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A Marley Monday in Medical School


Did you know that Bob Marley would have turned 78 this week? Unfortunately, cancer cut his life short at 36.

When I started dreadlocks about twenty years ago, people often compared me to the Marleys. They said I looked like one of his sons. I see a man in my current neighborhood who calls me Bob whenever our paths cross.

On Monday, Bob Marley’s birthday, I arrived just before 8:00 AM at a lecture hall full of semester one students. With my hair hidden beneath a hat, I sat in a cushioned seat near the front row, observed, and wrote down some ideas. Two colleagues from the Basic Sciences department outlined the curriculum from the stage.

The students’ eyes widened, and their heads nodded. Orientation jitters transferred from one seat to the next and stirred a mixture of nervousness and excitement.

After about twenty minutes, a physician greeted the students from the podium in a white coat. He made connections between the foundational materials and the practice of medicine. The doctor emphasized the importance of acquiring knowledge now to meet the health needs of people in the future.

Did you know that the average medical doctor receives seven years of education and training before joining a hospital's staff? This timeline includes four years of pre-clinical and clinical classes and three years in a residency program. The opening presenter indicated that if you want to specialize in an area of medicine, the seven-year timeline expands.

Despite qualifications and experiences, doctors will encounter patients such as Bob Marley. Due to religious, spiritual, or socio-political beliefs, they will reject a diagnosis and seek alternative treatments for lethal diseases. Some will thrive and outlive predictions, and others will succumb to illnesses.

Waiting for my turn to speak, I thought about the symbolism in the orientation. The first medical doctor to transfer knowledge to a new cohort happened to be a Black male. Following his introduction, I had the responsibility and honor of delivering the opening lecture.

In an interactive and informative format, I shared active reading strategies with the physicians in training.

Many of our students come from the United States and Canada. In their communities, the chances of encountering a substantial number of Black males with doctoral degrees are slim. Their first experiences in a medical education classroom illustrated the importance of diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility in healthcare.

Many may have missed the hidden curriculum in orientation, but I caught it in writing.

Carter G. Woodson established Negro History Week because he recognized a problem. After noting how textbooks and teachers ignored Black history, he wanted to ensure our stories of tribulations and victories received credit. So he created the Journal of Negro History, which later became the Journal of African American History.

Woodson's movement evolved from one week of acknowledgments to Black History Month celebrations and quarterly publications.

An older gentleman with a gray beard sat in the front row of Monday's lecture. Something about him reflected a level of maturity that I didn't see in other students. His attention to my every move and word indicated focus.

After my lecture, he approached the stage. I bent down to listen to him at eye level.

He said, “I see the red, black, and green pin on your jacket. What's that about?" I told him about the flag’s significance as a symbol of Pan-Africanism.

I imagined he envisioned historical figures such as Bob Marley and Carter G. Woodson when he listened to my explanation.

He replied, “Well, what do you do that speaks to those values?” I told him about my practices of capoeira, the teachings I share with my children, and writing projects.

My response led to a brief conversation about travels in Africa, involvement with institutions, and birthplaces. He talked about a Pan-African organization in Ghana and his roots in Compton, California. At the end of our exchange, I offered to meet with him in the coming weeks.

Perhaps, there will be opportunities to collaborate on future projects in Ghana and the US.

Every day is a blessing for us to make Black history. Students and professionals can contribute valuable services and products to our communities.

We must remember Bob Marley’s call, “Get up, Stand up, Stand up for your right,” and work to curtail injustices and create lives that fill us with joy.

Some of us have musical gifts like Bob Marley or talents to write like Carter G. Woodson. If conservatives eliminate Black history curricula from schools, know that our lives and contributions will continue to matter. We must use what we have to teach others outside of formal education environments.

Have a productive weekend, and watch this video capture of last month’s talk about the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.



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