Black-owned health and fitness entrepreneurs and health specialists been transforming industries for the better as long as they have existed. As far back as Dr. James McCune Smith and Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler in the 19th century, Black Americans have made vital contributions to public health, medical research, health business, and health education, despite arduous and discriminatory circumstances that have repeatedly intended to thwart their efforts and advances.
This article celebrates seven contemporary Black professionals working toward health equity for Black people across the US and the world.
Camesha L. Jones
Camesha L. Jones, LCSW is the founder and executive director of the Sista Afya Community Center, a social enterprise that provides low-cost mental health care to Black women in Chicago. She is a licensed clinical social worker and community leader in mental wellness who focuses on the intersection of culture, community, and social justice.
She also founded Sista Afya Community Care NFP, a nonprofit that offers free mental health care and education to women facing barriers to care. Her work has been featured in various media outlets and she believes in making mental health care more affordable and accessible for diverse cultural backgrounds by focusing on the overall well-being of the individual.
Dr. Noha Aboelata
Dr. Noha Aboelata, is the founding CEO of Roots Community Health Center, where she has pioneered the delivery of a community-based, community-driven, and community-empowering model of health and wellness. She is also a board member of the Alameda Alliance for Health. She has devoted her professional life to eliminating health disparities and improving the health of marginalized communities
Dr. Aboelata, who was raised in Oakland, California, returned to Alameda County after completing medical school in order to address health disparities among African American residents and the root cause of poverty. She founded Roots Community Health Center (Roots) in 2008 to provide comprehensive healthcare to those who lack access to traditional support systems and safety net services, primarily African American men re-entering society from prison, in order to aid in their journey towards self-sufficiency. The center has since expanded to serve women and children and offers primary care, navigation services, and employment opportunities to individuals and families in Alameda and Santa Clara counties.
Roots has over 10,000 active clients, 89% of whom are African American and evenly split between men and women, largely Medi-Cal recipients. The Roots’ holistic approach is enhancing accessibility and consistency of care and enabling Dr. Aboelata and her colleagues to connect patients to a range of resources that support their health, stability, and overall wellness.
Dr. Noha Aboelata is a James Irvine Foundation Leadership Awards recipient, which recognizes leaders whose innovative solutions to critical state challenges improve people’s lives, create opportunity, and contribute to a better California.
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Tamara Melton, MS, RDN, CPHIMS, is the founder of Diversify Dietetics, a 501(c)3 non-profit organization whose mission is to increase the racial and ethnic diversity in the field of nutrition by empowering nutrition leaders of color. Diversify Dietetics provides support and workforce development programs to underrepresented students and young professionals of color in the field of dietetics.
Melton is a registered dietitian and nutrition educator with over 15 years of experience in creating educational content and programs for organizations. She owns a company called TSM Nutrition Consultants, where she helps organizations create evidence-based nutrition and health education content for consumers. Tamara has a lot of media experience and has been featured in many publications, including NPR and CNN. She has also written articles for magazines like Self and Health.
Tamara is passionate about supporting diverse students and was the recipient of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics’ Excellence in Diversity and Inclusion National award in 2019.
Photo from: https://www.diversifydietetics.org/about
Angela Doyinsola Aina
Angela Doyinsola Aina, MPH is the co-founder and executive director of the Black Mamas Matter Alliance (BMMA), “a Black women-led cross-sectoral alliance that centers Black mamas and birthing people to advocate, drive research, build power, and shift culture for Black maternal health, rights, and justice.”
BMMA is an organization that brings together professionals and community groups to promote holistic maternity care and advocate for policy and systems change.
Angela Doyinsola Aina has over 14 years of experience in public health, including working as a Public Health Analyst and Health Communications Specialist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Angela holds a Master of Public Health degree and a Bachelor of Science degree, and her expertise and perspectives on Black Maternal Health have been featured in various media outlets such as Huffington Post, The Atlantic, the Root and HLN/CNN.
Aina was recognized as a 2020 WebMD Health Hero and highlighted as an advocate for Black Maternal Health in Time Magazine. She is passionate about working towards the self-determination of women of African descent, eliminating violence against women, promoting Black and African women’s rights and leadership, and finding womanist solutions to social and economic injustices.
Photo from: https://blackmamasmatter.org/about/
Joel Bervell is best known as the “Medical Mythbuster” whose content has repeatedly gone viral on TikTok and Instagram (@joelbervell). He reveals bias and racism in the medical education field, including how widely accepted techniques for diagnoses make it less likely for Black people to get diagnosed with serious health issues.
Joel is a graduate of Yale University and Boston University, where he studied Molecular Cellular Developmental Biology and Medical Science. He has worked as a clinical research assistant, and served as an elected member of Yale student government and the Medical Student Council President at Washington State University.
He is also the founder of Coug Health Academic Mentoring Program (CHAMP) and the Medical Mythbuster on social media platforms, where he has over 760,000+ followers and 120 million+ impressions. He has spoken at various organizations, including the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and has been featured on Good Morning America, NPR, Yahoo News, and WebMD. He is currently involved in various initiatives including the White House Office of Public Engagement’s Healthcare Leaders in Social Media Roundtable, the Council for Responsible Social Media, and the World Health Organization’s Digital Communications Team.
He has been recognized by various organizations, including TikTok and the Smithsonian Channel, and was named as one of the National Minority Quality Forum’s 40 Under 40 Leaders in Minority Health. He is also the co-founder of Hugs for, a non-profit that empowers high school students.
Photo from: http://joelbervell.com/
Dr. Martha Dawson
Dr. Martha A. Dawson, DNP, RN, FACHE, is an Associate Professor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) School of Nursing, and is also the current president of the National Black Nurses’ Association. She has earned multiple degrees in nursing, including a Doctor of Nursing Practice from Case Western Reserve University.
Dr. Dawson’s work as a translational scientist focuses on administrative systematology, career progression, and addressing organizational injustices and barriers in the field of nursing. She is a co-convenor of the 2020 National Black Coalition Against COVID, and a co-lead on the 2020 National Commission on Racism in Nursing, which aims to improve the image and healing within the nursing profession for Black and Brown nurses.
Dr. Dawson has served in senior level positions and managed her own healthcare consultant business. She is a Fellow in the American College of Healthcare Executives, Robert Wood Johnson Nurse Executive Fellow, and a Johnson & Johnson Wharton Nurse Administrative Fellow alumna. She has received numerous grants, and in 2004, was recognized as a Distinguished Citizen of Louisville, Kentucky. She has published in various books, journals, newsletters, and podcasts. She was also the inaugural director of Nursing and Health Systems Leadership tracks UABSON, which was ranked #1 in the US for 12 years by US News & World Report. She was recently featured on Good Morning America where she talked about forging space and respect for Black nurses, and strengthening STEM programs in predominantly Black schools.
Image from: https://scholars.uab.edu/display/madawson
Dr. Andrea Hayes
Dr. Andrea A. Hayes, is an American surgeon who was the first African American female pediatric surgeon board-certified in the United States. She was also the first pediatric surgeon to perform a high-risk, life-saving procedure in children with a rare form of cancer and developed the first orthotropic xenograft model of metastatic Ewing’s sarcoma.
Dixon is currently the Chairwoman of Surgery at Howard University Hospital and has been honored with various awards and recognition for her work. She was appointed by President Donald Trump to sit on the National Cancer Advisory Board, named to American Pediatric Surgical Association’s board of directors, and elected President of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she was also recognized by the Triangle Business Journal as one of its 2020 Health Care Heroes.
This article highlights seven Black health professionals who are working hard in their respective fields toward a more equitable society where Black folks have access to timely, affirming, and high-quality healthcare and wellness-related services.
This list calls attention to only seven of these professionals, but there are thousands more who are actively making people’s lives better in their communities and beyond.
Today, we encourage you to reach out and support these health professionals, amplifying their efforts and their causes.