• By Deb Balzer

Inspiration and meaning of Black History Month for Mayo Clinic Staff

February 16, 2022

It began as a week in February in 1926 and coincided with the birthdays of Abraham Lincoln and Frederick Douglass. Today, the White House describes Black History Month as "both a celebration and a powerful reminder that Black history is American history."

But what does the month mean personally to people today? Watch as two Mayo Clinic staff members share what inspires them and what this month means to them.

Watch: Mayo Clinic staff members share what inspires them and meaning of Black History Month.

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video is available in the downloads at the bottom of the post. Please courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network. Read the script.

"My name is Keith Jones. My role here at Mayo Clinic is as a wellness specialist. I work in the joy and well-being space. It means I get to come in every single day to Mayo Clinic and support colleagues who are all here for one reason, and that is to support the needs of the patient."

"My name is Yerronda Lewis. My role here at Mayo Clinic is a supervisor for radiology administrative support. I get to come in daily or virtually and share with my team some inspiration on helping them get their work done so that we make sure that our patients' needs are met."

Personal meaning

"For me, it really helps to have a deep understanding about the contributions of African Americans and those people who have paved the way for all the opportunities that I have and other people in my generation ― not just African Americans, but people of African descent. It means quite a deal for me. I think that I wouldn't be here without the contributions that they made," says Jones.

"Black History Month to me is our season to shine. It's when we get to share our history not only with one another but with the world ― and sharing things that we have learned and things that we are doing in hopes of inspiring those that come behind us," adds Lewis.

Inspirations

"Vivien Thomas started out as a laboratory janitor at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee," says Jones. "He was asked to come in the lab and help this leading surgeon at the time. It didn't take long for that surgeon to really get an idea that Vivien was gifted, and, so, he became a pioneer in cardiac surgery."

"Dorothy Height. She is hailed as the godmother of the women's civil rights movement," says Lewis. "She used her education in social work background to inspire our nation for women's social rights."

The future

Jones says his hope for the future is more than a vision. "I really want us to be part of creating an equitable and inclusive society. I want to make that kind of impact not only here at Mayo Clinic, but in the community that surrounds Mayo Clinic and in the world."


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