The infamous Tuskegee study, in which the U.S. Public Health Service from 1932 to 1972 inoculated Black men with syphilis without their knowledge, is thought to be the source of modern day mistrust of medicine and research among African Americans. COVID-19 vaccine hesitancy demonstrates that time has not fully healed these wounds. However, a group of Black physicians in North Carolina have decided that history is not going to determine who lives and dies in their communities. Meet the Sister Circle: Dr. Michele Benoit-Wilson, Dr. Jacqueline Hicks, Dr. Tiffany Lowe-Payne, Dr. Netasha McLawhorn, Dr. Rasheeda Monroe, and Dr. Nerissa Price.
The Sister Circle are friends and colleagues at WakeMed Health & Hospitals in Raleigh, North Carolina. Like so many minorities working as medical providers in majority white institutions, they have leaned on each other to navigate professional and personal traumas. Back in January 2021, one of the Sisters volunteered at a COVID-19 vaccination drive-through in Raleigh. 1,000 people showed up and that was considered a success. But only a handful of them were African Americans, the second largest ethnic group in their county. The Sister Circle went into high gear. They got the word out to Black communities through churches, sororities, and other civic groups. In a matter of days, they had over 1,000 registrations. In this Table Talk, the Sister Circle will share highlights from their playbook, which addresses vaccine hesitancy. And more broadly, they will address historical and contemporary distrust of medical institutions among Black communities and the reality of racism as a public health crisis. Co-hosted by Reimagine and WakeMed.
About Table Talk
A Table Talk is an honest, lively, and unscripted conversation among health professionals, spiritual and faith-based leaders, artists and other creative individuals to address this central question: "What does it mean to live and die well in our respective communities?" Every community and culture -- Black, Indigenous, Latinx, Asian American, Disabled, LGBTQ+, etc. -- has its own unique perspective and shared truth. We face tremendous challenges in dealing with serious illness, dying, grief, discrimination, and inequity. At the same time we search for space to connect, flourish, remember, and celebrate.
Many of us describe more than one of these groups as home, and many of us have experienced oppression based on multiple aspects of our intersecting identities: race, ethnicity, gender, religion, sexual orientation, and more. At present, we have few spaces to talk about these questions freely, in ways that make sense for who we are. That’s why Reimagine launched Table Talk. While this ongoing series is explicitly created by and for underrepresented communities, we invite people of all backgrounds to join us to witness, listen and learn. Ultimately we are creating space rooted in the principles of Justice, Equity, Diversity & Inclusion in order for everyone to thrive.
The Black Table Talk series is led by Reimagine’s Senior Director of Development Stephanie Rivers in consultation with staff and community collaborators.
Dr. Michele Benoit-Wilson is a board-certified obstetrician/gynecologist at Wake Physician Practices OBGYN, North Raleigh. Dr. Benoit-Wilson has been employed by WakeMed Health for the past 6 years. She has spent her 22 year career providing the full scope of women’s health care including preventative care, high-risk obstetrics and gynecologic surgery in a culturally sensitive manner. Dr. Benoit-Wilson is a graduate of Brown University’s eight-year Program in Liberal Medical Education, receiving her Bachelor of Arts degree in Biology and Afro-American Studies in 1995 and her Medical Degree in 1999. Thereafter, she completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Pennsylvania Hospital where she earned a number of awards and entered into private practice in Voorhees, New Jersey prior to moving to York, PA. Dr. Benoit-Wilson is passionate about community service, social justice, and promoting health equity. She is a part of the Health Equity Team comprised of medical and non-medical volunteers that has successfully vaccinated thousands of people, targeting hardest hit communities of color. She is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Incorporated. She is a 2021 recipient of the Triangle Business Journal’s Health Care Heroes Award and was honored on the 2021 Wake Forest Black History Month Honor Roll. She is an avid writer, published in the HuffPost in a piece following the murder of George Floyd titled, “To White Parents Who Want to Be Allies At This Time.” She frequently speaks about health care concerns of women including during the 2018 Women’s Empowerment Seminar at the PNC Arena. She is married with two teenage sons and enjoys traveling, reading, cooking and spending quality time with her family.
Dr. Jacqueline Hicks is a board certified family medicine physician with clinical interests in women’s health. She began her physician career in 2008 after earning her degree in osteopathic medicine, and has since spent years working in private practice at Boice-Willis Clinic in Nashville, NC and Alliance Medical Ministry here in Raleigh. Raised in Rocky Mount, NC, Dr. Hicks is dedicated to enhancing a patient's quality of life through comprehensive continuity of care and patient education. "I believe it is important to establish a good patient-physician relationship. There must be trust, communication and participation in order to optimize one's health." Outside of Medicine, Dr. Hicks is a wife and mother of two beautiful daughters. In her spare time, she enjoys spending time with her family, shopping and watching movies.
Dr. Tiffany Lowe-Payne (Dr. Tiffany) is dually board certified by the American Board of Osteopathic Family Physicians and the American Board of Obesity Medicine. She is also an assistant professor in the department of family medicine at Campbell University- School of Osteopathic Medicine in Buies Creek, N.C. She obtained her medical degree and completed her residency training in family medicine from the University of Medicine & Dentistry of New Jersey, School of Osteopathic Medicine (now a part of Rowan University) in 2003. After years of working with patients and their families as a primary care physician, in recognizing the impact that an unhealthy weight has on a patient’s health, Dr. Lowe-Payne received specialized training in the management of obesity to be able to address those needs. She aims to assist patients in losing weight with a comprehensive nonsurgical approach and offers both one-on-one counseling and support group sessions to help them prevent disease, improve their overall health and reverse chronic obesity related medical illnesses. A consummate teacher at heart, she is committed to empowering her patients to reach their health goals by utilizing her training as an osteopathic medical physician to address the needs of the “whole person”. Her motto is that “healthy living is more than just a physical principle.” By helping patients understand and attend to the underlying factors that may have contributed to the struggle with their weight, she seeks to equip them with the skills needed to reach and sustain their health and wellness goals. On a personal level, Dr. Tiffany believes in the importance of self-care. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, writing, motivational speaking and recreational boxing.
Dr. Netasha McLawhorn is board certified in obstetrics and gynecology and is a fellow with the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (FACOG). Practicing since 2002, she completed her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Rochester in Rochester, New York, after earning her medical degree from The Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University. McLawhorn received her bachelor of science in health and sports medicine from Wake Forest University. Her clinical interests include routine and high-risk obstetrics, family planning and contraception, infertility, abnormal uterine bleeding, fibroid management, minimally invasive surgery and in office procedures such as hysteroscopy and endometrial ablation.
Dr. Rasheeda Monroe is a board-certified pediatrician with WakeMed Physician Practices – Pediatrics. In addition to serving as the associate director for the practice, Dr. Monroe is the campus director for the UNC program based at WakeMed Raleigh Campus, where she provides oversight and direction of UNC medical students’ educational activities and assignments while at WakeMed and the surrounding community. Previously, Dr. Monroe worked in private practice at Raleigh Children and Adolescent Medicine. As a student, she held a teaching role at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and performed research at the Harvard School of Public Health. She is currently the medical director of WakeMed's Pediatric Outpatient Clinic, and is also a director of Pediatric Medical Student Education for WakeMed Physician Practices. She received her medical degree from the East Carolina University Brody School of Medicine where she graduated AOA (medical honor society), and completed her residency in pediatrics at The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Dr. Monroe also has a bachelor's degree from East Carolina University in exercise sport science. Dr. Monroe speaks Spanish and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Dr. Nerissa Price is a Wake County native who received her medical degree and completed a Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Fellowship at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill School of Medicine. She is Board-Certified in General Psychiatry. Having devoted her career to improving the health of the mentally ill, Dr. Price has over 18 years of experience from her work with UNC School of Medicine, Daymark Recovery Services, Correctional Institute for Women with the NC Department of Public Safety, Cardinal Innovations, Community Care of NC (CCNC) and her private practice. At WakeMed, Dr. Price is the medical director for Behavioral Health Community Case Management and WakeMed’s homeless outreach team (H.E.A.R.T). Most recently, Dr. Price has become the medical director of WakeMed Physician Practices Well-Being Initiatives where her mission is to improve provider well-being by promoting the culture of wellness, work-life integration and joy in work. Dr. Price is passionate about helping others achieve their life’s purpose by achieving and maintaining mental health wellness.