Dr. Nefertari D. Esemuede
(OBGYN, Rockledge, FL)
As a child, Dr. Nefertari D. Esemuede wanted to be a veterinarian, but ultimately pursued medicine at her father’s urging, settling to care for humans rather than animals. A native of Trinidad, Dr. Esemuede immigrated to the U.S. to attend Dartmouth College in New Hampshire where she studied pre-med and later went to medical school at the University of Washington in St. Louis, Missouri.
During her rotations in St. Louis, while delivering the second baby of a set of triplets, she realized she could combine her love for surgery and developing long-term relationships with patients by becoming an OBGYN. “It was just a clear fit. Luckily for me, I did not like anything else,” she says.
After a stint in Pennsylvania, her longing to return to a warmer climate brought her and her husband, a vascular surgeon, to Florida in 2011. They both began working at the hospital in Rockledge, which became Steward’s Rockledge Regional Medical Center in 2017 – and have been there ever since.
Reflecting on her experience as a Black female physician, Dr. Esemuede says, “You see some of your African American or minority patients are concerned coming into a medical environment because of a very, very long history of medical distrust here in America. I tend to open up even more to make sure that they feel comfortable with their choices. We’ve come a long way, but there’s still a long way to go.”
She’s hoping to set an example for future generations: “I’ve even had some patients come in and tell me that they’re thinking about medicine now, because this is the first time they’ve ever seen a Black female doctor.”
Dr. Papa K. Badoe
(Internal Medicine, Taunton, MA)
For Dr. Papa K. Badoe, medicine is in his DNA — his father and uncle were physicians in Ghana. In fact, his uncle was instrumental in setting up the country’s first medical school following its independence from the United Kingdom.
Born in Scotland, Dr. Badoe completed his medical training in Ghana before attending Brown University in Rhode Island to complete his residency. After working in Rhode Island and across Massachusetts, he joined Steward in 2019. Having cared for a variety of patients over his three decade-plus career, Dr. Badoe says medicine is both a science and an art: “If you don’t understand those human aspects of the patients you’re dealing with, you won’t be able to heal them.”
As we celebrate Black History Month, Dr. Badoe says it’s fitting that we remember all the contributions Black people have made to make our country what it is. He also reflected on the recent renewed spotlight on systemic racism and inequality, adding that “A lot of people see negativity in all the conversations we’ve had recently, but I think that those conversations were a long time coming. The unique thing about America is that we’re having those conversations. I’ve lived in other countries, they have the same problem, but they don’t talk about it. The first step to solving these issues is talking about them – it’s rough and its uncomfortable, but that’s the first step in solving whatever differences there are.”
(Emergency Medicine, Tempe, AZ)
When Christopher Hinson, MD, a Steward Medical Group emergency medicine specialist at Tempe St. Luke’s Hospital in Tempe, Arizona, reflects on his career, he points to two people who were major influences: his late mother, Willa Mae Hinson, and Leonidas Berry, MD, a prominent gastroenterologist who was also active in civil rights.
Born in Greenville, Alabama, Dr. Hinson moved to Chicago, Illinois, as an infant. It was there that his mother was a trailblazer in her own career, working as one of the first Black charge nurses at Cook County Hospital, always sharp in her pristine uniform. She would bring her son to the hospital frequently.
“That’s where my interest in medicine started,” Dr. Hinson said.
Following his graduation from Fisk University, a historically Black college in Nashville, Tennessee, he was accepted at Meharry Medical College School of Medicine, also in Nashville. At the time, Meharry trained more than half off of the Black physicians in the country, he said. Dr. Hinson later completed his Internal Medicine residency at Cook County Hospital in the 1970s. Dr. Berry was his first attending physician.
“He was quiet and reserved,” Dr. Hinson said of Dr. Berry. “There was just a presence about him, even when we were making rounds on the floors.”
Dr. Berry began his own residency at Cook County Hospital in 1931 and became the first Black intern at the hospital. He completed his residency in 1935 in Internal Medicine and Gastroenterology. Though by the late 1950s he was known as one of the most distinguished gastroenterologists in the world, Dr. Berry, time and again, was deemed “not qualified”* to be named an attending physician at Michael Reese Hospital in Chicago although he had taught there for many years. He credited the civil rights movement in persevering, and in 1963 was named to the hospital’s attending staff. His accomplishments include the development of the Eder-Berry gastrobiopsy-scope in 1955, the first direct-vision suction instrument used for taking tissue samples during gastroscopic examinations. He also conducted numerous groundbreaking studies in gastroenterology and endoscopy. Dr. Berry was also one of the first Black doctors to be admitted to the American Medical Association.
Through Dr. Berry, Dr. Hinson was introduced to community service, and he served as the medical director for two of the largest narcotic addiction clinics in Chicago. He also enjoyed teaching and was invited by Dr. Quentin Young – a champion of civil rights and public health reform who also served as Chairman of Medicine at Cook County Hospital – to help teach Emergency Department nurse practitioners at the hospital.
“I became an attending at Cook County in the Emergency Department, and I haven’t looked back since then,” Dr. Hinson said. “I really enjoy the knowledge and trying to dispense it to others.”
Throughout his career he has also worked within his communities to create awareness about the risk factors of medical conditions like hypertension and diabetes. Though receiving treatment for high blood pressure and exercising regularly, Dr. Hinson had a stroke in 2019. He has fully recovered, and the experience has opened his eyes wider to his patients’ journeys.
“I have so much more empathy for patients now,” he said.
Despite his long ties to Chicago, in 1988 he and his wife, Yavonne, moved to Arizona, drawn by its warmer climate. While his career was shaped in many ways by the influences of such prominent physicians as Dr. Berry and Dr. Young, it all started at home.
“My mother inspired me,” he said. “She always said: ‘You do all you can do, or you do nothing at all.’”
*Leonidas Berry Papers, Chicago Public Library biographical note.
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