Creating Health Legacies Through Educational Opportunities
National Black Women’s Health Conference, Sept. 22, 2012
Good evening! It is my pleasure to be with all of you here tonight. I want to thank Marcus Oaks, Publisher of Black Health Magazine – and proud Spelman dad – for inviting me.
We were honored to host the Black Women’s Health Conference at Spelman College yesterday, and I am especially delighted to be here at this National Black Health Awards Banquet this evening. I want to extend my congratulations to all of the evening’s honorees for their well-deserved recognition. There are so many Spelman connections here this evening – we have alumnae like Dr. Juel Pate Borders C’54, and Dr. Charlotte Grayson C’91, and long-time medical consultant Dr. Alvin Sermons, but also Spelman moms, Dr. Karen Harris-Moore and Dr. Valerie Montgomery Rice, and our AUC neighbors Dr. Cheryl Franklin and Dr. John Maupin being recognized – and those are just the connections I know about. I suspect there are even more!
I am happy to claim all of you as part of the Spelman nation this evening, and want to congratulate all of the honorees for your contribution to improving the health of our community. It is for such a time as this that you and your medical education are so desperately needed.
I was asked to speak about creating health legacies through educational opportunities and I was thrilled to have the opportunity because it is a topic near and dear to my heart. We have a problem and I believe that educational institutions like Spelman, Morehouse, CAU, MSM and colleges and HBCUs across the country can help solve it.
What is that problem? Let me answer that question by telling you the story of Wandra Hunley C’96. Perhaps some of you knew her. She was a talented student, the only child of loving parents, graduated as an English major from Spelman in 1996, went on to earn a masters degree from the University of Vermont, and was completing her doctorate in English, when she began teaching at Spelman College as a lecturer in the English Department. She was a popular instructor, and was very excited about being back at her alma mater in a teaching role. Wandra was short and round, and was dead before the age of 35. She died alone at home in March, 2009, just less than 13 years after her graduation from Spelman. No foul play, no suicide, no drug overdose. Her death, as we learned, was related to respiratory difficulty. If she had been 90, we might have said she died of natural causes. But there is nothing natural about dying in your early 30s. I attended her funeral, and the members of her church who had known her since childhood spoke lovingly about “Muffin,” a nickname used affectionately – and descriptively. There is no question that Wandra’s weight impacted her health and her ability to breathe, and shortened her life.