Jocelyn Freeman Garrick, MD, MS, attending emergency medicine physician at Alameda Health System-Highland Hospital, believes having a diverse staff can help reduce health disparities in the patient population we serve.

“We have patients from many different ethnic, racial and socioeconomic backgrounds. On any given day we treat people who are from South Asia, Eastern Europe, African-American or of Latino descent, just to name a few,” said Garrick. “I can speak to a patient in medical Spanish, but if there is a provider that has a relative from the same small village the patient is from in Central America they become relatable. When the patient is more comfortable, they are willing to expose key health history facts resulting in better treatment because the lines of communication are open.”

Garrick’s family is from the Bay View/Hunter’s Point in San Francisco. It once was a predominately African-American, working class community. She understands how empowering it can be to be able to give back to your own community.

“I believe all young people, whether they are in high school, community college or incarcerated, need to be exposed to career paths. If they are employed, this will help improve their self-worth, allow them to feel like they are using their gifts to help society at large and improve their personal longevity because they will have access to health insurance and likely improved health outcomes,” said Garrick.

One way in which she gives back is through combining her passion for mentoring and teaching. She established the Mentoring in Medicine & Science (MIMS) program that is currently a part of HealthPATH, the workforce development initiative of AHS. MIMS has served over 2,000 students since its inception in 2006.

“I’m fortunate to be in a system like AHS with leaders who, in addition to being committed to quality patient care, also understand that prevention, community outreach and workforce development directly impact the health of the community and has a strong return on investment.”

A key component of youth development is learning the history of leaders, especially leaders with similar backgrounds, experiences and shared cultures who have made significant impact on society. One African-American physician who made a major contribution to medicine is Charles Drew. In addition to being a physician, he was a professor at Morgan State University and Howard University.

Many in the medical field refer to him as the “Father of the Blood Banks.” Because of Drew’s work with transfusion medicine, more specifically with plasma, it is estimated that the mortality rate during WWI to WWII was reduced by half. Plasma is the liquid part of blood. It works well to replace fluids and treat shock. He also invented bloodmobiles – refrigerated trucks – that safely transport blood.

“His impact was huge. I actually did a clerkship at Charles Drew Medical Center in LA while I was a medical student. He is mostly credited for his work with WWII and the significant reduction in mortality among the Allied troops, but his research in blood separation and storage goes beyond combat use. Patients with cancer on chemotherapy may receive platelets to help with cell replacement. Additionally, plasma helps with blood clotting and can be used to provide clotting factor to patients.”

In 1941 Drew became the first medical director for the Red Cross Blood Bank. He eventually resigned because of their policy at the time of separating blood donation by race.

At the age of 45 he died in a car accident leaving many in the medical community questioning what else he would have uncovered if he had more time.

“Although Dr. Drew’s untimely death was unfortunate, I’m confident our future healthcare pioneers are right here in the East Bay. Our mission is caring, healing, teaching and serving all and I believe we will continue to cultivate the minds of tomorrow, while sharing the success stories of those who came before us.”