African American History Month 2022: Black Health and Wellness
Every year, February presents us with a unique opportunity to honor and celebrate African American culture. Black History Month (BHM), also known as African American History Month (AAHM) recognizes the numerous ways Black Americans have influenced our nation.
This year the theme of BHM is “Black Health and Wellness,” honoring the legacy of Black scholars, healthcare specialist and workers. At Naval Support Activity (NSA) Naples, African American healthcare workers are and continue to carve legacies of their own.
“At NSA Naples, we value the diversity of our community; service members, civilians, and dependents. As we celebrate Black History Month, and in particular, this year’s theme of Black Health and Wellness, we have the opportunity to highlight some of our healthcare workers supporting the health of our community,” says Capt. James Stewart, commanding officer of NSA Naples.
We sat down with a few of the African American healthcare specialists around NSA Naples to have a discussion about their careers and Black health and wellness. Here is what they had to say.
Stephanie Cocci is a licensed clinical social worker and clinical counselor / advocate at NSA Naples Fleet and Family Support Center (FFSC).
As a counselor and social worker, Cocci said that she is experienced in dealing with mental concerns in the African American community. Cocci said that her favorite part of working in the healthcare field is having the opportunity to normalize mental health support in the African American community.
“Mental health is often stigmatized in the Black community and communities of color overall. Using a great deal of compassion and understanding, I hope my clients and my community can see that emotional wellness is a positive aspect of life,” said Cocci.
“No one should be made to feel ashamed for seeking support because that is the only way to have a quality life.”
Cocci believes that health and wellness is achieved when individuals establish a firm balance between their professional and personal lives.
“We all work to make a living, but we have to use things like family, exercise and healthy recreational activities to enrich our lives outside of work and maintain our mental health,” said Cocci.
Hospital Corpsman Seaman Apprentice Diamond Sellers is currently assigned to the Medical Home Port department at U.S. Naval Hospital Naples (USNHN).
With approximately four years of service, Sellers has found that her favorite part of being a corpsman is interacting with people, hearing their concerns and having the potential to make a difference in their lives.
“I enjoy having the ability to help people and provide knowledge,” says Sellers. “I have a unique opportunity to help ensure that every patient is educated and heard.”
Sellers found that as a healthcare worker, it is equally, if not more important for her to maintain her health and wellness as it is for her patients.
“I like to decompress by going to the gym, journaling and maintaining a healthy diet,” says Sellers. “Maintaining my personal mental and physical health ensures that I am ready to take on the next day and serve my community.”
Lt. Lakesa Williams
Lt. Lakesa Williams is a Medical Home Port clinic nurse at USNHN.
Williams defines health and wellness as a multifaceted practice of ensuring ones’ mental and physical fitness.
“Health is more of the medical aspect. Wellness is the way you think and the lifestyle decisions we make on a regular basis.”
Williams added that many of the lifestyle practices in the Black community have been passed down from prior generations and have become part of our culture.
“In discussing Black health and wellness, I think it is important to acknowledge the positive impact our ancestors have had on our practices today such love of family, hard work and perseverance.”
With more than 22 years of service in the U.S. Navy, Williams hopes that her legacy will involve helping her community establish preventative practices that will help to minimize healthcare issues and disparities among the African American community.
Lt. Cmdr Habakuk Michel
Lt. Cmdr Habakuk Michel is a family medicine doctor at USNHN.
Michel has been in the U.S. Navy for four years. Prior to joining the Navy, he worked as a doctor in Haiti and Mozambique.
Michel said he pursued his specialty because he enjoys offering multiple services to his patients, which in turn makes healthcare more accessible.
“I came from a very underserved area that has little access to care,” says Michel. “I enjoy working in family medicine because it gives me the opportunity to offer a wide variety of care without sending underserved individuals to unaffordable specialists”.
Michel feels that his passion about health and wellness allows him to leave his legacy on the healthcare field by getting to know his patients through their stories.
“What I say is, ‘we do not see diseases, we see the people’,” said Michel. “Everyone is different, and issues manifest themselves in different ways. Through listening to the patients’ stories, we can help make diagnosis, educate patients and help them to live their best possible lives.”
The History of Black History Month
Although the focus of AAHM is Black Health and Wellness, the celebration of Black legacy began almost a century ago.
Historian Carter G. Woodson and Minister Jesse E. Moorland’s organization, known today as the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH), initiated the month-long celebration of African American culture.
The ASALH began sponsoring a national history week in 1926 during the second week of February. As a result, across the nation, local governments made proclamations and schools and communities across the nation began to plan celebrations to honor the week. Celebrations grew and the weeklong observance became a month long celebration officially recognized by President Gerald Ford in February of 1976.
NSA Naples continues to celebrate and honor the culture, legacy and history of Black Americans.
NSA Naples is an operational ashore base that enables U.S., allied, and partner nation forces to be where they are needed, when they are needed to ensure security and stability in Europe, Africa, and Southwest Asia.
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