Uncle Bob, his wife Connie, their daughter Anika and my Uncle John still live in Little Rock. This trip was more than just going to speak to students; it was like the homecoming of one of Little Rock’s own. I had not seen my aunt, uncles, or cousin in sometime so I was very excited to see them.
At 11:45 a.m. I had brunch with Dr’s Elder’s, Nash, Thomas, and Dr. Anika. We discussed among many things the state of health care, President Obama, and life in general. Dr. Elders is not only very knowledgeable but a pleasure to hang out with. She gave me some very good insight on the public health of our nation and ways that the younger generation of doctors could make this nation healthier. “We have the best sick care in the country,” she said. “We have to do a better job in providing preventative services and health education to our communities.” At the end of brunch we took several photos and upon walking her out bumped into Ozell Sutton, my fraternity brother. Mr. Sutton was the 26th president of Alpha Phi Alpha, Inc (1981-1984) and one of the most important Arkansas political activists at the height of the civil rights struggle during the 1950s and 1960s. Brother Sutton was a key player at many of the movement’s most critical moments—both in the state and throughout the South. He knew the Whitfield family and mentioned my father’s successful efforts to integrate the “white only” swimming pools in Pine Bluff, AR. I was standing with history… Jocelyn Elders and Ozell Sutton- whoa!
After hugs and handshakes we all went our separate ways as I was moments away from meeting the students at Philander.
I arrived on campus about an hour before my scheduled talk. I was a bit anxious, but very excited and honored to be a guest lecturer on the campus. After being greeted by staff members and made to feel at home by Michael Hutchinson who is Assistant to the President, it was time to get busy. The ladies would be the first to hear my presentation. It was an excellent turnout and I got a lot of really good questions. We discussed both general and sexual health. There was some great feed back as well from faculty that attended the session. Of course I had to give them a little taste of what Tha Hip Hop Doc could do on the microphone and I think they were impressed- shocked for sureJ.
The second session was with the boys. When I bumped into the “Hip Hop President” in the Atlanta airport earlier this year, I had no idea how passionate, determined, and personable he was with the students. I don’t remember hearing of school president’s being so accessible and friendly. Dr. Walter M. Kimbrough is the epitome of cool and understands that as a world leader, when it comes to education,” it is imperative for us to graduate more students from college and not to admit them and simply hope for the best.”
I would have dinner with the men before speaking and was introduced to members of the Black Male Initiative. These young men have it together and under the leadership and guidance of Michael Hutchinson, they prepared an excellent program for that evening. I was asked to choose the menu and to explain why this meal was important and healthy. The meal consisted of a fresh salad with lime vinaigrette, blackened chicken, greens with smoked turkey, and a fruit salad desert. Traditional sweet tea and water was served with the meal. I was introduced by the students and then gave my presentation entitled “Health: Your Most Important Possession”. The event was well attended. I was surprised to see my Uncle Bob and Aunt Connie come out. Cousin Anika stayed with me most of the day with Kevin Holloway who took photos for the event. The talk was about an hour, however I stayed and answered questions and talked with the students until almost 10:00 p.m. I only left because I had to stop by and see Uncle John. I felt so at home and was inspired by the questions and comments given by both administrators and students. This was one of the most memorable experiences I have ever had.
We headed over to my grandparents home where my uncle and aunt now live. Uncle John was still awake ready to talk and catch up. Although the house had been renovated some, it was still the home I remember. I had visions of grandma Whitfield in the kitchen cooking and Pepper, the friendliest dog ever looking through the screen door ready for us to play outside. I was walking through the house like a tourist reminiscing and have visions of hanging out there when I was a child. Uncle John shared with me the pictures he took with the Dallas Cowboy Cheerleaders and Governor Mike Bebee. Uncle John was honored as the Adult Easter Seals Ambassador of the Year and given his award by the Governor at a black tie affair. We are all very proud of him.
By the time I got back to the hotel, I was spent. The high of speaking to the students and hanging with family was overwhelming and I fell asleep on the bed in my clothes.
Sunday August 30, 2009. It was time to head home, but not before doing a radio interview with Brother Wayne Burt of KABF radio station 88.3 FM. Brother Wayne is an activist in the Little Rock community and wanted to discuss health care and Philander. It was a fun and informative interview. I arrived at the airport safely and had a very pleasant flight back to Baton Rouge. While on the last leg of the trip, I sat next to a student who had been honored by my chapter of Alpha Phi Alpha here in Baton Rouge. He had been in Brazil for six months. He is attending Dartmouth and is now fluent in Portuguese. It really reinforced how wonderful and important it is for our young people to be educated.
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Protectors Insurance Healthcare, an African American insurance company with over 40 years of experience based in Houston Texas, recently partnered with Humana Insurance a Fortune 100 company with a nearly 50-years of history in the health industry.
In the African American community heart disease, diabetics, cancer, and stroke are the top killers. Did you know that every 11 seconds, someone turns 65 years of age in America? Furthermore, did you know that African American senior citizens are the unhealthiest group in the Nation. Did you know that we can do something to stop this escalating statistic, improve our health, and preserve our living black history?
We perish due to our lack of knowledge. This is why Protectors Healthcare Insurance / Humana Insurance will be touring 40 cities within 18 months. The question becomes what better time than now to empower and educate our African American senior citizens with the knowledge of these different programs that are in place to give our senior citizens a better equality of life.
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” –President Barack Obama.
Thursday, February 5, 2009
Dr. Carson was raised in Detroit with his brother by a single mom. He overcame poverty, low grades, and anger turning his life to God and to medicine. In 1987, the year I graduated from high school, his named was plastered over the media after he successfully orchestrated and led a surgical team to separate twins co-joined at the head. He is also recognized internationally as an expert in performing “hemispherectomies”. This is a procedure in which half the brain is removed to prevent seizures. Dr. Carson’s resume is extensive. At the age of thirty-three he was named Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, MD. He performs over four hundred surgeries a year and he teaches neurological surgery, oncology, plastic surgery and pediatrics at Johns Hopkins Medical School. He has written several books and is a role model and inspiration to many. In June of 2002, he was diagnosed with prostate cancer; however, he has not let that stop him.
This February, Oscar winning actor Cuba Gooding, Jr. will portray Dr. Carson in the TNT Original movie Gifted Hands: The Ben Carson Story. I have had the distinct pleasure of meeting, introducing, and now interviewing Dr. Carson. Here’s what he had to say.
Hip Hop Doc (H2D): Dr. Carson thanks for taking time out for the interview today.
Ben Carson (BC): No problem Doc, thank you for what you are doing in the community.
H2D: I know you are familiar with my mission to help young people. It’s often stated that our youth are a “lost” cause especially when it comes to there health. We have alarming rates of HIV, obesity, diabetes, and substance abuse in our youth. What is your opinion on the state of our children’s health and what can be done to improve this?
BC: Well, I think a lot of what has happened to deteriorate childhood health has to do with the fact that they are not nearly as involved with their families and not nearly as involved with physical activities. This lack of involvement leaves a lot of time for other things that can get in the way and influence them including poor eating, not exercising, and running with the wrong crowds. I think all young people have to create an identity for themselves and if that identity doesn’t come from their family and from wholesome sources they are going to find other sources for that identity and self worth. Even though it may not be legitimate to think that you are worth something because somebody wants to “make love” to you, you’ll take what you can get. Whether that person is HIV positive or not is a distant concern and that’s unfortunate.
H2D: Can you speak specifically on the obesity epidemic? This is really getting out of hand and I see it in my practice among children and adults daily.
BC: Clearly the lack of physical activity is having a huge impact on the development of childhood obesity, diabetes and a host of other medical conditions, including heart disease and certain cancers. I hate to sound old fashion (we both laugh), but we need to go back, reinvigorate the family and get our children active again.
H2D: Definitely! I try to push that point whenever I speak to groups of students and families. I want to address disparities in health care. Several studies have shown where African Americans are treated less aggressively and often later in the stage of a disease. This often leads to poor outcomes. Why do you think these disparities exist?
BC: Well, a lot of it has to do with fear. I know certainly in Baltimore there are many myths that float around like doctors wanting to experiment on a patient. This creates a general lack of trust among minorities and the medical community. This is a major problem. Another reason is that in the African American community many of us don’t ask enough questions regarding our health. You know as well as I do Dr. Whitfield, that when a patient ask questions and manifest some degree of knowledge and concern as it relates to their health, the patient will be treated differently and paid attention to. We need to take advantage of the Internet and other resources available and come to the doctor prepared to participate and ask questions.
H2D: Do you feel physician error plays a part in this?
BC: Most definitely! We have to be more aggressive when it comes to our patient’s health. I teach the young physicians I work with to listen closely to the patient. Eighty percent of the diagnosis can come from listening to the patient.
H2D: You sound like my professors at Meharry. Laboratory test and x-rays were supposed to enhance decision-making and not be the sole source of your diagnosis.
H2D: I recently spoke with Dr. Jocelyn Elders. She was in Baton Rouge for a debate on whether healthcare was a right or a privilege. What are you thoughts on this?
BC: Well first of all, we spend more than twice as much per capita on health care than the next closest nation in the world and yet we rank number thirty seven in health care, which is craziness! I think any civilized society should offer a minimum level of health care for everybody. There should be no one in this country that can’t get very basic things taken care of. The fact of the matter is there is no one in this country who cannot go to an emergency room where they have to be taken care of but it cost five times more than if they went to a clinic and we all end up paying for that. There are ways that we can use those dollars much more wisely if we crack the system that encourages people to go to that emergency room where once the diabetic foot ulcer is treated the physician says, “hey lets get your diabetes under control,” so you are not back in three weeks with another problem. This is a huge problem we have. I believe that basic health care is a right for anybody in a civilized society. Recognize that we live in a capitalistic society and we should have the option of purchasing something more than the basic health care if they have the means and desire to do so.
H2D: That leads into my next question. We know the numbers: 38-48 million people in our country who are un-insured or under insured and many of these are the working poor. Do you thing President Obama can get this system together?
BC: I’ve heard from the Obama transition team and was asked about a government position…
H2D: Surgeon general?
H2D: Well, what did you say?
BC: Well, basically I gave them the same answer that I gave the Bush administration… I’m very happy to help, but I have no desire to become embroiled in the government bureaucracy. Nor do I desire to take a vow of poverty. So as much as I respect the President Obama, I’m going to defer at this time on the position of Surgeon General.
H2D: Understood. Are you still a part of the bioethics committee and what is the role of this committee?
BC: Yes I’m still a member of the committee and basically our role is to advise the President of the United States on ethical issues related to the biological sciences. Things like cloning, stem cell research, and organ donation things we address.
H2D: Dr. Carson you have been an influence and inspiration to many, including myself. Who were some of your role models? I would think after reading Gifted Hands that your mother would be one of them.
BC: Wow, Doc of course she was! She never adopted the victims mentality and never let my brother nor me do that either. Booker T Washington, who you know wrote the book Up From Slavery, taught himself to read even though it was illegal to do so at the time. This great man read everything in sight and became an advisor to two presidents and that really impressed me. My other big role model was Joseph in the Bible. He was sold in to slavery by his own brothers and instead of complaining and giving up, he said basically that if I have to be a slave, I will be the best darn slave there ever was. He ends up becoming the Prime Minister of Egypt. Now that was inspirational to me. My high school biology teacher Frank McConner was great. I mean this guy was dealing with all of us hooligans, but he stilled managed to teach us biology.
H2D: Great! I can’t wait for my young students to read this article. They need to know that even those who have achieved greatness have role models as well. Very few doctors achieve “celebrity” status. Some consider you as a celebrity doctor. I know you were recently diagnosed with prostate cancer and because of your celebrity status, many African American men learned more about this disease. What inspired you to be so open about your battle with this disease?
BC: Well, actually, I did not intend to be so open about my disease. After I was diagnosed with prostate cancer they were announcing on the radio that I had a brain tumor. Then I had all types of cancers; lung cancer, bone cancer; I was dying and had died already (laughing). The Washington Post was doing a series on me, got nervous and asked could they move the interview up. They asked could they follow me through my surgery and then of course Night Line, Charlie Rose and the rest of the national media picked up on it, so I thought, I may as well use this as a means to educate.
H2D: So this “celebrity” doctor thing- is that important to you?
BC: Well you know the movie is coming out in February and I was honored to have Cuba Gooding, Jr. play me. I suspect my life will change even further after that, but you know the only way I see the “celebrity” in me as being useful is to the degree that I can use it to encourage other people. There is so much hoop-la around sports and entertainment and their needs to more around intellectual achievement because our young people are perfectly capable of that as well. That’s what will keep young people at the forefront and not just the ability to shoot jump shots.
H2D: I hear you read Proverbs once a day.
BC: Twice young doctor, morning and night.
H2D: Awesome Dr. Carson. Thank you so much for the interview and I look forward to watching the movie on TNT!
BC: Thank you Dr. Whitfield! This is a great mission and you obviously don’t have to be doing this. Take care of your self.
H2D: Same to you Doc! Peace
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