Dale Okorodudu, MD, the founder of DiverseMedicine Inc. and the Black Men In White Coats is driven by a desire to educate our community on the short and long term impact of neglecting our health and what that does to the solo and the community at large.
Astrophysicist, cosmologist, planetary scientist, author, and science communicator, Neil deGrasse Tyson said “Not only are we in the Universe, but the Universe is also in us. I don’t know of any deeper spiritual feeling than what that brings upon me.”
In the May 14th issue of the Los Angeles Times in an article entitled “Some creators of color fear coronavirus will be a major setback in TV’s diversity push,” written by staff writer Greg Braxton, creators such as ABC’s “black-ish” Kenya Barris, Gloria Calderon Kellett, co-creator and showrunner of Netflix’s “One Day at a Time,” and John Ridley, creator of ABC’s “American Crime” and an Oscar winner for “12 Years a Slave,” expressed their concerns for the long term impact of the pandemic on people of color in the entertainment industry. Here are the facts, the virus is particularly lethal for Black and Latino segments of the population. This situation
has prompted heightened concerns among some of TV’s top talents about their creative and personal futures.
When I shared this link with Dale Okorodudu, MD, via email — his response was — “Wow. That’s the exact reason we’re pushing to get this done now. Perhaps some doors will open up and we can get our message out.”
Doctor Okorodudu understands the uncomfortable reality about the virus and how it’s been particularly lethal for the African-American and Latino population. Data across the board is calculating that those of us under 50 are dying of the coronavirus at significantly greater rates than other groups, including whites.
In New York, we are at twice the rate according to preliminary data released on the date of filing. This alarming news isn’t new for Dr. Okorodudu. The facts are helping to drive his initiative harder.
But Dr. Dale Okorodudu knew all of this and as the founder of DiverseMedicine Inc. and the Black Men In White Coats Video Series knowing what’s ahead is one of the key reasons that he’s passionate about health. Our health in particular.
Dr. Okorodudu was raised in League City, Texas (just outside of Houston), and completed both his undergraduate and medical training at the University of Missouri. He relocated to Durham, North Carolina where he completed his Internal Medicine residency training at Duke University Medical Center.
After training, Dr. Okorodudu returned to Texas and completed his Pulmonary & Critical Care Fellowship at UT Southwestern Medical Center. His clinical practice is at the Dallas VA Medical Center. Dr. Okorodudu has a passion for addressing healthcare disparities which he has done via promoting diversity in the medical workforce. Outside of medicine, he enjoys spending time with his wife, 3 children, and church family.
A white coat is a symbol and not just a garment to Dr. Okorodudu; it carries weight, especially when it’s on the shoulders of a black man. As a pulmonary and critical care physician, who specializes in treating lung ailments, Dr. Okorodudu has been smashing society’s stereotype of what a doctor looks like ever since he started as an undergrad and continues to move forward with renewed vigor.
Here is what Dale Okorodudu, MD —founder of DiverseMedicine Inc. and the Black Men In White Coats Video Series and the author of the new children’s book series called Doc to Doc
had to share about why we need more Black men in the medical field.
LOS ANGELES SENTINEL: Dr. Dale Okorodudu why did you start Black Men in White Coats (BMIWC)?
DALE OKORODUDU, MD: It is an organization that I built to foster diversity in medicine through mentorship and motivation. It is my mission.
LAS: But why? Is there a shortage of Black men in the medical profession?
DO: Yes, there is. There is only around 2 percent of medical school applicants in the United States are Black men and the number of Black males applying to medical school is declining despite rising rates in other fields of study.
LAS: Why do you think this is happening?
DO: The biggest thing is the lack of role models. A lack of mentors in the field, individuals that look like them. We have a lot of young Black men who have so much potential but they don’t see people like them in the medical field. You gravitate toward what’s like you and what’s around you.
LAS: So it’s safe to say that’s one of the inspirations behind creating and running Black Men In White Coats Video series and books, as well?
DO: Exactly. In exposing young black children to the idea that they could be doctors, leading by example, is paramount. Black young men need to see themselves as the men in white coats and know the coat would fit.
LAS: I am feeling you, Doctor. See it. Believe it. Become it.
LAS: You’ve written a children’s book series called Doc to Doc, why?
DO: My goal in doing this is to provide exposure to the medical field to kids of all ages and all backgrounds. Kids learn in different ways. There are all kinds of ways to reach them. Some kids watch a lot of television. Others listen to music. My older son listens to music now. Some of them love books. For those kids that do the love the books [I thought] if I can give them little kids that look like them [Black kids] that want to do things in medicine that might catch their eye.
LAS: Well it caught mine and it caught others, so bravo Doctor.
DO: Thank you. And for those that don’t love the books, if I give them something that looks like them that is colorful and fun, they might begin loving and reading books. I wanted to make them fun books. I have two little kids, two little Black boys, and a little Black daughter.
LAS: I love it. Three kids. Gosh. They must keep you on your toes.
DO: (laughing) They do and they are the inspiration for the Doc to Doc series. My kids like it so I knew other kids would like [the books] it.
LAS: Genius. You have built-in marketing and focus group right inside your home. Hey, an idea just popped into my head. Have you ever thought of pitching this as an animated series for one of the streaming platforms?
DO: I would love to. It’s a goal.
LAS: What are you working on right now?
DO: We are working on making a feature-length documentary on Black Men In White Coats.
LAS: That’s amazing news?
DO: Thank you. The goal is to pitch this to one of the streaming platforms.
LAS: It’s so important to get your message out. You have the expertise and purpose. Now let’s push into the pandemic. Thoughts?
DO: I have a lot of thoughts. I will begin with what’s happening in the African-American communities and that’s one of the reasons that I wrote the Doc to Doc children book series. I just put out a book in the series that concentrates on viruses.
DO: Well, my wife suggested it because of everything that’s going on right now so the kids understand what’s going on. It helps to make sense of what’s happening. Talking about why you should wear a mask. Why you should wash your hands. My kids are asking me about it and now it’s in the book as part of the growing Doc to Doc children book series. This is for kids and also informative for the parents.
LAS: Is there another part of this as well?
DO: There is and I keep going back to this. It’s very important. I want to make health care fun for people. To make health care less intimidating for people. No one wants to be told that they are sick. No one wants those crazy medical bills. A lot of people fear the health care system.
LAS: And for good reason. But why are you so passionate to make us feel comfortable?
DO: That’s a great question. If more people become knowledgeable then we can move into preventive care so things won’t get us bad on the back in.
LAS: So. Things. Don’t Get. Us. Bad. On. The. Back. In. Got it. Amen.
DO: Right now, one of the books that I want to write is Doc to Doc on diabetes.
LAS: Dr. Dale, please write that book. It’s needed for sure.
DO: This disease is impacting us and I want our community to engage with the health care community about conditions that impact us. I want the kids to understand so they begin living a different kind of lifestyle so they won’t get diabetes or get caught up in the same health problems that their parents are caught up in. We must get them at an early age.
LAS: Dale Okorodudu, MD —founder of DiverseMedicine Inc. and the Black Men In White Coats Video Series you are doing God’s work. Can you share some information about the feature-length documentary series on Black Men In White Coats?
DO: We’ve completed the project and now in post-production. It’s about the lack of Black men in medicine. A year ago we did a Kickstarter campaign (https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/drdale/black-men-in-white-coats-the-film). When we started the campaign a lot of people tried to discourage me because with Kickstarter if you don’t raise all of the money you don’t get a dime. My goal was 100,000 (one hundred thousand) and a lot of people, a lot, thought I was crazy. We raised it. That was validation that people want this. People understand what we are talking about. People understand the struggle. Only about 2 percent of U.S. physicians are Black and the number of Black male applicants to medical school has not been growing. We need to convince more Black boys to pursue careers in the field. In the feature length documentary, we dive into why Black men are not in the medical profession and the implications. I get too excited about this new project. Now people are talking about the pandemic and how Black and Brown people are dying at higher rates than Whites. People in my field — we understand why. Like it’s like duh.
LAS: So this pandemic impact on people of color isn’t new information for those in the medical community?
DO: No. We’ve been talking about his for years. That’s just one of the reasons that we need diversity in medicine. These things come to light when other people become infected by it. We need to concentrate on preventative medicine. We need to focus on the front end.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
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