Picture of Dr. Eaves

Black History Month with Dr. Dorcas Eaves

As we celebrate Black History Month, it’s essential to recognize the profound impact of individuals who have broken barriers and made significant contributions to their fields. Dr. Dorcas Eaves stands as a shining example of excellence and resilience in the medical profession. Through her journey, she has not only achieved remarkable success in her career but has also become a beacon of inspiration for aspiring African-American doctors. Today, we have the privilege of delving into Dr. Eaves’s remarkable story, exploring her triumphs, challenges, and insights into the intersection of medicine and Black history.

  1. Dr. Eaves, how has your journey been as an African American in the medical field, and are there any specific individuals who inspired or mentored you along the way?  My journey, as an African American Woman in the medical field has been one of perseverance, determination, and the philosophy: “failure is not an option.” I did not have any physical role models or mentors growing up. I watched a TV program, Dr. Ben Casey, who was my inspiration. Dr. Casey was a neurosurgeon who provided care to all patients regardless of their ability to pay. Retrospectively, all his patients were white as most of the African American who played in TV, at that time were usually the maids or butlers who did not receive medical care. During my residency and medical staff positions, I had to be constantly better than my colleagues to receive the same recognition. It only made me stronger and more determined to succeed.
  2. Dr. Eaves, considering Black History Month, are there particular medical pioneers or contributions from African Americans that you find especially inspiring or noteworthy? There are many African American pioneers in U.S. history but the most notable would be the following ten physicians. [1]   [1] AAMC News Julia Haskins Feb 25, 2018 Celebrating 10 African American medical pioneers.
    1. Rebecca Crumpler, MD (1831-1895) the first African American female physician. Initially a nurse and went on to obtain her medical degree at the New England Female Medical College in Boston.
    2. James McClune Smith, MD (1813-1865) the first African America male physician. His degree was obtained through the University of Glascow Medical School secondary to the racist admissions practices in US medical schools. He was also the first black person to own and operate a pharmacy in the US. His writings challenged the shoddy science including racist notions of African Americans
    3. Leonidas Harris Berry, MD (1902-1995) Dr. Berry faced racism in the workplace even though he was a renowned gastroenterologist. He fought for staff privileges at Micharl Reese Hospital in Chicago.
    4. Charles Richard Drew, MD (1904-1950) Dr Drew is known as the father of blood banking. He pioneered blood preservation techniques that led to thousands of life saving blood donations. His insights led to the first large-scaled blood banks. He directed the Blood for Britain project WW II. He also led the first Red Cross Blood Bank and created mobile blood donations. He also protested the segregation of blood by race an ultimately resigned from the organization.
    5. Louis Wade Sullivan, MD(b.1933) Dr Sullivan grew up in the racially segregated rural South in the 1930s. His inspiration was Dr Joseph Griffin the only black physician in 100 mile radius. He was the only black student in his class at Boston University School of Medicine which is also my Alma Mata. I had the pleasure of working with Dr Sullivan as an undergraduate student in his Hematology lab at Boston City Hospital. He did innovative research in the are of Sickle Cell Disease. He also served as Secretary of the US Department of Health and Human Services.
    6. Marilyn Hughes Gaston, MD (b.1939) As an intern at Philadelphia General Hospital 1964, she admitted a baby with a swollen, infected hand. The baby suffered from Sickle Cell disease, which had not occurred to Dr Gaston until suggested by her supervisor. She committed her career to learning about the disease and became the leading researcher on the disease. She became deputy branch chief of the Sickle Cell Disease branch of the National Institute of health and her groundbreaking work in this field led to Sickle Cell screening for newborns and the effectiveness of penicillin to prevent infection from sepsis. In 1990 She became the first black female physician appointed director of Health Resources and Service’s Bureau of primary Health Care and the second black woman to serve as assistant Surgeon General and achieve the rank of rear admiral in the US Public Health Service. She has been honored with every award that Public Health Service bestows.
    7. Herbert W. Nickens, MD (1947-1999) As the first director of the Office of Minority Health at the US Department of Health and Human Services in 1986 he set the foundation for promoting improved health among racial and ethnic minority populations across the country. When he left HHS, Nickens moved to the AAMC where he was the founding vice president of the AAMC Division of Community and Minority Programs. He led the project 3000 by 2000, which was launched in 1991 to achieve the goal of enrolling 3,00 students from underrepresented minority group in US medical school annually by the year 2000. He was instrumental in bridging the painful and persistent diversity gap in medicine.
    8. Patricia Era Bath, MD (b 1942) Dr Bath interned in New York City in the 1960s and was the first African American to complete an ophthalmology residency. She noticed that the rates of blindness and visual impairment were higher in the Harlem Hospital eye clinic at Columbia University which served mainly whites. She conducted a study that found that the rate of blindness among African Americans was twice that of whites. She co-founded the American Institute for the prevention of Blindness in 1076. She is also the first woman appointed chair of the ophthalmology at the University of California, Los Angeles David Geffen School of Medicine in 1983. She is also the first female physician to receive a medical patent in 1988 for the Laserphaco Probe used in cataract surgery.
    9. Alexa Irene Canady, MD (b.1950) Dr Canady was the first black neurosurgeon and later became the chief of neurosurgery at Children’s Hospital Michigan. Dr Canady worked for decades as a successful pediatric neurosurgeon and was to retire in 2001 when she continued her practice at Sacred Heart Hospital in Pensacola where there was a dearth of pediatric neurosurgeons. She has been lauded for her patient-centered approach to care.
    10. Regina Marcia Benjamin, MD, MBA (b 1956). Dr Benjamin may be best known as the 18th US Surgeon General during which she served as first chair of the National Prevention Council. The group of 17 federal agencies was responsible for developing the National Prevention Strategy, which outlined plans to improve health and well-being in the United States. Long before she was appointed “the nation’s doctor” in 2009, Benjamin worked extensively with rural communities in the South. She is the founder and CEO of Bayou Clinic in Bayou La Batre, Louisiana, which provides clinical care, social services, and health education to residents of the small Gulf Coast town. She helped rebuild the clinic several more times, including Hurricane Katrine in 2005 and fire 2006. Of the clinic, she said she hopes that she is “making a difference in my community by providing a clinic where patients can come and receive health care with dignity.”
  3. Dr. Eaves, how do you believe historical events, such as the Tuskegee Syphilis Study, have shaped the relationship between African Americans and the medical community, and what progress do you see in improving trust and equity in healthcare? The Tuskegee Syphilis Study spread more distrust within the African American community which still exist today. Many African American believe that they are provided sub-par medical care.  This belief is still upheld in numerus studies. Most scientific studies do not include African Americans as the main cohort groups. The main cohort groups are white, and the study conclusions are then used to manage all patients, regardless of ethnicity. African Americans are not routinely offered cardiac studies when they present with acute myocardial infarction or anticoagulated therapy when presenting with Cerebral Vascular Accidents (CVAs) to an Emergency Room.
  4. Dr. Eaves, can you share your thoughts on the significance of representation in the medical field, and how it impacts patient care and outcomes? There needs to be more diversity in the medical field. Mainly because patients can relate better to someone of their own ethnicity. Taboos and history play a significant role in doctor-patient relationships. When the doctor and patient are of the same ethnicity, there is an innate understanding of the culture, community, and belief systems which goes a long way in providing patient care and compliance.
  5. Dr. Eaves, in what ways do you integrate cultural competency and diversity awareness into your medical practice, particularly when dealing with patients from diverse backgrounds? The first step to integrating cultural competency and diversity is listening to the patient. Put yourself in their shoes and do not hold any preconceived ideas. Empathizing with their issues allows them to buy into the treatment plan and follow up.
  6. Dr. Eaves, are there specific health disparities or challenges within the African American community that you find particularly concerning, and what steps do you think should be taken to address them? There are many disparities within the African American community. Number 1 is the high infant mortality rate. The high proportion of diabetes, obesity, hypertension, high cholesterol levels, early death from colon cancer which requires earlier testing than recommend. Most of the medical issues are related to low income. Canned vegetables are cheaper than fresh but higher in sodium. Higher carbohydrate intake as opposed to protein/meat which cost more. Fast food intake is higher than prepared meals mainly due to cost. School food programs are limited in the inner-city schools. Educational resources are less available in the African American community than in schools in the majority white community.
  7. Dr. Eaves, how do you think the medical community can actively contribute to reducing healthcare disparities and promoting health equity, especially for minority populations? The first step is providing equal opportunity. For example, if a white person is seen for a cardiac condition, we refer that patient to a cardiologist. Do the same for African Americans and other minorities so that they have equal access to a higher level of care regardless of their insurance. Let them decide if they chose to follow through or have other priorities.
  8. Dr. Eaves, are there any initiatives or projects you’re involved in that aim to improve healthcare access or outcomes for underserved communities? I have become a magnate for healthcare issues. I received calls from family members, friends, and acquaintances on healthcare concerns and treatment plans. I speak with many physicians across the U.S., Europe, and the UK on the treatment plans for these individuals and discuss treatment options. I have made diagnoses and recommendations to these individuals to discuss with their physicians. The key to my success is listening to their medical histories and their symptoms and recommending treatment plans they then discuss with their physicians. In some cases, the obvious diagnosis was overlooked for a more esoteric diagnosis.
  9. Dr. Eaves, what advice would you give to aspiring African American individuals who are considering a career in medicine or healthcare? My advice to aspiring African American and other students is “if you really want to be a physician are you willing to make the necessary sacrifices to obtain your goal?” You must be able to deal with delayed gratification. Do not enter medicine for financial rewards but the need and desire to help people. I have mentored many students over my career toward obtaining a degree in medicine, and each one has become an[2] outstanding [2]physician. I am proud of their accomplishments. [2] Celebrating 10 African American medical Pioneers Julia Haskins AAMC News 25 February 2018.
  10. Dr. Eaves, in your opinion, how can society as a whole contribute to a more inclusive and equitable healthcare system? Leave racism, inequity, and inequality at the patient door. Go in with an open mind and listen to what your patient tells you. Weigh and balance treatment versus [3]income. If the patient only has limited income, will he/she purchase expensive medication or put food on the table. [3] Celebrating 10 African American medical Pioneers AAMC news Julia Haskins February 26, 2018.

Author: Dr. Eaves and Bree Maloney

The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.
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