As we celebrate Black History Month, our minds turn to the African-American men and women who have enriched all of our lives with their accomplishments and contributions.
They include the well-known — like Rosa Parks, Booker T. Washington, Sojourner Truth, and George Washington Carver — and the lesser known.
Dr. Charles F. Whitten falls in the latter category. You may not know his name, but here in Detroit he was responsible for launching the successful careers of 400 minority doctors. Dr. Whitten created the Post Baccalaureate Program at Wayne State University (WSU) for minority students who had been denied admission to medical school based on their prior academic performance. After successfully completing the intensive one-year program, the students are guaranteed admission to WSU’s School of Medicine.
In addition, Dr. Whitten was largely responsible for bringing sickle cell disease to the attention of the public, healthcare providers, legislators and policymakers. He established the Sickle Cell Detection & Information Center in Detroit in 1971 — the first facility of its kind in the country.
Although we lost Dr. Whitten in 2008, he will forever be remembered as an African-American trailblazer for his groundbreaking work in the research and treatment of sickle cell disease and his commitment to increasing diversity in the medical profession. He truly made a difference in the lives of many people.
Today, many of those physicians of color who received their start because of Dr. Whitten’s foresight spend time giving back to others less fortunate. They know better than anyone what happens when an individual is denied access to opportunities. So, they have dedicated their lives to helping others — following in the footsteps of the man who helped them: Dr. Charles Whitten.
That’s truly a great story for the history books.