Black History Month: Celebrating our differences in healthcare
At Northwell, we stand united together, celebrating our differences and respecting each other being Truly Ourselves. February is Black History Month, and we sat down with Kaye-Lani Brissett, Project Manager at the Katz Institute for Women’s Health and Bernard Robinson, MHA, Regional Director at the Center for Emergency Medical Services to learn about their background, leadership journey, inspirations and the importance of reigniting humanism in healthcare.
What is your ethnic background and family origin?
BERNARD: I am African American. I grew up in Brooklyn, NY. My family can be traced to Harlem, Mississippi and Virginia.
KAYE-LANI: I was born in Jamaica, Montego Bay and came to America when I was six years old to live with my father. Both parents were born and raised in Jamaica, Montego Bay.
When did you know wanted to work in healthcare?
BERNARD: I have always been drawn to the medical field. My father is a retired FDNY EMS Lieutenant. I remember him telling me stories of operating at the emergency scene. I knew then that I wanted to do the same.
KAYE-LANI: Growing up I was surrounded by family members working in the healthcare field. Through their influence I knew I wanted to be in healthcare as well. Although I thought nursing was my route, I still have a passion to help and care for others. I soon discovered the option of obtaining my Masters in Health Administration and having the option to help and care for people.
What’s the best part of your job?
BERNARD: For me, the best part is being able to affect change that impacts the entire organization. When I was a paramedic, my decisions would impact one patient at a time. As a director, I’m able to develop polices, and make decisions that will impact every one of our EMTs, paramedics and the patients.
KAYE-LANI: The best part of my job is that I have the pleasure of being a part of a faith-based initiative called Bridging Communities of Faith and Health. This enables me to practice my passion for helping clergy. leaders by coordinating educational programs, lectures and training for their congregations and surrounding community.
What do you think about when you hear “Black History Month”?
BERNARD: It makes me reflect on the contributions that black people have made to this country. It’s a chance for all Americans to celebrate and remember what black people have been able to accomplish and contribute, in spite of the circumstances we’ve faced.
KAYE-LANI: When I think about “Black History Month” I think about the triumphs, resiliency and people putting their life on the line to enable change for their community and country. I think about change makers and like-minded people coming together and hearing the stories of people who have paved the way for the people.
Is there a specific leader from history and/or present day that inspires you?
BERNARD: Rev. Jesse Jackson is an inspiration to me. I was a teenager when he ran for President and I remember how he would encourage everyone, young and old, when he spoke. He inspired me to believe, “I am somebody.” My current day inspiration is Robert F. Smith. For a black man to return to a historically black college/university and wipe out the debt of the graduating class stands as a reminder of how far we’ve come.
KAYE-LANI: There are quite a few inspiring and fearless leaders that I look up to, especially Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Ella Baker and Maya Angelou.
Why, more than ever, do we need to reignite humanism in healthcare?
BERNARD: It is important that we not only conduct business but that we are an active part of the communities we serve. My department has been establishing relationships in many communities through various projects. We have been operating as an Explorers Post in Hempstead Village for eight years, helping to introduce high school students to the world of EMS through training and mentoring by our EMTs and paramedics. We just started a second program at Lenox Hill Hospital and a third will be starting in Queens. We also hold food and clothing drives and other great community-based projects, such as our Packages of Hope initiative where our staff hands out care packages to homeless men and women who they encounter while working. We have great relationships with the communities we serve, and that’s what healthcare should be about.
KAYE-LANI: Reigniting humanism in healthcare is essential because human beings are at the core of everything healthcare related. It is imperative that the people we care for and employ are protected. As Ella Baker said “Give light and people will find the way.” At the Katz Institute for Women’s Health I do this by coordinating educational lectures and trainings for houses of worships to educate and empower them to make healthy lifestyle choices.
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