Dr. Cedric Bright discusses his path towards medicine and the current medical landscape

One of the focuses of my blog is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and my most central principle is “Creating Ecosystems of Success”. While we tend to think of clinical medicine as strictly a ‘Healthcare Profession’, its foundations are rooted in the Basic Sciences. Medical Doctors/Physicians are likewise scientists who specialize in patient care and healing sicknesses.

I recently met Dr. Cedric Bright in person through a mutual acquaintance at a family gathering. I’d heard of him through conversation, and I think I’d previously seen him before, as he was among the many physicians on Twitter using the ‘hashtag’ ‘#BlackMenInMedicine’. It turns out that Dr. Bright, the Associate Dean of Admissions at East Carolina University, coincidentally knew Dr. Qiunn Capers, IV, whom I first saw using the hashtag.

At the gathering, Dr. Bright eagerly answered the questions of numerous medical school hopefuls who were in attendance. As they asked him questions, he in turn asked them questions about their preparation, their academic performance, standardized test scores, experiences in clinics and overall ambitions. At the recommendation of the host of the gathering, I listened in on Dr. Bright’s discussions and was fascinated by what he had to say.

With my blog having both education and a science focuses, and with me also knowing many medical school hopefuls, I seized the opportunity to ask Dr. Bright for an interview and he agreed. In the following interview with Dr. Cedric Bright, we discuss his background, his path into medical school and his career, and finally the current landscape of medical education – specifically what medical schools are looking for in prospects. I hope you enjoy the interview as much as I enjoyed doing it.

Anwar Dunbar: Thank you for the opportunity to interview you, Dr. Bright. Medical school has long been the destination for many undergraduates, and many people will love to hear what you have to say about what the journey towards practicing medicine entails. With that, can you talk briefly about yourself? Where are you from? What got you interested in medicine?

Cedric Bright: I’m originally from Winston-Salem, NC. I grew up there and attended a private boarding school. My parents were both public school teachers and believed in trying to give me and my brother every advantage we could have to be the best that we could be. They were of the ilk where, ‘This generation needs to do better than the last generation,’ and my parents made sacrifices for us so that we could go to private boarding schools.

From there I was accepted to Brown University for my undergraduate studies. I returned to attend medical school at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill (UNC). I did my ‘Residency’ back at Brown. I stayed on as faculty there for four years, and I wrote a paper which was published in the Journal of the National Medical Association, looking at perceived barriers in medical education by race and gender. That led to me being recruited to Duke University and the Durham VA-Medical Center. I spent 13 years there before I was recruited to come back to Carolina (UNC). I spent eight years at Carolina, and just left three weeks ago to come here to East Carolina.

AD: So, let’s go back to the beginning of your journey. Your parents – were they science teachers or were they teaching other subjects?

CB: They were general public school teachers. My father taught math and science in middle school, and my mother taught second grade in elementary school.

AD: What inspired you to become a medical doctor? Did you have mentor in medicine? Also, are you the first medical doctor in your family?

CB: I’ll tell you that I’m not the first doctor in my family, but I also never met the person who was. He is a distant cousin on my grandmother’s side. I don’t recall hearing stories of him, though I’ve seen pictures. In terms of myself, my father being an educator brought home books for me and my brother to read. It was a series describing what doctors, nurses, engineers, fireman, police, etc., “do”. After reading those books, I decided that I wanted to be a doctor, and my brother wanted to be an engineer. Fast forward 20 years, he’s become an engineer. Fast forward 25 years, I’ve become a doctor.

AD: During your journey, were there any challenges in your undergraduate studies or throughout medical school itself? Or were you a ‘straight A’ student where the road was all set for you?

CB: I was nowhere near a straight A student, but I was a hard worker. My parents put me in some courses that taught me how to study. In doing so, they helped me with my concentration. I probably would’ve been diagnosed as “Attention Deficit Disorder” (ADHD). I still have lot of ADHD tendencies now in my old life.

I learned techniques on how to manage my thoughts, my ability to focus, and even with that I had some academic difficulties. I learned how to use the system – how to ask for help – how to not be afraid to admit that I didn’t know something. I learned how to visit teachers during their office hours, and how to spend time after class working on things. I learned how to ask my colleagues who were willing to help – all those types of things.

I did reasonably well in high school. I particularly did well in Chemistry; my teacher was my football coach. I was quite fond of him and he helped me understand Chemistry very well, such that I did very well in it in college.

I did quite well my freshman year in college. Subsequently, I had the ‘sophomore slump’. I pledged a fraternity the spring semester of my freshman year, and I came back and ‘acted’ that fraternity the first semester of my sophomore year, and my grades summarily crashed. At that same point in time, I decided that I didn’t like Biology anymore and I didn’t want to do Chemistry. I decided that there must be something else that I could major in. Low and behold I’d taken some courses in Film because I’d been interested in it, and so I decided that I’d major in it.

AD: Oh, interesting.

CB: My Pre-Med Advisor said, ‘You don’t have to major in a science to go to medical school,’ and I said, ‘Okay, I’m going to take you at your word on that!’ So, I ended up majoring in Film (Semiotics), and what it taught me was how to understand non-verbal communication, understanding how the body moves and when a person’s body is or isn’t reflective of their verbal statements. Being able to interpret my patients better, I think that helped me in the long-term.

AD: Interesting.

CB: So, I pulled my grades up my next two years after my sophomore year, and I think that’s why I got into medical school. My grade point average (GPA) wasn’t great – it was less than a 3.0 and I’ll leave it at that. I had to take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) three times to get a score that would at least get me noticed. I think the final score that I got was a 27. I only applied to two medical schools and I got into the UNC, which was crazy.

After getting in, I was advised to do a summer program and I’m grateful that I was. It surrounded me with like-minded individuals. The first thing I tell young people today is to make sure you do some type of summer program to surround yourself with other like-minded individuals. They become your colleagues of the future.

AD: Interesting.

CB: The program also helped me to understand the difference between undergraduate-level and graduate-level studying. Had I not done the program, I’m sure that I would’ve had more academic difficulty during my first year.

AD: So, you’re referring to the complexity of thought and….

CB: And the amount of time you must put into it. For instance, I was used to studying maybe an hour or two a day, and then ‘cramming’ towards the end and still being able to get a good grade. You can’t do that in medical school. In medical school you must put in four to five hours every day. You must put in six to eight hours on the weekend – it’s a ‘grind’ and you must get used to that grind. You have to become disciplined and not fall prey to the ‘Jedi-Mind Tricks’ that your classmates would throw on you by saying that they spent the whole weekend hiking the Appalachians. They might have hiked a mile, but they spent the rest of the time studying. They want you to think they didn’t. So learn not to fall for the Jedi-Mind Tricks. Everyone is working hard in medical school.

AD: Jedi-Mind Tricks (laughing). What was your ‘specialty’?

CB: My specialty ended up being ‘Internal Medicine’, but that’s another story.

AD: Okay.

CB: Let me finish this point. I prayed before I got into medical school. I said, ‘Lord, don’t let get into medical school if I’m not going to graduate!’ So, when I got in, that took a load off me because I knew that I’d prayed and that he’d answered my prayers and I knew that I would graduate. The question then became how. I’d done the summer program, but my first semester of medical school, seemingly on every test I was one to two points above passing and I wasn’t ‘killing’ it by any means.

I was the last man on the totem pole probably every time and on every test. At the end of my first semester, I passed three of my courses, but I failed one by less than a half a point. So, I ended up having to remediate that course during the summer, but after coming back from the Christmas break, I realized that I couldn’t do the same work that I’d been doing and working the same way. I had to change my study habits.

For the most part, I’d studied with one of my frat brothers. It worked well, but it didn’t work well enough. So I said let me branch out and see if I can study with some other people. So I started studying with some other people who didn’t look like me and I started finding ways in which they studied that reminded me of the study programs my father had put me in back in the day. I started re-utilizing those study techniques and suddenly, I began to thrive. I had to make an adjustment and go back to a study technique that really helped me out when I was younger, and it turned out to be the elixir that I needed in medical school.

From that point on in my second year, I moved into a house with six to seven other medical students. Each night we’d study until about 10 to 10:30 at night and we’d come out to the common area of this house and have this massive ‘Quiz Bowl’. The whole point of the Quiz Bowl was for me to take the most esoteric fact that I knew and try to stump them, and for them to take the most esoteric fact that they knew and try to stump me.

Now here’s the key Dr. Dunbar. If I stumped them, I had to teach them. And if they stumped me, they had to teach me. The effect of that was that by the time we got to the exam, we’d asked so many questions of each other from so many different perspectives that there weren’t too many questions on the exam that we hadn’t already discussed. So like a ‘rising tide’, we all did very well. What that speaks to is how you work in medical school to get the ‘volume’. It’s not aptitude that impedes people’s progress in medical school, it’s dealing with the volume.

It’s kind of like trying to eat an elephant. If you’ve got one person trying to eat an elephant, it takes a long time to do it. But if you’ve got seven to eight people trying to eat the elephant with everyone describing what they’re biting and how it tastes, the texture of it, you get to know the whole elephant, but you just ate a part of it. Does that make sense to you, sir?

AD: Yes.

CB: So that’s one of the most valuable lessons I’ve ever learned about approaching large volumes of work. If you approached it first being responsible for taking care of your own individual preparation and coming together and working with other individuals who have put in their own individual preparation, you can work very effectively as a group. But it first starts with individual preparation.

AD: Okay, so there’s a component there that requires individual preparation and then there’s a teamwork component there.

CB: That’s correct. The individual preparation gets you to 50%, but that team component gets you to 90%.

AD: That makes sense. When I first got to graduate school, I was used to working by myself, and I discovered that I couldn’t do that and get the grades that I needed. Just quickly, which fraternity did you pledge?

CB: I pledged Omega Psi Phi.

AD: In term of my next question, you discussed this at the gathering where we met, and it really resonated with me. When I was an undergraduate student at Johnson C. Smith University in the late-1990s, many of us pondered practicing medicine, but few of us thoroughly understood what it took to get into medical school. Aside from the academic credentials, what are some of the personal qualities aspiring medical students need to be successful and, in general, what are you all looking for? I remember you saying that you want them to have touched patients before.

CB: That’s true. We want to see that you’ve had a journey of learning about the didactics and the science component, yes, but also about the humanity – doing volunteer service for people less fortunate than yourself. This helps you to understand the social determinants and sometimes the behavioral determinants of health, and how they manifest themselves in our community.

We want you to have spent some time doing some type of hands on patient care, whether its learning how to take blood pressure, learning how to take vital signs in the doctor’s office, or being an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), and helping to triage patients and get them to the emergency room. Or it could be just driving an ambulance to take people to their regular hospital visits, being a nurse, or being a Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) doing the hands-on dirty work in the hospital. Lastly, it could be being a pharmacy tech spending time working in a pharmacy where people are coming in asking questions about their medications. And helping them understand the side effects, and reactions from other drugs and things of that nature or being a hospice volunteer to helping people with end of life issues.

These are the types of things we’re looking for hands-on wise. There are a lot of smart people in the world, but there’s a difference between being smart and having intelligence. We’re looking for more intelligent people than we are smart people. Smart people know how to answer questions. They can get a question right all the time, but they don’t know how to talk to people. They don’t know how to deal with the ‘human component’. Intelligence is knowing what you know and being able to apply it to the people in front of you at the right time, for the right person, for the right reasons.

AD: Now in that same vein, if I recall correctly, in terms of determining why students want to attend medical school, you’re not looking for canned, ‘cookie cutter’ answers. You want to hear some depth to their answers, right?

CB: Yes. The ‘depth’ comes in multiple ways. For example, when someone writes about their experiences, I don’t care so much about what they did, I want to know how it made them feel. I want them to be able to share with me if there was a significance that changed their view of death if they worked in a hospice; how they think the healthcare system works as the ‘donut hole’ as it goes to prescription drugs.

I want them to be able to share if they know the significance of how nurses are so overworked and have too many patients, such that a CNA becomes so very important; how to take care of people in the hospital, or how to take care of people in the clinic as a medical assistant. Why (what was your motivation)? What did you feel? What did you observe? What did you learn? That’s more important to me than what you did.

AD: So, this is my last question. The landscape of medical education and medical school, has it changed since you were a student yourself? We have a lot of technology now. People communicate differently. I’m sure the actual medical approaches have changed. Can you talk about how things have changed from then to now?

CB: I think when I was coming through, we didn’t have as many imaging tests and diagnostic procedures, so our touch to the patient became more important. Doing the appropriate physical exam was enough for you to come to a diagnosis. You didn’t have to have an X-ray. You didn’t have to have a ‘CT’, because if you did your exam right, you knew what your exam told you. Now we depend too much on technology to tell us what’s wrong with a person, and it doesn’t always equate to us finding the right answers on how to take care of people.

I also think that our technology and having to ‘keyboard’ so much on these electronic records takes us away from the human touch – the humanity of medicine which is the one-on-one conversation with our patients because we’re too busy ‘charting’. Our eyes don’t meet enough. Patients wait months to come see a doctor, not watch a doctor type. Seeing a doctor means we have eye-to-eye contact and we talk as two human beings intimately in one setting, and I think that’s becoming a lost art in medicine. Doctors are under time crunches to see more patients and to make the same amount of money, or to make more money.

AD: I think that rolls into my last two questions. I know that every student is different, but on average, what are the major learning points for the medical students when they come in, because I imagine that these are all very bright individuals. What are the main things they must learn? Is it what you described for yourself? Or is it something else?

CB: I think the main thing they need to learn is that it’s not their aptitude that’s going to determine their altitude, it’s their attitude. If they come in with the right attitude of wanting to learn, and sacrifice whatever it takes to learn, and not come in with the attitude of, ‘I’m not doing this or, I’m not doing that’. That just doesn’t work in medicine. They also must learn how to deal with failure. The thing about medicine as with all walks of life, Dr. Dunbar, is that we all fall down. There’s no shame in falling down and we shouldn’t fall apart the first time we fail.

But what we should do is learn from the mistakes that we’ve made. Learn from what has occurred, grow and move forward, and get back up. I like to say that there’s no shame in falling down. There is shame in laying there. And don’t let anybody fool you into thinking that their life is perfect. All that is, is a mask. We all fall down. We all have imperfections. We all fall short of the glory.

AD: My high school basketball coach used to tell us that exact same thing about attitude and altitude. My last question is going to be a little more global. Under the Obama Administration, we had the Affordable Care Act (ACA), and now that’s kind of been stripped down. In terms of the medical field itself, do we still have enough doctors? Is it still a thriving field?

CB: It’s very much a thriving field, and there will always be a need for doctors. I wholeheartedly believe in that. Artificial Intelligence will never be able to replace doctors, because they don’t have the touch. There’s more than enough need for physicians and, in many places, we’ve said there’s going to be a shortage of physicians in the future. That’s because we have areas where more physicians are passing away than physicians are being made.

The ‘Baby Boomers’ are probably a third of our physicians that we have in the workforce and they’re retiring at a rate of almost 1,000 every month. So, we’re going into a crisis of having more physicians retiring than those who are graduating. It’s a very interesting dichotomy and the American Association of Medical Colleges has been preparing different reports to show that. I was actually looking at one the other day.

The bottom line is that there’s a two-fold problem. We’re not making enough doctors and doctors are retiring, or we have enough doctors and there’s a maldistribution of doctors. Some would argue that theory. We have enough doctors, but all of our doctors want to practice where there are other doctors. But in actuality, we may need to redistribute them so that they practice in other areas that are rural and have less physicians in that area.

AD: Well, Dr. Bright that’s all the questions that I have. Thank you for your time and for sharing your path and knowledge and expertise about the medical field. A lot of people will benefit from this, and I look forward to doing it again.

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you enjoyed it, you might also enjoy:

Dr. Quinn Capers IV discusses Implicit Bias and the #DropAndGiveMe20 campaign
Dr. Quinn Capers, IV discusses his path, #BlackMenInMedicine, and the present landscape of medical education
The story of how I earned my STEM degree as a minority
How my HBCU led me to my STEM career
Researching your career revisited: Wisdom from a STEM professor at my HBCU

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and or leave a comment. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. To receive all of the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site. Lastly, follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, on Twitter at @BWArePowerful, and on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Simple Ways To Better Yourself

The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success, and two of its key focuses are Career Discussions and Health/Wellness. Not everyone enters the world with the proper tools for success. If you’re falling short in a given area, and want to reach the next level, it’s important to know which steps to take. The following contributed post is entitled, Simple Ways To Better Yourself.

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https://unsplahs.com/photos/RARH8b7N-fw

Everybody in the world wants to be the best version of themselves – that’s a given. When we’re younger, we all think about how our lives are going to turn out. We think about how our personal lives are going to be and how our work is going to go. Some people out there have been switched on from the get-go and don’t need any extra push to help them reach their goals. There is a group out there, however, who have entered the real world and haven’t exactly hit the heights they imagine – for one reason or another.

If you feel that you’re currently in this category, then don’t worry. Self-improvement is a hefty process, but there aren’t too many distressing factors that go into it. Let’s talk about a few ways people can improve themselves significantly.

Organised

Being a more organized person will improve anyone’s life in pretty much every aspect. Think about it: if you don’t have a plan or a routine, you’re just going along with whatever task you have next – and that could lead to a big piled-up mess. If you add structure to your life and keep yourself disciplined, it’ll keep you balanced.

Face Your Flaws

Being able to recognize that you’re a flawed person is one of the most underrated skills in the human psyche. If you’re unable to realize where your issues lie, then you may take a huge hit on your confidence once someone outdoes you in a specific piece of work or life. Being able to notice that you’re not able to do something is also helpful as you can get the help needed from others. A great leader knows how to take the backseat for a while.

Change Career

You may feel you have plateaued in your current adventure. Perhaps a way of better yourself you would be to unlock skills in your arsenal that have been previously shut away. Maybe you feel like you’re better suited to a completely different type of job? Why not do something you’ve always wanted to do? If you’ve always been interested in the aviation world, then you could join a professional pilot program and see if you flourish in something that you’ll enjoy. Keeping things fresh is a good way to progress in life.

Exercise More And Eat Better

Living life with an inactive body and a terrible diet will only increase your sluggishness approach towards everything in life and make you more stressed. Making sure you keep active will naturally give you more of a boost. Eating the right foods will aid this boost, too. Drinking a lot of water will help your body and mind out also as dehydration is a significant cause of frustration.

Be Positive

Finally, we’ll talk about the idea of viewing things more positively. It’s not the easiest thing to do, but being able to shut out the negative thoughts will improve your life a lot. You will be able to pick out the good bits in everything and lead a happier life – leading to a more optimistic approach to new challenges and opportunities.

A discussion about class in the black community

“Even though it was 1968, a period of unrest for many blacks throughout the country, Great-grandmother – like the blue-veined crowd that she was proud to belong to – seemed, at times, to be totally divorced from the black anxiety and misery that we saw on TV news and in the papers.”

Every now and then I’ll venture into something social and political. I’ve been wanting to write something about ‘class’ in the black community for a while now, and Black History Month 2019 has finally presented me the opportunity to do so. Before I jump in, I want to acknowledge Rom Wills, a writer in the “Negro Manosphere” and a YouTube content creator who teaches black men about dating and becoming better versions of ourselves. I can personally say that ‘Uncle’ Rom and his content have been critical in evolution, in terms of manhood, and he’s helped me to better understand my journey – past, present and future. If you’re a black man, and you still feel lost in the dating world and in life in general, I recommend Uncle Rom’s content.

In his YouTube content, Rom Wills is very outspoken about the black community not acknowledging the role of ‘social class’ in dating and mating where it plays a major role, particularly in our bigger cities. He eloquently discusses what attracts black men and women together and why in some instances, some couples who don’t look like they should be together end up doing so. He also discusses why some men and women pass over each other – potentially good mates, specifically to get to together with someone in their social class. He emphasizes men having some sort of vision, like us getting in the gym and getting our bodies right, and the concepts of ‘select’ and ‘non-select’ men.

I first became aware of social class in high school in my hometown of Buffalo, NY. Every spring, one of our black newspapers, the Buffalo Criterion or the Challenger, presented the ‘Debutantes’ and the ‘Cotillions’. The Debutantes were young ladies in high school, usually juniors and seniors. They were associated with one of the black sororities – probably “Alpha Kappa Alpha”. The ladies were all dressed in black dresses and took lovely solo head shots and were presented as a group on the front page. One year, one of the girls was a classmate. There was also a formal event where these girls were ‘presented’ to the world.

I first heard of the term Cotillion in high school as well. I had a friend who played on the Varsity basketball team with me when we were sophomores. He stopped playing in our junior year, and a little while later, he went on and on about some of the other guys in his Cotillion when we were at a party. They were doing a ‘step routine’ of some sort, showing they were also affiliated with a ‘Black Greek’ organization. I think he later pledged “Phi Beta Sigma”.

There were two Black Greeks in my family. My eldest cousin who in Georgia pledged the sorority “Sigma Gamma Rho”, and my father was a member of one of the more prominent fraternities which is kept anonymous for everyone’s privacy. I interestingly have very little memory of him being active in his fraternity or regularly interacting with his ‘frat’ brothers. Later I found that there were reasons for this. I also later found out that this Black Greek world was in fact its own world within Black America.

Lawrence Otis Graham’s Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper-class periodically pops up in my writings. I read Member of The Club one summer, and then seeing him one night on Tavis Smiley’s show on BET debating Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, was a seminal moment for me. Highly criticized for celebrating America’s black upper-class. I It was an important work for me personally because it let those of us who didn’t grow up in that class know that it existed – something, as a black person, you encounter and must reconcile in cities like Washington, DC, where I now reside. These people were born into the upper-class through generational wealth and inheritances, while others climbed there through digging and sacrificing.

While the book discusses the afore mentioned black fraternities and sororities, it also describes other clubs, groups and organizations within this upper-class such as Jack and Jill, The Boule, and The Links. The book also points out that being in the black upper-class isn’t simply a matter a of having money, as the ‘black elite’ don’t necessarily accept ‘new money’ celebrity athletes and entertainers into their circles. Instead, there was a cultural aspect to their lives where individuals had to go to the ‘right’ schools and be a part of right clubs and families to be accepted. It might sound like a bit much to the outsider, but I find it all fascinating.

Why is this important? Well, as I discussed in my previous piece entitled, Who should or shouldn’t be in the African American History Museum?, there are numerous real divisions within the black race which are often overlooked. One of the big ones is social class. If you weren’t in the right circles in smaller cities like Buffalo, you didn’t really know debutantes and cotillions existed, or the opportunities offered through participation in them. Since ascending in education and living in Washington, DC where the Congressional Black Caucus Annual Legislative Conference takes place every year, and attending the affluent church that I attend, you can see the delineations in social class.

And as Rom Wills, whom I discussed above states, you often see it in the dating arena. Men and women in some instances pick each other based upon their educational and social pedigrees and backgrounds. Likewise, if you’re not from those types of families with certain types of training, it’s important to understand how to socially mingle and carry yourself in certain circles when those instances arise.

I’m going to close this by saying that I didn’t really have a concept of ‘economic class’ until my brother commented amongst our friends when we were younger that we were ‘lower middle class’. Economic class is typically delineated by household income, healthcare and overall quality of life. Both my parents were college educated, worked and I grew up in a house as opposed to the housing projects. We weren’t poor, but we also weren’t rich either and this does influence social class.

All of this is interesting to me because it suggests that we’re all different, despite being grouped together based upon skin color. It also explains much of what we see now in terms of variability in our personal natures, how we navigate the world, available opportunities for advancement and political agendas. We’re seeing many of these class divisions bubble to the surface now in politics. That said, skin color does factor in as well, and once you throw ‘Colorism’ into this discussion, this all gets further complicated.

What’s also fascinating is we aren’t restricted by our social or economic class and don’t necessarily stay in them. There are instances where individuals in the upper-social classes have affinities for individuals in the lower classes in terms of dating and friendships. Also, individuals who have ascended into higher economic classes in terms of salary may still have the behavioral inclinations and vices from those in the lower-classes.

In writing this post, I am in no way complaining about my upbringing as I’m very grateful for it. One cousin recently actually told me that both my brother and myself had ‘privilege’ that she didn’t have growing up. Again, keep in mind that we weren’t rich, and we were raised by a single parent most of the year. The take home message here is that there are also delineations in privilege within a race even though we tend to think of privilege solely in terms of white vs. black.

The opening quote for this piece came from chapter one of Our Kind of People – a fitting opening to this piece. I’m going to close by saying that social and economic class are real dynamics that affect everything from our quality of life, to dating/mating, to politics. These are just some of my thoughts on class. It’s something that I think we need to pay more attention to and acknowledge, and the sooner we do, I think the better off we’ll be.

The original title for this piece was, A Black History Month discussion about race in the black community. I shortened it because this a discussion that shouldn’t be restricted to one month. I want to thank Rom Wills and another YouTube content creator named “Black Gnostics Speaks” for their work, and for helping many of us who needed the teaching to become better and wiser men. Many of us didn’t understand the roles of social and economic class in our lives aside from the contexts of color, racism and prejudice.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this, you might also enjoy:

Whose job is it to teach black history?
Who should and shouldn’t be in the African American History Museum and who shouldn’t?
Are you Cooning? Thoughts on Black America’s new favorite racial slur, critical thought, and groupthink
A Black History Month reflection on Percy Julian
A Black History Month interview with Dr. Vernon Morris part one
A Black History Month look at West Indian Archie: A story of wasted scientific potential

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. I’ve recently started a YouTube channel, so please visit me at Big Discussions76. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add my RSS feed to your feedreader. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Who should be in the African American History Museum and who shouldn’t?

“The white man ain’t the devil I promise, you want to see the devil, take a look at Clarence Thomas…….”

My second piece for Black History Month 2019 may emotionally ‘trigger’ some people, but once again, it’s a question worth asking and it falls under my principles of “Creative” and “Critical” thought. If you have a reaction, please respectfully leave a comment below and share your thoughts after you’ve read this piece. I got the idea to write this blog post shortly after my piece entitled, Whose job is it to teach Black History? The seeds for it were sewn one to two years ago though, shortly after the Smithsonian’s new National Museum of African American History and Culture was opened in Washington, DC.

I was perusing social media one day, Twitter perhaps, when a group discussed whether figures like Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas should have a place in the new museum. Dr. Ben Carson’s name may have come up too. It was an excellent and thought-provoking question. I can’t recall if anyone in that discussion felt that Justice Thomas deserved a place in the museum, but I can tell you that most people vehemently felt that he didn’t. I chose to simply be a ‘fly on the wall’ – like someone slipping into a college seminar, standing in the back momentarily and then stepping out after getting the gist of the discussion. The consensus in this group gave a fascinating insight into what being ‘black’ means in the United States in 2019.

Who should be in the National Museum of African American History and Culture and who shouldn’t? That depends on how complete you want history to be. What’s incredibly clear in 2019 is that while we as black people may be seen as one homogenous group by other races and ethnicities, we clearly aren’t. How do we differ? Well just pick the way that you want to slice us up.

Starting with politics, there are liberal blacks, conservative blacks, and independent blacks. There are black people who believe in Jesus Christ and who regularly attend some form of church, and there are black people who believe in Allah and worship at mosques. There are Black Jews and Hebrew Israelites. There are also atheists.

In terms of social class, there are ‘Old Guard’ upper-class black people. There are also middle- and lower-class black people. All three groups have distinct values and opinions of the other classes. There are numerous books just on class; two that come to mind are Our Kind of People, by Lawrence Otis Graham, and Code of The Streets, by Elijah Anderson.

You have ‘bougie’ black people, and ‘street’ black people. There are other black people don’t fall into either extreme, but instead lay somewhere in the middle. In the black ‘zeitgeist’, many of us, myself included, consider ourselves to be ‘other’.

Back to my original question, who should and shouldn’t be in the new African American History Museum? Of the many distinctions in the previous paragraph, the most polarizing may be that of liberal and conservative. Since the Civil Rights Era, the Democratic party has in large part been the party for black people. Right now, we’re seeing a bit of a shift in the landscape, but traditionally that’s how it’s been since I’ve been alive.

Likewise, the Republican party has been the party of racists who are perceived to not care anything about black people. We’re slowly seeing a shift there as well. In any case, any black person who has associated with the Republican party has been seen as being against the race and something ‘other’ than black.

Regarding the two figures I mentioned earlier in this piece, President George H.W. Bush’s filling of Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall’s seat with Clarence Thomas was a seen as a blatant slap in the face not only on Justice Marshall’s legacy, but also towards black people in general. Dr. Ben Carson’s participation in the Trump administration has all but erased his brilliant career as a neurosurgeon, and his miraculous emergence from poverty in inner-city Detroit – to liberal black people that is.

I’ve only visited the new African American History Museum once since it’s opening, and I only got halfway through it. If you plan on going, I’d recommend planning to make multiple trips. Both Justice Thomas and Dr. Carson are in there which I think is the right thing to do. To not have them in there is to give an incomplete historical account. But that’s just me, and I don’t believe we should all think the same way as described in my piece about ‘Cooning’.

Your opinion about whether they and others like them should be in there will depend on whether you still consider them to be a part of the black race. That leads to the question of whether a person’s political affiliation and core beliefs dictates their level of blackness. I personally don’t think it does, but I’m just one person, and as of now, I’m not making decisions about whose history gets told in that museum.

The opening quote for this piece is a lyric from one hip hop artist KRS-One’s tracks. I think it’s from his self-titled album, or maybe “Return of the Boom-Bap”. I opened my last black history last piece with a rap lyric and decided to do it again. As mentioned in that piece, while our parents thought it was just noise, hip hop/rap music in the 1980s and 90s had many, many social and political messages. I personally learned a lot of black history from some of the artists.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Are you Cooning? Thoughts on Black America’s new favorite racial slur, critical thought, and groupthink
A Black History Month reflection on Percy Julian
A Black History Month interview with Dr. Vernon Morris part one
A Black History Month look at West Indian Archie
A review of Marvel’s Black Panther
A review of Hidden Figures
A review of All Eyez On Me

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. Please visit my YouTube channel entitled, Big Discussions76. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add my RSS feed to your feedreader. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Managing More Than One Project

The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success and two key focuses are Career Discussions and General Education. A very valuable and lesser known skill when you start a business or when you get out into the professional world, is the ability to multi-task or manage multiple projects at once. The following contributed post discusses this and is entitled, Managing More Than One Project.

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As a project manager, you are going to face numerous challenges throughout your career. Often, managing one project can be challenging and stressful enough. However, when you add even more projects to the mix, the stresses and strains only multiply. Managing a number of different projects at the same time can most definitely be a challenge. However, if you follow the advice provided below, you should find it a lot easier.

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Embrace project management training – There is only one place to begin, and this is with project management training. Project management courses today are designed to equip you with all of the knowledge, strategies, and technologies required to deal with any challenge that comes your way, from remote team management to handling numerous projects at once. It does not matter how long you have been in this career, a refresher course could be just the thing you need to be able to manage multiple projects at once.

Keep distractions to a minimum – It is vital to keep distractions to a minimum at all times, but this is even more so the case when you are managing numerous projects at once. You can use tools like this calendar for HR professionals to assist. There are lots of things that can get in the way of your working day. This includes ad hoc tasks, non-strategic meetings, idle conversation, and emails that are not related to the projects you are working on. Ask yourself: is this task something that is contributing to the bigger picture/meeting the project objectives? If not, it is likely that you are simply wasting your time. To cut down on these sorts of activities, you should make sure you only have meetings when essential, use a centralised scheduling process, and schedule breaks throughout the working day.

Improve communication – Communication is critical to the success of any project, and it is even more pivotal when you are working on more than one project at the same time. You must have a robust communication channel and strategy in place for all team members. Efficient communication regarding new developments, changes, and such like, are a necessity, as they are likely to impact the implementation of the project. A group collaboration tool will come in very useful here, but you need to make sure that everyone is using the software appropriately and effectively. It is a good idea to get your team members to provide a status update of every task they are working on per day. This will ensure that everyone is aware of the project status and that all team members are on the same page. It also makes it easy for you to have an overview of each project so you know exactly where each project is.

Hopefully, you now feel more prepared for managing numerous projects at once. While this can seem incredibly daunting, there is no need to stress. Follow the advice that has been given, and you should find it a lot easier to keep on top of everything.

Avoiding Death By PowerPoint: 5 Presentation Mistakes To Avoid

The first principle of my blog is Creating Ecosystems of Success and two key focuses are Career Discussions and General Education. A skill that’s very important today is the ability to give presentations. Many professionals make it out into the workforce without learning how to give quality presentations. The following contributed post is thus entitled, Avoiding Death By PowerPoint: 5 Presentation Mistakes To Avoid.

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Image Source. Licensed under Creative Commons.

Want to avoid boring your audience to death during your next work PowerPoint presentation? Here are a few common mistakes to avoid in order to keep your presentation engaging.

Breaking the 10-20-30 rule

There is a rule that governs the practice of PowerPoint presentations – it was established by Guy Kawasaki and it is known as The 10-20-30 Rule. This rule states that if you want to keep your presentation engaging you should never include more than 10 slides, never go on for longer than 20 minutes and never use a font size less than 30. This helps to keep things short and snappy so that you never overstay your welcome. Unless you’ve been specifically asked to give a longer presentation or to use more slides, try not to break this rule.

Using generic templates and stock images

Many PowerPoint templates are overly familiar to the point that they are distracting. If you want to maintain a unique feel, you’re probably best off not using PowerPoint at all. There are many other presentation platforms that are worth trying out – many of these come with interesting themes to download as found at this list of The 70 Best Free Google Slides Themes Of 2019.

On top of generic presentation templates, avoid using stock images as these too can dull-ify your presentation. Rather than using the same cliched images of employees shaking hands, use images that offer interesting metaphors or images that help to tell a story.

Reading directly off the slides

Any slides you use should be treated as prompts or additional information – they should not be treated as a script. By reading the slides, not only are you not looking at the audience but you’re telling information that they can read themselves (in which case, you’d be better off sending an email). Focus your attention on your audience and try to rehearse what you’re going to say without having to read anything (you can have notes, but you should use these as pointers and similarly not use them as a script). Having to speak to audience can be scary, but it will help you to connect to them and get them interested.

Failing to connect on an emotional level

Some presentations can be a little too heavy handed when it comes to facts and figures. The emotional connection can then get lost and your audience will start to feel that they’re been given a long-winded report. Try to connect on an emotional level by sharing stories and giving relatable information. For example, if you’re giving a seminar on conserving energy in the home, don’t just reel of figures but make people aware of the benefit this will have on their lives and the planet.

Losing track of the presentation’s purpose

Some presentations can end up going off-topic. It’s important to remember the key objective of your presentation and to answer any questions that you raised at the beginning. Your audience will zone out if they feel the presentation has lost its sense of purpose, so don’t get side-tracked.

Ben Carson’s education story and what it means revisited

One of the principles of my blog is “Critical Thought”. I originally published this piece on the Examiner in the fall of 2015, during the historic 2016 presidential election from which President Donald J. Trump emerged. The legendary neurosurgeon Dr. Benjamin Carson was one of the many candidates in the Republican primary. His alignment with the Republican party, and his subsequent position in the Trump administration caused him to fall from grace in Black America and to be discarded altogether by some, which I feel is unfortunate. I’m republishing this piece for Black History Month 2019 to remind everyone where Dr. Carson came from, what he accomplished, and that others can do it too.

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First off, this article was not written with the intention of endorsing any presidential candidate.

Anytime an African American aligns with the Republican Party, it raises suspicions within our community and often sparks ridicule. This year Dr. Benjamin Carson is hoping to win the Republican nomination for the United States Presidency. Admittedly it surprised me years ago upon discovering his political affiliation. At the time of this article’s publication, the Huffington Post’s current data shows that Dr. Carson is second only to Donald Trump in the field of candidates vying for the Republican presidential nomination. It will be really interesting to see if he’ll hold second place or even ascend to first place by the time the final candidate is selected.

Carson’s messages have included: denouncing of the Common Core education standards, securing of the Mexican border and more stringent immigration policies, and reformation of the tax code to name a few. At his own peril and at the risk of alienating African Americans, he has also openly questioned the Black Lives Matter movement. While many see Carson simply as this year’s token African American conservative candidate seeking the Republican presidential nomination, he holds a different significance for me.

During my graduate studies at the University of Michigan, Dr. Carson (a Michigan Medical School alumnus) returned as the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Day speaker one year. Then the Dean of Neurosurgery at the Johns Hopkins University, he’d already become famous. He made several points during his speech but those which stood out most to me focused on his youth in inner-city Detroit. Early in his life (during the Civil Rights era), “Bennie” as he was referred to, was actually an underachiever academically and was viewed as unintelligent by his classmates and teachers.

Through it all, his mother who was a single parent, vehemently encouraged Carson and his brother to read anything they could, as often as they could. After years of academic underachievement, the light finally switched on for young Ben Carson and he realized that he too could use his mind to achieve scholastically and make something of himself. He of course went on to become a world-renowned neurosurgeon, where his most famous feat was the separation of the conjoined twins.

There’s an empowerment message within Ben Carson’s story for everyone. Whether or not he ascends to the presidency, he’s a symbol that one can make it out of a single parent household and less than ideal conditions. His success wasn’t an accident, nor was it luck. It was due to his mother’s oversight and vigilance.

Data from Kids Count spanning from 2009 to 2013 show that the African American community leads the nation in children in single parent families over all other ethnic groups during that interval (67% vs. 25% for Non-Hispanic Whites). The reasons for this data clearly vary and are regularly discussed and debated. While it is greatly accepted that having both parents at home is ideal, not having both doesn’t have to necessarily be a hindrance. For me that’s one of the significances of Ben Carson’s story.

While money, state of the art facilities, books and computers are important, Ben Carson’s story (and messages) points to the value and love for education as being the key pieces in a child’s academic achievement and securing of an independent and productive life. This is assuming the instilling of other important values such as a work ethic and integrity as well. Once again while a two-parent home is ideal, it isn’t always a necessary circumstance for kids to go on to achieve success.

In closing, Ben Carson’s story points to the fact that schools alone can’t educate children, and that it requires collaboration with the parents. In his recent article entitled, How Can Parental Involvement in Schools Improve?, Michael J. Ryan argues that public education is a collective commitment between the school system and families where both have to do their part for a child’s success. In the end of his piece, he suggests that it is time to have all families sign a covenant, or contract with their respective schools, compelling them to do their part to help their child’s education as Ben Carson’s mother did for him.

The picture used in this post comes straight from the University of Michigan Medical School. There’s a corridor there in the vast medical school complex where the walls are lined with collages of pictures of every medical class going back to the early twentieth century. Sometimes during graduate school, I’d walk that corridor to access the medical school’s cafeteria around lunch time. I stumbled across Dr. Carson’s picture one day with his medical class. As you can see, he’s in his mid- to late-twenties or early-thirties and is wearing an “Afro”. I took this picture recently when I returned to the University of Michigan for homecoming weekend.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this post, you might also enjoy:

Whose job is it to teach Black History?
Are you Cooning? Thoughts on Black America’s new favorite racial slur, critical thought, and groupthink
A Black History Month reflection on Percy Julian
A Black History Month interview with Dr. Vernon Morris
A Black History Month look at West Indian Archie
A review of Marvel’s Black Panther

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. I’ve recently started a YouTube channel, so please visit me at Big Discussions76. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add my RSS feed to your feedreader. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Are You Trying To Balance Being A Parent And Studying? Here’s 3 Tips To Make It Easier

Two key focuses of my blog are Creating Ecosystems of Success and General Education. Many parents balance going back to school and parenting which can be a lot of work. The following contributed post gives tips to parents for simultaneously balancing both tasks and is entitled, Are You Trying To Balance Being A Parent And Studying? Here’s 3 Tips To Make It Easier.

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There are many reasons why parents decide to continue or even start, studying at the same time as raising a young family. They may have become parents at a young age and missed out on the chance to finish their education, or perhaps they took time out to go on a gap year or went straight into the workplace instead. Whatever the reason, it is possible to make a return to education and raise a family at the same time. It will be more difficult – after all, you have little people depending on you, but bare in mind that you are doing your best to be a good role model and improving your future job prospects. Here, we look at a few ways to make studying and parenting a lot more simple.

Photo credit

1) Think about online or distance learning

Sometimes, actually getting out to a college or university campus can be the most difficult thing about studying for a parent. If your children are not of school age, you need to look for reliable daycare, which can be extremely expensive. You also have to think about getting everyone ready and out of the door on time in the mornings, and let’s face it, with young kids, that is never the easiest thing to do. Lessons and deadlines are usually set in stone and have no leeway for flexibility. Online and distance courses, are not as rigid, and can often be done at your own speed, from the comfort of your own home – in your pyjamas if you like and sitting at your affordable reclaimed wood table. It also allows you to attend events at your children’s school and be at home for them when they need you without the worry of it affecting your grades or attendance.

2) Be prepared to study anywhere

When you’re studying and raising a family, the one thing you are most likely to struggle with is time. As parents, we seem to waste a lot of time, sitting around in our car while they are in ballet recitals or soccer coaching. When you are studying, those little pockets of time can be precious. Have a bag ready to take anywhere and everywhere with course books, printouts, flashcards and anything else that you need to do some spontaneous studying. You will be surprised at just how much you can get done!

3) Lose the guilt

Guilt is one thing that parents feel a lot of the time, and when you are trying to divide your precious time between your children and your education, it is easy to feel guilty. To do both effectively, you need to let that guilt go. Sometimes, you might have to put the TV on and leave the kids to amuse themselves. Sometimes, you might need to miss that show or that baseball game to meet a deadline. There will be times when you feel exhausted and have little patience left, but remember, you are doing this not only to benefit you but to benefit your children as well.

Whose job is it to teach Black History?

“Marcus Garvey had the idea back in the day, doing for self, keeping the way……..”

One of the principles of my blog is Creative Thought and a key focus is Education. I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while now, and with Black History Month here, the time has come to put pen to paper, as they say. It’s a sensitive topic, and it may upset some readers, but I think that it’s a conversation worth having and a question worth asking. If you disagree with me here, that’s okay and it’s actually a good thing. Please leave a respectful comment below this piece. With that out of the way, let’s jump in.

Whose job is it to teach Black History? One of my most vivid memories of high school is my mother, and I believe other black parents, writing a letter to the Principal of my high school about a Black History Month program which he may have cancelled during my brother’s senior year. Around that time, and probably since, there was the sentiment that there needed to be more black history taught in the United States’ schools.

I always pondered this myself, and I wondered if this job should fall to our schools which in some instances are very, very diverse. My thoughts always settled on time and practicality. While the descendants of African slaves (my ancestors) were critical in the inception and then the construction of the United States, is there enough time during an eight to nine-month school year to cover every aspect of African American history? After all, the United States is now comprised of several races, ethnic groups and cultures.

As I’m getting older, I’m becoming more of a Marcus Garvey-type in that I believe that we as black people can and should do for ourselves as much as possible, and not look to other groups as much. Thus we should be responsible for passing down our own history, or at least clarifying, correcting, and supplementing what’s taught in the schools. In addition to the practicality of time described above, I have two other reasons.

One is that other races and ethnic groups seem to take the passing on of their culture and history into their own hands. As discussed in my second vlogcast on my new Big Discussions YouTube channel, when I was postdoctoral scientist at the Wadsworth Center in Albany, NY, I was in a lab that was 95% Chinese. Likewise, my advisor and his wife were from mainland China, and their two children were being raised as first generation United States citizens. In casual talk my advisor’s wife shared with me that both of their children attended a Chinese school on the weekends.

That meant that they wanted their children to learn the intricacies of their culture and history above and beyond what they were learning in their respective school systems. Other groups seem to do the same thing: Jewish people, Arabic people, etc. I’ve observed that Arabic communities continue to retain their customs from countries like Pakistan, for example, even while their children are born here in the United States and are ‘westernized’.

This does of course bring to light the paradox that we African Americans face in that we don’t have a culture besides that which we were born into here in the United States. Some of us argue to this day that the United States isn’t our true home. Others feel that using the qualifier ‘African’ in front of American is an insult for us, as we have every right to be here. White Americans are also seldom referred to as ‘Euro’ Americans.

My final reason for saying that we’re responsible for our own history is accuracy. After all, who would know our history better than us? Just like in the media, I think that he or she who controls the historical narratives, controls perceptions, personal identities, self-esteem, etc. Images matter and this is why the movie Hidden Figures was big deal for example. As a black scientist myself, I’m very passionate about shinning the light on our historic black scientists such as Percy Julian, and astronauts Dr. Ronald E. McNair and Lieutenant Colonel Michael P. Anderson.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is one of the figures who is most synonymous with Black History Month. He is lionized and even romanticized these days and as we know, it wasn’t always that way. While we know that he was the figurehead of the Civil Rights Movement and that he opposed white racist elements in the south, what isn’t discussed is how he was perceived by other black people of his time in an open and transparent way.

A black elder from the “Baby Boomer” generation who grew up in the south, once shared with me that Dr. King had numerous black detractors as well, and there were in fact other black people who wanted to take his life. I was surprised to hear this revelation, as I’d never heard about it before. The same was true of Dr. King’s extramarital affairs which Dr. Michael Eric Dyson discussed in one of his books about Dr. King.

The point here is not to besmudge the great Dr. King, but instead to emphasize the importance of a balanced historical perspective – telling both the good and the bad. I suspect that generations from now, people will be unaware of Reverend Jesse Jackson’s disparaging comments about President Barrack Obama leading up to his historic election in 2008, and that they’ll only remember the picturesque scene of Reverend Jackson crying at Grant Park on election night 2017 shortly after Senator John McCain conceded.

I’m going to close by extending this world history. In my “Global Studies” courses back at Hutch-Tech High School in Buffalo, NY, I didn’t learn anything about “The Moors” – explorers and tradesmen from Africa who occupied Spain in the early 700s. I first heard about them from a friend from Buffalo who I’ll call “Kenny”, who was and is very, very passionate about African world history. We as African Americans probably could and should know more about mainland Africa beyond what we learn in class and see on the news and in the media – the good, the bad and the ugly.

When I look back at my youth, one woman comes to mind in terms of actively spreading black history beyond the jurisdiction of our schools. Back in my home city of Buffalo, NY, Ms. Eva Doyle was actually my very first science teacher in the second grade I believe. As I got older though I saw that she was very active and passionate about the teaching and spreading of black history. She became a fixture in our local black newspapers and in the community in general and continues her work today, setting an example for all of us.

These are just some of my thoughts on Black History Month, and I hope that I haven’t upset anyone. In a way it’s funny that it’s the shortest month of the year, but at the same time it’s something that we as black people should be learning throughout the year. In today’s digital age, we’re very fortunate that vast amounts of information are available online to us via a simple Google searches and via video platforms like YouTube. It wasn’t like this years ago.

The quote at the beginning of this piece is a lyric from the hip hop track “Black Star Line” by a group called “Brand Nubian” I listened to when I was a teen. It was from one of “Lord Jamar’s” verses. This track was based on Marcus Garvey. Back in the late 1980s and early 1990s as opposed to modern times, hip hop and rap music had educational, social and political messages, and I learned quite a bit of black history from it. The visual at the beginning of this piece is from the 36th Annual Martin Luther King Jr. Birthday Celebration hosted by the Washington Inter-Alumni Council of the United Negro College Fund., which is regularly supported by my Johnson C. Smith University Washington DC Alumni Chapter.

Thank you for taking the time to read this blog post. If you enjoyed this one, you might also enjoy:

Are you Cooning? Thoughts on Black America’s new favorite racial slur, critical thought, and groupthink
A Black History Month reflection on Percy Julian
A Black History Month interview with Dr. Vernon Morris part one
A Black History Month look at West Indian Archie
A review of Marvel’s Black Panther
A review of Hidden Figures
A review of All Eyez On Me

If you’ve found value here and think it would benefit others, please share it and/or leave a comment. I’ve recently started a YouTube channel, so please visit me at Big Discussions76. To receive all the most up to date content from the Big Words Blog Site, subscribe using the subscription box in the right-hand column in this post and throughout the site, or add my RSS feed to your feedreader. You can follow me on the Big Words Blog Site Facebook page, and Twitter at @BWArePowerful. Lastly, you can follow me on Instagram at @anwaryusef76. While my main areas of focus are Education, STEM and Financial Literacy, there are other blogs/sites I endorse which can be found on that particular page of my site.

Dr. Quinn Capers IV discusses Implicit Bias and the #DropAndGiveMe20 campaign

One of the focuses of my blog is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics), and my most central principle is “Creating Ecosystems of Success”. While we tend to think of clinical medicine as strictly a ‘healthcare’ profession, its foundations are actually rooted in the ‘Basic Sciences’. In late 2017, I discovered Dr. Quinn Capers IV on Twitter one day by chance and started following him when he was tweeting about medical education at the Ohio State University. The hashtag he used in most of his tweets, #BlackMenInMedicine, further piqued my curiosity.

Last year I had the honor of interviewing Dr. Capers about his path and #BlackMenInMedicine. To see our 2018 interview go to Dr. Quinn Capers, IV discusses his path, #BlackMenInMedicine, and the present landscape of medical education. Dr. Capers recently granted me the opportunity to interview him a second time. In this follow up interview we discuss the concept of ‘Implicit Bias’, why it’s important, and the hashtag, ‘#DropAndGiveMe20’. The images in this interview were graciously shared by Dr. Capers himself. Click on any of the images to enlarge them.

Anwar Dunbar: Hello, Dr. Capers and happy New Year. I want to thank you for the opportunity to interview you again. As the Dean of Admissions at the Ohio State University’s Medical School, your words are very, very valuable, especially for students aspiring to attend medical school. Before we get into ‘Implicit Bias’, the last time we spoke we spent quite a bit of time on the hashtag #BlackMenInMedicine. I now see you using a second hastag, #DropAndGiveMe20. Where did this hashtag and the whole push-ups piece come from? Did you start that?

Quinn Capers: The #DropAndGiveMe20 campaign is a great story. I’m a big fan of Ohio State University (OSU) Football. For years, while watching the games on television, I’ve had a fun routine of doing 10 push-ups every time they score a touchdown. I picked push-ups because they don’t require equipment or much physical space. They’re a good measure of overall upper body strength and they get your heart rate up. Mostly, I wanted to feel like I was exerting myself while the players were on the field exerting themselves. It’s just fun.

I’ve done it at sports bars and experienced both strange looks and strangers joining in! In November 2017, my wife recorded me doing this after an OSU touchdown and I thought it’d be cool to put it on Twitter to spark excitement among OSU football fans. I got a few responses, but the best one was from an interventional cardiologist at UCLA, Dr. William Suh (he is now a great Twitter friend or a “Tweep”), who said he could top that; and would do 20 for every UCLA Bruin touchdown. So he did 20, then when OSU scored another touchdown, I did 20.

AD: Ohio State Football. Yes, you all beat my Michigan Wolverines yet again (laughing).

QC: Well, we both had Twitter followers who are cardiologists and since heart doctors love promoting exercise, they joined the fun and challenged other cardiologists. I guess you could say that Dr. Suh and I are the “co-founders” if you must, but it has grown so fast and so many are responsible for spreading it that it really is a group effort now. It grew quickly to include other specialties, non-physicians, and even patients. In fact some of the most regular and awesome participants are patients; one a heart transplant survivor. They’re simply incredible.

It grew fast under the hashtag “#DropAndGiveMe20” and it’s now international with participants all over the world posting clips from places like the following: Sydney (Australia), London, and Lagos, Nigeria. We post daily and give each other positive feedback, hold each other accountable, and promote wellness and exercise. One of my main goals is to promote exercise as a way to improve heart health and to show that you don’t have to wait to go to a gym, since it can be hard to work a full day and plan to go to a gym afterwards. I’ll usually post clips of myself doing push-ups during my work day in the cardiac cath lab, in my office between meetings, or even in an auditorium after giving a lecture. Others have posted clips in unusual settings, like at dinner parties.

AD: Nice.

QC: I’ll tell you about two of my favorite clips. There’s a very famous female cardiologist who posted clips of herself doing push-ups at the airport terminal awaiting her flight. A prominent British cardiologist topped that by doing his on a moving walkway at London’s Heathrow Airport (not recommended, by the way)! We have great fun adding humorous wrinkles to it, like adding more and more people in a clip. I suppose I took it to new heights recently when I concluded a live simulcast lecture to a group of medical residents in Cameroon by asking them to do push-ups with me! They complied and we completed what might be the first, simultaneous, international push-up session!

I also take the opportunity to share my love and knowledge of jazz, hip-hop, and R & B/Funk music. My clips are always accompanied by a musical selection from my collection. I always credit and tag the musicians (if they have a Twitter handle), hoping to spark curiosity about certain hidden gems and send my Twitter followers “digging in the crates” to support the music. I was beyond thrilled when two different artists supplying the soundtrack to my push-ups responded to my tweet, the hip hop group “Digable Planets” and saxophone legend Branford Marsalis!

It’s great fun, and a very friendly Twitter community has grown around it. We now arrange to meet up at conventions (cardiology or otherwise) and do a “#DropAndGiveMe20!” Regarding the health benefits, doing push-ups can provide positive reinforcement in a relatively short period of time. Last November I could barely do 25 at one time, now I can max out at 43. Anyone is welcome to join the fun. If you can’t do 20, start with 1 or 2 push-ups! By the way, Dr. Dunbar, you and your readers are welcome to join anytime. Just record yourself, post it on Twitter with the hashtag “#DropAndGiveMe20” and tag your colleagues to get them involved.

AD: Okay, Dr. Capers. I haven’t done push-ups in a while, but now I may have to see if I can crank out 20 (laughing).

I noticed that after starting to follow you, ‘Implicit Bias’ became something you started addressing. How did this come about? What should the general public, and particularly those looking to get into medical school, understand about it?

QC: Implicit bias is a negative or positive attitude towards a person or group that occurs outside of our awareness, intention, or control. Although these biases occur outside of our awareness, they can influence behavior, possibly resulting in well-meaning people treating others differently based on race, gender, age, etc. I came across the concept as a cardiologist interested in racial healthcare disparities. Disparities have many causes, like social determinants of health, housing discrimination, unequal access to the best care, outright racism (explicit bias) of practitioners, structural bias in the healthcare system, etc.

I became intrigued with the notion of implicit or unconscious bias and its potential role in unequal treatment. Several studies have shown that a physician’s unconscious association of negative thoughts or words with a particular race or gender can be associated with therapeutic decisions that are harmful to persons in that group. For instance, one widely quoted paper had physicians take the computer-based implicit association test (IAT) that’s designed to uncover implicit associations or biases (free, available at implicit.harvard.edu) and then review case vignettes of a black or white male suffering from a heart attack.

Doctors were asked if they thought the symptoms of chest discomfort were indicative of a heart problem and if they’d treat the patient with a life-saving drug to terminate the heart attack. Physicians whose IAT showed “implicit white race preference” or an unconscious association of a white person’s face with good words (love, joy, warmth) and a black person’s face with bad words (danger, misery, trouble) were less likely to treat the black patient with the drug despite the black and white patients having identical presentations (1). It is important to note that this is not racism, which is a conscious, explicit bias. But implicit bias can potentially have life-and-death consequences in healthcare. While not all studies of implicit bias show an association with a doctor’s decision-making, enough do to cause alarm.

AD: That’s interesting.

QC: In addition to being a cardiologist I have the great privilege of serving as the Associate Dean for Admissions at the Ohio State University (OSU) College of Medicine, and I’m responsible for overseeing the recruitment, interview, and selection processes for our incoming medical students. When I reviewed a paper that showed that approximately 70% of a large group of physicians taking the IAT have implicit white race preference (2), I immediately pictured our medical school admissions committee and the fact that it is composed largely of physicians, and I had several questions: Do the physicians charged with the awesome responsibility of deciding who will become a doctor have implicit racial biases? If so, to what extent? If so, might it influence their decision-making and put black and Hispanic applicants at a disadvantage?

We set out to answer these questions and had our entire committee take the race IAT in 2012. Aggregate results revealed that a significant portion of the committee (between 50 and 70%) had an implicit white race preference. Next, Dr. Anthony Greenwald, implicit bias expert and one of the inventors of the IAT, led the committee in a discussion of implicit bias and how to reduce it. In the very next cycle we matriculated the most racially diverse class in the history of the college, suggesting that we are able to overcome implicit biases. This was the first paper to document the presence and extent of implicit racial bias in the medical school admissions process (3).

Our results indicated to us that we could have what we thought was a fair, objective process, on the surface, but that unconscious biases could put certain groups of candidates at a disadvantage. Since then we’ve had robust discussions about implicit bias and annual workshops on bias mitigation. I recently completed a training program leading to certification to moderate implicit bias workshops, and I do so twice a month. This goes beyond admissions and is open to the entire medical center. So far we have trained over 1,000 physicians, nurses, staff and students in bias mitigation strategies. It is a real passion and we are trying to make a difference.

AD: Thank you for that in depth explanation. Is there anything new at the Ohio State Medical School?

QC: We’re always tweaking the curriculum to help produce physicians who are ready to advance healthcare. We’re on the cusp of a new expansion with blueprints for a new hospital building and a health professions education building. And finally, we are continuing to leverage the fact that we have one of the most diverse medical student bodies in the country to enhance medical education and community outreach. In other words, we are continuing our forward progress.

Thank you for the opportunity to share some thoughts with you and your readers. Best wishes for a happy, healthy new year!

AD: Thank you, Dr. Capers. I look forward to talking again and trying the push-up challenge.

Thank you for taking the time to read this interview. If you’ve enjoyed this, you might also enjoy:

Dr. Quinn Capers, IV discusses his path, #BlackMenInMedicine, and the present landscape of medical education
The story of how I earned my STEM degree as a minority
How my HBCU led me to my STEM career
Researching your career revisited: Wisdom from a STEM professor at my HBCU
A look at STEM: What is Pharmacology?
A look at STEM: What is Toxicology?

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