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Karen Morris-Priester, MD, Finds Special Meaning in Black History Month

Read about how she honors her ancestors’ legacies.

Karen Morris-Priester, MD

Karen Morris-Priester, MD, anesthesiologist and member of LVHN's Multicultural Professional Development Group (MPDG), reflects on Black History Month and this year’s theme, “African Americans and the Arts.” She was the organizer and first chairperson of the MDPG and now serves as the chair of the Advocacy Committee with the MPDG. She shares her story in honor of Black History Month.

Black History Month inspires research

Black History Month reminds me to research and amplify the legacies of my ancestors. Many of these stories of triumph, resilience, joy, pain and ingenuity have been obscured due to a combination of passive neglect or overt suppression. For example, I grew up in the Hill District of Pittsburgh, yet I only recently discovered the first paramedics in America were Black men from my neighborhood. I tell their story often and let people know that more information of the Freedom House Ambulance Company can be found in various documentaries and in the book “American Sirens: The Incredible Story of the Black Men Who Became America’s First Paramedics,” written by Kevin Hazzard.

Multicultural Professional Development Group (MPDG)

In 2020, I had the privilege of spearheading the establishment of the Multicultural Professional Development Group (MPDG). The creation of MPDG was a direct outcome of recommendations put forth by the Action Against Racism and Advancing Equity Council (AARAE), convened by LVHN President and CEO Brian A. Nester, DO, MBA, earlier that year. The primary objectives of MPDG encompass bolstering and maintaining diversity within our physician, advanced practice clinicians and trainee communities through dedicated support, training initiatives and advocacy. The overarching goal is to foster a more inclusive environment, recognizing that increased diversity is a key driver in reducing health disparities and enhancing overall health outcomes for our patients.

“Black History Month reminds me to research and amplify the legacies of my ancestors.”

African Americans and the arts, and a meaningful piece of art

Choosing between Ted Ellis’ “A Time to Heal,” portraying a bustling operating room with a Black physician seemingly seeking divine guidance, and Frank Morrison’s “Diva MDs,” featuring three African American female physicians contemplating a clipboard bearing the words “Each One, Teach One,” is a difficult decision. Both artworks resonate with my identity and profession. However, the latter not only underscores the significance of sisterhood but also serves as a poignant reminder to uphold my commitment to mentoring aspiring medical students. Additionally, I noticed the subtle shadows of what appears to be a jazz band marching along the bottom of the painting, which aptly aligns with the overall theme of Black History Month this year.

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