Pioneers in the fields of health and science honored in Black History Month display
Members of UNE’s Student National Dental Association (SNDA) were looking for a way to recognize Black History Month when they decided to construct a display honoring African-American trailblazers in the fields of health and science.
“It felt personal to honor some of the people who paved the way for the things that we want to do,” explained Brandon Barnett (Dental Medicine, ’20), president of SNDA. “We wanted to have at least one person represent each of the health professions offered here at the school.”
When Barnett and other members of the association started researching the project, they were not sure what they would find.
“We kind of cast a wide net just trying to find people who had stories that were interesting and relevant,” he said. “We found that there were actually a lot of people we could have used for the display.”
For John Contreras (Dental Medicine, ’20), the project turned into a history lesson.
“I learned about a lot of people who were brilliant and contributed a lot to their field,” he stated.
What struck Contreras the most was the way many of the pioneers in the display overcame hatred and discrimination. Many of them were children of former slaves.
“To actually be the first to graduate in a medical or dental school setting, with bigotry that we can't even fathom anymore, is amazing to me,” he said.
The story of Henrietta Lacks really stood out for Barnett. A sample of her cells taken without her permission were developed into the He-La cell line and have been used extensively in biomedical research.
“They have been called instrumental in years of research,” he commented.
“African-American Trailblazers in the Health Professions and Sciences” is now on display in Innovation Hall.