Diversity & Representation
OMH is highlighting the lives and careers of Black men and women who have made an impact in important fields, such as behavioral health, cancer, blood and heart disease, HIV/AIDS, maternal/child health, and sickle cell disease. Racial/ethnic diversity in the health care workforce has been correlated with the delivery of quality care to minority populations. Increasing underrepresented groups within the field of health care supports the diversity of values and beliefs of the entire population and heightens cultural awareness.
Visit the OMH and U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) Let’s Take Charge! campaign website to learn more about the importance of diversity in clinical trials that address health concerns disproportionately impacting racial and ethnic minority populations, like lupus.
Learn about the some of the legacies of Black men and women who have helped increase representation and shaped modern medicine.
Herbert W. Nickens, M.D. (1947-1999) was a noted psychiatrist and the first Director of the HHS Office of Minority Health.
- Nickens H. W. (1995). The role of race/ethnicity and social class in minority health status. Health Services Research, 30(1 Pt 2), 151–162.
- Nickens H. (1986). Report of the Secretary's Task Force on Black and Minority Health: A summary and a presentation of health data with regard to blacks. Journal of the National Medical Association, 78(6), 577–580.
- Corbie-Smith, G., Frank, E., & Nickens, H. (2000). The intersection of race, gender, and primary care: Results from the Women Physicians' Health Study. Journal of the National Medical Association, 92(10), 472–480.
- Nickens H. (1986). Health problems of minority groups: Public health's unfinished agenda. Public Health Reports, 101(3), 230–231.
- Nickens H. (1990). AIDS among Blacks in the 1990s. Journal of the National Medical Association, 82(4), 239–242.
- Nickens H. W. (1991). The health status of minority populations in the United States. The Western Journal of Medicine, 155(1), 27–32.
Henrietta Lacks (1920-1951) died of cervical cancer in 1951, but her cells have been reproduced billions of times for medical research. HeLa cells have been used to advance biomedical research in polio, cancer, and HIV/AIDS; their continued use has sparked discussions on medical ethics and race.
- Beskow L. M. (2016). Lessons from HeLa cells: The ethics and policy of biospecimens. Annual Review of Genomics and Human Genetics, 17, 395–417.
- Greely, H. T., & Cho, M. K. (2013). The Henrietta Lacks legacy grows. EMBO reports, 14(10), 849.
- Sodeke, S. O., & Powell, L. R. (2019). Paying tribute to Henrietta Lacks at Tuskegee University and at The Virginia Henrietta Lacks Commission, Richmond, Virginia. Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 30(4S), 1–11.
- Truog, R. D., Kesselheim, A. S., & Joffe, S. (2012). Paying patients for their tissue: The legacy of Henrietta Lacks. Science, 337(6090), 37–38.
- Boffa, D. J., Churchwell, K. B., & Maduka, R. C. (2021). Diversity, equity, and representativeness: Coming to terms with the Henrietta Lacks Act . Journal of the National Comprehensive Cancer Network (JNCCN), 19(8), 993–996.
James McCune Smith, M.D. (1813-1865) was the first Black man to earn a medical degree in 1837 and own a pharmacy. He was also the first Black male physician to publish in a medical journal.
- Morgan T. M. (2003). The education and medical practice of Dr. James McCune Smith (1813-1865), first black American to hold a medical degree. Journal of the National Medical Association, 95(7), 603–614.
- Lujan, H. L., & DiCarlo, S. E. (2019). First African American to hold a medical degree: brief history of James McCune Smith, abolitionist, educator, and physician . Advances in Physiology Education, 43(2), 134–139.
- Greene, B. (2021) America’s First Black Physician Sought to Heal a Nation’s Persistent Illness . Smithsonian Magazine.
Patricia Bath, M.D. (1942-2019) was a prominent ophthalmologist and the first Black woman to receive a patent for a medical invention.
Julian Herman Lewis, Ph.D. (1891-1989) wrote and published Biology of the Negro in 1942, an important text challenging racism in biology.
- Lewis, J. H. (1942). The Biology of the Negro . Chicago, Ill.: University of Chicago Press.
W.E.B. Du Bois, Ph.D. (1868-1963) published The Philadelphia Negro and The Souls of Black Folks, recognized as paving the way for research on racism & public health.
Miles Vandarhurst Lynk, M.D. (1871-1956) was the first Black man to publish a medical journal; founded the National Medical Association.
- Black Health Care Coalition
- The Black Men’s Health Project Survey
- Black Women’s Health Imperative
- BlackDoctor.org: Find a Culturally Sensitive Doctor
- The Center for Black Health & Equity
- Executive Order on Advancing Racial Equity and Support for Underserved Communities Through the Federal Government
- CDC Racial and Ethnic Approaches to Community Health (REACH) program
- CDC Vital Signs: African American Health
- Health Equity Report 2019-2020: Special Feature on Housing and Health Inequities (2020), report by the HRSA Office of Health Equity (OHE)
- NCI Cancer Disparities Research Partnership Program
- NIH UNITE Initiative