For Dr. Melissa Carroll, an associate professor at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, the “socio-political minefield” of the year 2020 was a time to look around and take notice.
Dr. Carroll said she realized she was raised in a “very blessed” home environment, with two intelligent and supportive parents. She was born in the Bahamas and fell in love with anatomy at Colorado State University, thinking at first she was on a path that would take her to medical school.
While working on her master’s degree at Pennsylvania State University, she got a chance to teach and realized that the academic world might be a better fit. (Much more detail about Dr. Carroll’s background is on the Anatomy in Clay® Learning System podcast.)
Fast forward to 2020, when Dr. Carroll realized it was time to help those who were coming up in the field behind her. “I wanted to ensure that we could make that way just a little bit easier” for those working their way up in the anatomy professions, she said.
One of the people she reached out to talk with was Shawn Boynes, then executive director of the American Association for Anatomy. Dr. Carroll said she wondered aloud to Dr. Boynes if there might be a “space for networking and for an opportunity to just have safe conversations.”
The result? An organization called Black in Anatomy.
The group’s mission is simple: “To create a safe space to network, uplift, support, and amplify Black contributions to anatomical science.”
Black in Anatomy is an independent, nonprofit organization that has received support from AAA but remains wholly separate. (Dr. Carroll also sits on the board of AAA.)
Black in Anatomy, said Dr. Carroll, will work to elevate the careers of those Black scientists who have been “erased from history.”
While attending the 125th anniversary celebration for AAA (in 2013), Dr. Carroll noticed that not one Black face was featured, despite many black scientists who had contributed to the field. (For one such example, check this video about Dr. W. M. Cobb, the first Black man to earn a PhD in physical anthropology (1932) and the first person to be named Distinguished Professor of Anatomy at Howard University (1969).
If you’re reading this before the third Black in Anatomy Week (Oct. 16-21, 2023), there is still time to register (for free) events and webinars.
The week includes a diverse series of opportunities.
On Wednesday, Oct. 18 the aforementioned Dr. Shawn Boynes is giving a talk titled “The Black Body: A Focus on Leadership and Self-Care” from 4 to 5 p.m. (EST).
Another talk follows on Friday, Oct. 20 titled “The Role of Racism in Weight Bias and Weight Stigma” and there is a “Paint & Celebrate” even on Saturday, Oct. 21. (Links to register are included on the YouTube page with the interview with Dr. Carroll. The events are free.)
Congratulations to all those on the team behind Black in Anatomy and all the creative endeavors underway to amplify Black contributions to anatomical science. And thanks to Dr. Carroll for coming on the podcast to talk about what got it all started!