HomeLife at EmoryTeam Members Celebrate Black History and Share Their Proudest Care Moments

Team Members Celebrate Black History and Share Their Proudest Care Moments

At Emory Healthcare, we know a diverse team with an inclusive culture drives equitable outcomes for our patients and families, our people and our community. Everyone deserves an equal opportunity to attain their highest health potential regardless of race, ethnicity, age, language, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability, or other factors. Our mission to improve lives and provide hope includes opposing discrimination and thoughtful consideration of people’s social determinants of health–the conditions in which they are born, live, work and play.

Black History Month is an important time to acknowledge the rich heritage and significant contributions of the Black community. In addition to honoring historical achievements, we also recognize the ongoing journey toward equity and inclusion. Several of our team members discussed Black History Month, its meaning for them, and their proudest moments helping patients and our community as Emory Healthcare employees.


Janelle Williams Holder, MD, FACP

Palliative and Supportive Medicine
Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital

BHM JanelleBlack History Month is the opportunity to share and learn parts of my history that have never been taught. In exploring my history, I have gained a deeper understanding of systemic racism and how it continues the be the basis of health care disparities. On MLK Day of this year, we gathered with our community at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital to watch The Power to Heal, a documentary that tells the story of the beginnings of desegregation in health care during the Civil Rights Movement. It was deeply moving to see images of Dr. King and hear his powerful message, and we had a robust discussion surrounding health care disparities for Black Americans.

I currently serve as a co-chair on Emory Saint Joseph’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee, and I am grateful for the space to share our history.


Takesa R. Toliver, PharmD, BCPS

Clinical Pharmacist I
Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital

BHM TakesaFor me, Black History Month is a time when we are all very intentional about highlighting and celebrating the many achievements and contributions of Black Americans to American society and culture. Each year, I assist with the Black History Month productions at my church and children’s schools.

Some of the proudest moments I’ve had as a health care provider would be during the height of the COVID pandemic. Undoubtedly, health care professionals were overwhelmed and overworked, but I’m proud to look back and say we all banded together at the absolute toughest time and persevered for ourselves, our patients and our communities.


Anita M. Putman, OTR/L, MPA

Occupational Therapist II
Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital 

BHM AnitaAs an African American, Black History Month is an opportunity to recognize my ancestors who led the pathway for me to work in health care. Many times, people are unaware of the influences that African Americans have on our society.  Although Black History Month is celebrated in February, there are other months that are even more meaningful. Any time we can use a teachable month, we are closer to a united society.

I am a proud member of the DEI-B committee at Emory Saint Joseph’s Hospital. I am truly excited to participate in the upcoming events which will display the various ways African Americans have made a powerful impact in an enormous array of industries. The events will unite individuals together and allow open conversations on cultural differences.

One of my proudest moments working in health care is talking to an older African American patient and letting them know I am their occupational therapist. To look in their eyes and see the feelings of someone who looks like them is providing them with the proper care they so well deserve. I truly can relate to some of their challenges with the disparity in health care. In some cases, I can assure them they are in a safe environment and not alone.


Edna Brisco, MSN, RN

Vice President of Patient Care Services & Chief Nursing Officer
Emory Hillandale Hospital

Black History Month is meaningful to me for many reasons. Most importantly, it provides an opportunity to recognize and celebrate the often-overlooked contributions and achievements of people of color throughout history. It is a time for us to honor the accomplishments and legacies of black individuals in various fields, including science, art, literature, civil rights, and more. Black History Month also serves as a platform for educating people about the rich history and experiences of Black communities, including all of the struggles we have faced and the progress we have made. Lastly, by highlighting the stories of Black leaders and changemakers, Black History Month inspires and empowers me, and hopefully people of all backgrounds, to pursue goals and work towards a more inclusive and equitable society.

I graduated from nursing school in December of 1993, so I had the pleasure of working in the most trusted profession for 30 years. As you can imagine, I’ve had many proud moments during my career. Undeniably, my first love was working as an oncology nurse and I’m very proud of the work I did during that time. I had the wonderful pleasure of caring for and cheering on many oncology patients who fought and won battles with cancer and I also had the opportunity to hold the hands of many patients who gained their wings after fighting courageous battles with cancer. During this time, I was often reminded of a quote by one of my favorite African American poets, Dr. Maya Angelou. “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” This quote guides my steps; hence, I always try to leave people feeling better after an interaction with me!


Erica Abdullah

Assistant Nurse Manager, Operating Room
Emory University Hospital

BHM EricaThe designated colors of Black History Month say it all, with red representing the blood shed for freedom and equality in America, black representing pride in the Black race, and gold representing intellect, prosperity, and peace.

Though Black history is consistently taught in my home, during Black History Month, it is essential for me to ensure that my children understand the importance of keeping our history and legacy alive: both the struggles and triumphs. Just as she would do when I was a child, my mom always picks a Black history book to read out loud to the children. We set aside time to watch historical movies and documentaries highlighting the history of our people as a collective.

We usually conclude the month with a celebration that includes gathering with our extended families and friends. We cook a big dinner, go through family photos of our loved ones who have transitioned, and listen to stories from our elders. We ask the littles about their experiences and dreams for the future, highlight those who have gone before them, or encourage them to be the first!

One of Erica’s favorite quotes:
“We must never forget that Black History is American History.” – Yvette Clark, US Representative-NY


Jasmine Burnett

Data Analyst  II, Care Management
Emory University Hospital

BHM JasmineTo me, Black History Month is a time for reflection on the achievements, strength, persistence, and beauty of the Black American diaspora.

As a 20-something coming into the health care field, I’ve felt great pride in the prioritization of health equity by my generation of researchers and providers.

Atlanta is an amazing place to live during Black History Month; if you walk outside at any given time during February there’s something to learn and someone to celebrate.

Atlanta, in particular, is a city with a history of producing changemakers and cultural leaders—that could be us at any point. Take action to be the type of person that inspires you; the type of person you’d tell your kids about in the future.


Eugene Robinson, DMin

Director of Spiritual Health
Emory University Hospital at Wesley Woods 
Associate Director of Spiritual Health
Emory University Hospital

BHM EugeneI remember growing up and studying American history as a required elementary and secondary education curriculum component in the 1950s and 1960s. There was extraordinarily little about the achievements of Black Americans in the textbooks. More has been included recently, but only after intense political struggles.

The idea of acknowledging the achievements of Black Americans has been around for a long time. In 1926, Carter G. Woodson, a history teacher, put forward the idea of celebrating Negro history in the second week of February. However, the idea did not gain national recognition until 1976, when President Gerald Ford acknowledged February as Black History Month.

Since 1976, a theme has been assigned. ”This year’s theme is African Americans and the Arts.” According to the Association for the Study of African American Life and History, the theme honors “African American artists (who) have used art to preserve history and community memory as well as for empowerment.”

In Carter G. Woodson’s 1933 book, The Mis-Education of the Negro, he offered a powerful statement regarding the importance of having a history. He wrote, “If a race has no history, if it has no worthwhile tradition, it becomes a negligible factor in the thought of the world, and it stands in danger of being exterminated.”

The month reminds me of those who came before me. The sacrifices of previous generations, some with national recognition and an untold number of others, opened up new opportunities for those like me and other Black Americans.

It is not enough to acknowledge the achievements of prior generations. I recognize that Black Americans in many professions make significant daily contributions, including in health care. What is celebrated in February each year means very little unless we practice the lessons learned throughout the year. During the month, I enjoy writing a weekly article about lesser-known individuals who I believe are making a significant contribution to Black history.

We live in a period of divisiveness when the slightest difference can be used to avoid working for the greater good. A few months ago, I was fortunate to be a part of a team effort to manage an exceedingly difficult situation. It was one of those occasions that needed the attention of public safety, physicians, nurses, social services, and spiritual health. The team also included EMS (ambulance) because the patient needed to be transported to another facility and was not allowing team members to help him.

As I supported the patient’s parents, I became increasingly aware of the team’s compassion for the patient and his parents. The team was patient and collaborative, working as if we managed these situations daily. In two hours, I participated and observed individuals from different professions, nationalities, and ethnic groups, putting aside potential differences to work together for the best care for a suffering patient. I realized again that when individuals work together, more is achieved. We are more alike than we are different.


Eleanor Knight

Senior Manager, Supply Chain
Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital

BHM Eleanor KBlack History Month is of great importance to me because it provides a designated time to acknowledge and celebrate the achievements, contributions and rich history of my people. This special time allows us to pay tribute to the struggles, resilience and accomplishments of our ancestors, recognizing their profound impact on culture, society, health care and other diverse fields. The month also serves as an opportunity for me to impart my family heritage and legacy to my 12-year-old granddaughter, ensuring she is aware of our rich history. Together, we engage in various activities that highlight the significant accomplishments of the Black community, such as watching Black history movies and documentaries and participating in cultural events.

Reflecting on my 35+ years in health care, with a significant portion spent at Emory over the last 24 years, I find immense pride in my proudest moments, which include finding innovative solutions, patient care success stories, and community outreach. These instances not only mark milestones in my professional journey but also reaffirm my dedication to positively impacting countless lives.

Being one of the original leaders involved in transforming Emory University Orthopaedics & Spine Hospital into a Magnet hospital stands out as a pinnacle achievement. From the humble beginnings of an empty hospital with six operating rooms to our current state of 10 operating rooms, collaborating with dedicated and passionate leaders has been a source of immense pride. Together, we navigated challenges, celebrated victories, and consistently aimed for the highest standards of care, fostering a supportive and empowering work environment.

Serving as the chairwoman of the Recognition and Wellness Committee has been another rewarding aspect. Motivating and inspiring staff towards greatness brings me 100% joy. Engaging in community outreach programs has allowed me to extend the impact of health care beyond the hospital, and contributing to health education, preventive care, and community wellness programs has been a fulfilling way to address broader health issues.


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