By Wendy Sarubbi | October 1, 2012 12:16 pm

The eyes pull you into their journey of blazing trails and improving health care for the African-American community.

The determined, confident faces that gaze from six stand-alone panels are part of an exhibit at the Harriet F. Ginsburg Health Sciences Library titled “Opening Doors: Contemporary African-American Surgeons,” which celebrates their contributions to medicine and medical education. The exhibit, one of three that is traveling around the country, was developed and produced by the National Library of Medicine and the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture.

“This ties in with the college’s diversity curriculum and is an inspiration to students,” said library director Nadine Dexter at a reception September 20 to celebrate the exhibit’s opening. The display will remain on the second floor, just outside the library entrance, for two months.

The exhibit includes medical pioneers such as Dr. Matilda Evans, the first African-American woman physician licensed in the state of South Carolina. Then a building litany of firsts tells the story of some of today’s pioneers: Dr. Alexa I. Canady, the first African-American woman neurosurgeon; Dr. Claude H. Organ Jr., the first African-American chair of a department of surgery at a predominantly white medical school; Dr. Rosalyn P. Scott, the first African-American woman cardiothoracic surgeon; and Dr. LaSalle D. Leffall Jr., the first African-American president of the American College of Surgeons.

Featured quotes on the panels testify to the physicians’ spirit and are meant to inspire future generations of doctors. “In any kind of goal that you set for your life … what’s important is determination,” says a featured quote from Dr. Scott.

As students, faculty and staff sampled refreshments at the library reception, they gathered in groups of two or three and studied the panels. The exhibit was also part of a recent College of Medicine pipeline program event with Orlando’s Memorial Middle School.

Dr. Lisa Barkley, assistant dean for diversity and inclusion, who sponsored Memorial’s Health Explorers Day, said the library exhibit provided inspiration for the students’ dreams. “It is important for us all to reach back to students as early as possible in the K-12 system to spark their passion for health careers,” she said.  “This exhibit was a hands- on, fun way to teach students about the great surgeons who have practiced and taught over the years who look like them and let them know that they can do it too.”

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