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50 Years After Brown v. Board
Black History Program Examines Historic Decision on Education

By Carla Garnett

Photos By Bill Branson

A pipeline that actually functions more like a funnel. That's how one panelist at NIH's 2004 Black History Observance described the slow pace at which the U.S. education system is filling the pool with African American scientific researchers, academicians and physicians.

Case Western Reserve University associate dean of student affairs Dr. Robert Haynie asserted that instead of desegregation leading to a healthy, steady flow of black students moving from high school through college to grad school, pursuing careers in the sciences and constantly replenishing the supply of medical professionals, what the nation has is a large number of African Americans entering the educational system, but only a trickle navigating each level successfully to increase or even maintain the pool consistently.

"You can't separate health care from socioeconomic conditions — it doesn't work," he said, describing lessons learned over the years from conducting medical interventions in poor neighborhoods [see sidebar]. "You cannot impact quantity until you deal with quality. In other words, the quality of life for this community has to improve so that people want to live longer."

He said that he once asked health survey participants what they wanted from their local hospital. To his surprise, Haynie said, they asked not for more mammograms, blood tests or pressure screenings, but for several things outside the traditional realm of health care: "They said, 'Get the drug dealers off of our streets. Change our environment, both internal as well as external. Give us jobs that have meaningful levels of accomplishment. Give us a quality education that will lead to better jobs.'"

Dr. Ronald Walters, director of the African American Leadership Institute and professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, introduced the program's discussion.

That was the bottom-line message of NIH's observance of Black History Month that gathered a panel of seven speakers to address progress in education since the Supreme Court's historic Brown vs. the Kansas Board of Education decision in 1954 to allow black and white students to attend public schools together. Although the Brown case dealt primarily with K-12 education, panelists were asked specifically to discuss the ruling's effect on post-secondary education, on efforts to recruit more minorities to the field of science and careers in medical research, and on other endeavors to close gaps in health status. The program also included music by Kim Jordan, a jazz keyboardist and vocalist, who performed the traditional Negro spiritual, "O Freedom," and the civil rights movement anthem, "We Shall Overcome."

"The historic Supreme Court decision became a signal and a turning point in the history of this country on the question of race relations," acknowledged Dr. Ronald Walters, director of the African American Leadership Institute and professor of government and politics at the University of Maryland, who introduced the program's discussion.

The movement to desegregate schools actually began far earlier than Brown, he noted, when a group of black scholars and NAACP lawyers, led by Howard University Law School Dean Charles Hamilton Houston in the early 1930s, declared that "they were going to deal with the question of integrated education, because it was important [and] that if you opened up the graduate professional schools, colleges and universities, you could then begin to propagate the arrival of a black middle class."

So started the long struggle for equal education among the races that consisted of numerous legal cases and eventually ended the flawed "separate but equal" school system, Walters said. At the announcement of the Brown decision, he continued, many believed that racial integration in public schools would lead to beneficial results for black students and would promote economic as well as "social equality, and afford blacks a quality education. Underneath this, however, was a naive faith that since the Supreme Court had decided it, it would be accepted by society."

Laura Murphy, director of the D.C. office of the American Civil Liberties Union.

In reality, progress occurs at a far slower level, said another panelist. "Jim Crow segregation laws barring integration are a factor of our lifetime," pointed out Laura Murphy, director of the D.C. office of the American Civil Liberties Union. "This problem of race relations is ongoing, and is relatively recent in the law."

Dr. William Harvey, director of the Center for Advancement of Racial and Ethnic Equity at the American Council on Education, agreed, offering statistics to document the long haul. "It's sobering for us to realize, according to the Civil Rights Project at Harvard University, that we've essentially moved back to the same point in terms of the integration of our public schools that we were at when Martin Luther King was assassinated," he said. "We have essentially the same level of segregation in our public schools now that we did some 30 years ago. There has been some progress, but we have in fact seen a significant amount of resegregation, particularly in our public schools."

The result, he explained, is that a large concentration of students of color are in schools where "they do not have the same educational opportunities as their white counterparts and therefore are not receiving the same kind of preparation, motivation and stimulation" to move out of high schools and into post-secondary education.

Program participants include (from l) Kay Johnson Graham of NIDCD/NINR, planning committee chair; NIH deputy director Dr. Raynard Kington; Joseph Williams, director of multicultural affairs at Case Western Reserve University (CWRU); CWRU's Haynie; Dr. William Harvey of the American Council on Education; ACLU's Murphy; Dr. Frederick Humphries of the National Association of Equal Opportunity in Higher Education; and moderator Walters.

Despite the fact that the nation has the largest number of African Americans receiving baccalaureate degrees than at any other time in history, the ratio of white college graduates to black college graduates has either remained the same or worsened in the last generation.

Still, he said, there have been accomplishments: In 1980, just over 60,000 black students earned baccalaureate degrees; in 2000, more than 111,000 achieved the same milestone. In 1980, more than 17,000 African Americans earned master's degrees; in 2000, the number had doubled to over 38,000. Newly minted black doctoral degree graduates numbered just over 1,040 in 1980; more than 1,600 were counted in 2000.

"We often think that the corporate community is a more conservative atmosphere than the academic world, [however] there is in fact greater representation of African Americans in the nation's top 100 corporations than there is at the top 100 universities," Harvey concluded, also relaying disparate statistics on the number of black faculty members at U.S. institutions of higher learning. Integration in the 21st century is not just about social justice, he emphasized, but more importantly it's about economic competitiveness. "The challenge is to make our universities look more like our population...It's in America's best economic interest."

'A Physician's Physician'
Mentor Haynie Backs Up Community Talk with Commitment

  Dr. Robert Haynie, dean of student affairs at Case Western Reserve University, puts his practice where his mouth is, according to two NIH protegés.

It may take far more than offering a sound education to make a significant dent in health disparities and a lasting difference in minority communities, contended Dr. Robert Haynie, dean of student affairs at Case Western Reserve University and panelist at NIH's recent Black History Month program.

"We have to be brought down to Earth," he said, describing an encounter he had with a health fair participant whose blood pressure was dangerously high, but whose only interest in the fair seemed to be the free cups, keychains and other items provided at such events. The patient told Haynie that "the only high in his life was his blood pressure." The statement made a tremendous impact on the physician, whose commitment to improving health in poor neighborhoods is an inspiration to a host of others in the medical profession.

Dr. Robert Haynie, dean of student affairs at Case Western Reserve University, puts his practice where his mouth is, according to two NIH protegés.

"He truly is a physician's physician," said Dr. Regina James, chief of NIMH's Attention Disorders Program and one of two Haynie protegés now working at NIH.

For example, she continued, for the last 20 years without interruption Haynie has visited inmates weekly at the local jail for frank discussions. "I think it started out as just medical issues — prevention of sexually transmitted diseases, etc.," she said. "But now he talks about whatever they need to talk about. That's the kind of person he is. He finds out where you are, connects with you and tries to develop your individual strengths and talents."

A California native, James met Haynie through her husband, who was a Case Western medical school student at the time. Following a year-long internship with Haynie at MetroHealth Medical Center, a Case teaching affiliate in Cleveland, and residency training in child and adolescent psychiatry, she came to NIH about 5 years ago as a clinical associate in the NIMH intramural program. Haynie, she stressed, doesn't just talk about going beyond the basic physician-patient relationship, he commits to it.

"I wanted to do a fellowship in research training," concludes James, "and an NIMH physician, Dr. Xavier Castellanos, was doing work in attention deficit disorder. I had always been interested in clinical research, and presenting a case on childhood ADHD in clinical grand rounds kindled my interest more in child psychiatric research. It just expanded the horizon. Dr. Haynie really served as a well-rounded mentor. Medical issues, non-medical, it didn't matter. He was extremely helpful to me. I can't say enough about him."

Originally from Stockton, Calif., Jose Gurrola, a third-year Case Western medical school student working as a research fellow in the NIDCD/NIH Partnership Program and another Haynie associate, can also attest to the value of a superior mentor.

"[Haynie's] guidance has been invaluable over the course of the last 3 years as he has helped me navigate through medical school classes and clinical rotations," says Gurrola, who works in Dr. Matthew Kelley's lab in the section on developmental neuroscience. "In addition, he has been a great mentor, counselor and friend, in terms of his willingness to discuss family matters and life on a grand scale. As a role model, he is impeccable, demonstrating both strength and compassion. Dr. Haynie would go out of his way to help just about anyone...He gives a great deal, not only to his patients, students or family, but to the community as a whole. He speaks to rehab and ex-inmates in conjunction with a local bishop in the Cleveland area and asked me to accompany him to speak to the gentlemen during my second year, so I was able to see the impact he had on those outside of a medical environment."

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