Part 2: Trailblazers

Part 2: Trailblazers


I think the fact that Duke decided that it needed faculty of color, that it needed administrators of color, that it could be an institution, not just for North Carolina and for the South, but for the country. My name is Brenda Armstrong and I first arrived at Duke in 1966, in the undergraduate school and then came back for residency in 1975. You could see African-Americans across all of the schools. It was it was like “well this is how we’re going to run with this” and those things were sown by Terry Sanford’s vision, the people he brought in around him. His goal of making us a real powerhouse. In the early 1970s the institution was making real attempts to broaden the base of participation by people of color. I’m Dr. James R. Gavin III, I arrived on the campus of Duke University in August of 1973. The wards were not segregated when I went. I was not far behind a time when a great shift had occurred in how the hospital allocated patients. Give credit to the institution for creating the right tone at the top, because it was very clear from all of the senior level administrators that listen, we want to be an institution that is known for its excellence but also an institution that is known for its progressiveness and its sense of tolerance. Nan Keohane crystallized that vision with respect to how . . . what diversity meant and we had really really good people in the Medical School who are thinking about this. So we had the confluence of all these folks who saw this as our way in the Medical Center to just blow the doors open. Is it not uncomfortable at times, to try to prove yourself over and over again? Sure it is, but I’ve always looked at it as making you a bit stronger. My name is Heywood Brown and I arrived at Duke in October 2002. I knew I wanted to lead and the idea of being able to be put in a situation where people see that you can do it, is the best silencer to whatever they see that doesn’t, that shouldn’t count. But there were some really hurtful things that happened, and a lot of times it just had to do with the things that your classmates said to you, or that your faculty member would say to you. My name is Tamera Coyne-Beasley and I arrived at Duke in 1987. It really was the actions of Dr. Armstrong, Dr. Johnson and those faculty members who are african-american and present at that time, who really made a stand and said we need to do something to improve the community and actually even broaden the opportunities for young people to be here. Many institutions aspire to diversity but if they really looked internally, don’t have the will to do so. Duke is the place that comes to mind when we think about real effort and determination. My name is John Rich. I arrived at Duke in 1980. You know Duke was an extraordinary place to be. There had been a ground swell of people applying to and coming to Duke, largely because of the efforts of Brenda Armstrong. Brenda was really central because she was tremendously dedicated and very invested in our success. Well there was an incident even before my residency that is important for you to know about why I feel the way that I feel about equity for everybody. In our town we could not use the hospital. It was called Parkview Hospital. Even though my father was a physician, my uncle was a physician we couldn’t use the hospital. My mom, in her final pregnancy was the big pregnancy and my dad went to the hospital to say that my mom was going to need a c-section and could she please be delivered there, and they refused. She went into labor and they couldn’t get her to do to Duke. Duke had what was called colored wards, and they were afraid that she and/or the baby might be in jeopardy so they delivered her at home. And my brother – I’m going to have a hard time with this – my brother sustained a stroke because of it, and I was young enough to know that something was going on. That I couldn’t figure out why everybody was so worried, and why my mom was crying. He survived. He was was probably going to be the most brilliant of the three of us. That moment is why I’m a physician. It also was the defining moment for me about what disparities really were.

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