February 14, 2022

Celebrating Black History Month 2022

Written by

Black History Month is a dedicated time to celebrate and honor the extraordinary contributions of Black/African American individuals in American history.

Against the odds of racism, discrimination, and prejudice, Black/African American individuals have produced some of the most-used modern inventions, well-known medical procedures, and record-breaking firsts in sports, as well as discovered breakthrough scientific findings, contributed to business growth, government policy, reform, the arts, and so much more.

February is a time to honor these remarkable achievements, while also serving as a time to reflect on an inequitable past. As I have said before, we should let our history inform us but not define us. History helps us understand where change is necessary in the present moment.

The theme of Black History Month 2022 is Black Health and Wellness. This theme comes well-timed—at the intersection of a recent COVID-19 surge, frontline workers continuing to labor in the trenches, and a national knowledge of COVID's disproportionate impact on racial minorities.

Racial and socioeconomic disparities for health and health care have existed in the U.S. for some time. In the southeast, we have seen these inequities firsthand. UAB physicians and researchers have been exploring disparities within our community for years, seeking solutions to barriers of access and prevention.

Right now, the most critical issue in our clinical environments is COVID-19. But even without a pandemic to confront, our health care needs in Alabama and Birmingham are extensive. Patients across the State seek care at UAB for chronic health conditions and co-morbidities, such as diabetes, kidney disease, stroke, heart disease, and cancer. There are many reasons why disparities exist, including unequal access to primary care, housing, education, and healthy food options.

Now, COVID has shone a light on disparities with its disproportionate impact on people of color. These disparities have been spotlighted in a way that can no longer be overlooked or disregarded.

One of the core principles of my vision has always been to expand our patient care beyond UAB's hospital walls, eradicating chronic health disparities in our region and increasing the well-being of our communities. There is a need for more resources to treat our communities with quality care that produces quality outcomes.

UAB is growing progressively in Birmingham and at each UAB Medicine regional campus, including those in rural areas as well as the medical training campuses in Huntsville, Montgomery, and Tuscaloosa. Our work on chronic conditions and community health is leading the way.

Many of UAB's programs actively engage with underserved communities by offering access to healthy lifestyles while increasing resources and education of disease.

For example, Live HealthSmart Alabama engages with several communities around Birmingham to determine needs. It then brings healthy living essentials to those communities, such as installing street lamps, building sidewalks, and visiting with the Mobile Market of fresh, healthy produce.

Likewise, the Office of Community Outreach and Engagement at the O'Neal Comprehensive Cancer Center at UAB collaborates with health care providers, administrators, policymakers, and community-based nonprofit agencies to reach underserved communities. Their goal is to deliver messages of cancer prevention, detection, and healthy living.

Too, because of UAB's programs and leadership in rural health, health care options have expanded into some of Alabama's cities and small towns that have never had access to specialty doctors.

As we work to be known as the leading, premier academic medical center for treating health disparities and related specialties, and as the COVID-19 numbers begin to dissipate, let us not lose momentum in our work. I hope Black History Month will serve as a reminder to all of us across the health system to continue building trust with our patients, continue our work in diverse communities, and influence growth and prevention across our cities all year long.