HISTORY OF THE FILM
Black Women in Medicine honors Black women doctors around the country who work diligently in all facets of medicine. By telling the stories of women who have persevered in medical fields, in part by overcoming barriers linked to race and gender, the film provides audiences with visions of success and fuel for self-actualization.Showcasing the most dynamic collection of stories of Black women in medicine ever assembled, this film is designed to inspire minority youth to enter the field of medicine despite challenges they may face.
Nearly 14% of people currently living in the U.S. identify as Black. By contrast, Blacks represent only 4.5% of the physician workforce under 40. The percentage of female minority doctors is even smaller. As minority doctors are more likely to provide care to minority, underserved, and disadvantaged communities, their under-representation is a problem with potentially fatal consequences. Barriers separating youth of color from careers in medicine must be addressed if we are to foster a medical workforce that better reflects the diversity of the society it serves.
Black Women in Medicine amplifies the stories of trailblazing women and brings them within reach of those who most need to hear them. As we follow these stories, we journey through America’s sociopolitical evolution concerning gender equality and cultural diversification of professions. These narratives tell stories of excellence and perseverance that engage, inspire and motivate, planting seeds of aspiration in the minds of future doctors.
As former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders says in the film, “You can’t be what you can’t see.” Black Women in Medicine replaces negative imagery – mainstream media’s false and debasing historical narrative regarding race, ethnicity, gender and character – with positive images of successful Black female doctors.
“We desperately need role models to come forward and share their stories, so that our children can consider careers in the health care professions,” says Dr. Claudia L. Thomas, the first Black female orthopedic surgeon. “We need to reach a point where a patient isn’t surprised to see a Black female doctor is their heart surgeon, or their primary care physician, or the expert consulted on their orthopedic surgery. Crystal Emery has made those role models come forward and heralds their success, so that a 10-year-old Black girl today can envision herself as a physician.”
“Black Women in Medicine in a very successful and meaningful susceptive way through narrative story and also through impactful historical reflection really takes us as a profession where we need to be.” – Dr. Marcella Nunez-Smith“When it comes to issues of representation and inclusion, I think this documentary does a good job of starting that conversation for people who aren’t privy to the issues yet.” – Robert Rock
In December 2010, Dr. Forrester Lee of the Yale School of Medicine invited Crystal R. Emery and several doctors to meet Dr. Doris Wethers, who, in 1952, became the third Black woman graduate of that institution. Crystal asked Dr. Wethers why she chose Yale, knowing the university as a “good ol’ boys” citadel. “When you graduate summa cum laude with degrees in biology and chemistry, where else would you go?” Dr. Wethers replied. She simply went where she knew she deserved to go.
Crystal suspected there were many Black women like this; women steadfastly pursuing their dreams despite a society that undervalues and underestimates what Black girls can become when they grow up.
Three weeks later, Crystal and her crew joined Dr. Lee and his colleagues in Washington, D.C., to meet the iconic Dr. Beatrix Hamburg, who, in 1948, became the first African American woman graduate of the Yale School of Medicine. During their meeting, Dr. Hamburg exhibited the same quiet confidence Crystal had observed in Dr. Wethers.
Later that afternoon, Crystal was introduced to cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Jennifer Ellis, one of only five Black women who currently held that title.
They then traveled to Delaware to meet Dr. Velma Scantlebury-White, the nation’s first Black female transplant surgeon. In her, Crystal again sensed the now-familiar confident grace and determined spirit demonstrated by the other women doctors she’d met. Each was unique, but they were connected by a similar thread of determination, resilience and strength – unified in their refusal to allow others to prevent them from achieving their full potential.
As these doctors talked about their lives, Crystal was inspired by how they confronted and overcame adversity. They seldom knew if the obstacles they encountered were influenced by racism, sexism or classism. While striving to finish medical school and residencies, they had little time to consider the nature of the forces trying to keep them down; they just knew they had to rise above the ideas and people threatening their dreams.
Crystal also wondered why no one had thought to learn more about these extraordinary women, and she was struck by inspiration: she had to make a film that told the world their stories. This is how the documentary Black Women in Medicine was conceived.
While the project started out as a film, it ultimately expanded to include a book and a national educational tour. Over the last five years, the Changing the Face of Medicine Initiative and then the Changing the Face of STEM Initiative has evolved from concept to global force of awakening – a multimedia showcase celebrating the triumph of the human spirit that rises above adversity and fights for a more just, healthy world for all.
This initiative is a multifaceted, customizable approach that designs programming to specifically address the unique needs of intermediate and high schools, as well as undergraduate colleges and universities, medical schools and other community settings.
The Changing Face of STEM national education and engagement initiative is a multifaceted, tailored approach to learning designed to encourage children to seek careers in STEM fields despite institutionalized lack of racial equity. The project offers a series of intensive hands-on workshops and customized programs. The curriculum draws content and inspiration from leaders in STEM fields with the goal to change the mindset of children from marginalized communities and their parents so that they can envision the wide-open possibilities for themselves.
Interested in bringing Changing the Face of STEM to your community? Please contact us to discuss partnership opportunities.
American Public Television (APT) has been the leading syndicator of high-quality, top-rated programming to the nation’s public television stations since 1961. For more than 10 years, APT has annually distributed one-third or more of the top 100 highest-rated public television titles in the U.S. Among its 250 new program titles per year, APT programs include prominent documentaries, performance, news and current affairs programs, dramas, how-to programs, children’s series and classic movies. America’s Test Kitchen From Cook’s Illustrated, Cook’s Country, AfroPoP, Rick Steves’ Europe, Front and Center, Doc Martin, Nightly Business Report, Midsomer Murders, A Place to Call Home, Lidia’s Kitchen, Globe Trekker, Simply Ming, and P. Allen Smith’s Garden Home are a sampling of APT’s programs, considered some of the most popular on public television. APT licenses programs internationally through its APT Worldwide service. Now in its 12th year, Create® TV — featuring the best of public television’s lifestyle programming — is distributed by American Public Television. APT also distributes WORLD™, public television’s premier news, science and documentary channel. To find out more about APT’s programs and services, visit APTOnline.org.
Funding for this program has been provided by:
Connecticut Health Foundation, Inc.
Fairfield County’s Community Foundation – Fund for Women and Girls
Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation
The Josiah Macy Jr. Foundation
Mark P. Smith
W.K. Kellogg Foundation
National Black Programming Consortium
The New York Women’s Foundation
JoAnn H. Price
Robert Wood Johnson Foundation
Roslyn Milstein Meyer and Jerome Meyer Foundation
Seymour L. Lustman Memorial Fund