Heritage College hosts panel during Black Alumni Reunion

On Sept. 16, a panel session with physicians hosted by the Heritage College and part of Ohio University’s Black Alumni Reunion opened with  a powerful statement delivered by Chynna Smith, D.O. (‘22), the moderator of the panel,  “The bottom line is being Black in America is bad for your health.” This statement set the tone for what was a frank discussion about racism, discrimination and health disparities in medicine. 

Panelists included Harold C. Thompson, D.O., the first African American Heritage College faculty member and longtime pillar of the medical community, Gregory Hill, D.O. (‘86), an orthopedic surgeon in Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio and president of the American Osteopathic Academy of Orthopedics, Timothy Pringle, M.D., founder of Core Vascular Services in Carrollton, Texas and Robin Newburn, D.O. (‘93),  an assistant clinical professor on the Dublin campus.  

Topics touched on  the disparities of being Black in America, how to aid those stricken with poverty and the systemic barriers that Black physicians face in health care.   

Newburn discussed her experience as a family doctor, referring to family doctors as the “quarterbacks of the team.” She emphasized the importance of representation, as someone who had looked around the room at her previous educational institutions and realized she was the only one who looked like her. 

“There are times along the way when you can become discouraged, thinking, what am I doing here? Am I even supposed to be here? Because there are times when I'm treated like I'm not supposed to be here. But yet you soldier on.” 

Pringle brought up that people of color now hold more leadership and executive level positions in medicine and research. He reinforced the idea that knowledge is the key to anything an individual can achieve in their lifetime and in the fight back against prejudices that still arise. 

“We continue all of the education to our people so that they can make better decisions for themselves,” said Pringle. “Going to the library is free. Educate yourself because knowledge is power.”  

During the panel, Thompson discussed his experience coming to Athens after training in New York and how things have evolved since his time as a student, from the new buildings to the growth in medical specialties and subspecialties. He also gave some advice to the prospective doctors in the room. 

“Most people don't care how much you know until they know how much you care.” 

Finally,  Hill talked about his passion to empower  future generations of black doctors, a sentiment shared by all panelists. He reminded the audience that part of health promotion is empowering communities to take care of themselves, so that they’re able to help others down the line. 

“A lot of times our communities don't listen, but we still need to give the message,” said Hill. “We have to do what we're supposed to do.” 

The panel was one of several Black Alumni Reunion events hosted by the Heritage College and was followed by a networking event at a local establishment. 

October 4, 2022
Staff reports