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Children's Wisconsin Black History Month feature 2023

Stronger together: Children's Wisconsin celebrates Black History Month

As Children’s Wisconsin joins with the rest of the country in celebrating Black History Month, we asked several Children’s Wisconsin providers and team members to reflect on their careers, their life’s journeys, obstacles they’ve faced and moments of great pride. Their candid thoughts provide great guidance and valuable insight and serve as an important reminder that inclusion, diversity and representation matter and make us better caregivers, better advocates, better partners and better citizens. 

Latoya Stamper, APSW, lead social worker, Sickle Cell & Hematology Clinic

Latoya Stamper, APSW, is the lead social worker in the Children’s Wisconsin Sickle Cell & Hematology clinic.Why did you choose this line of work?

I am a compassionate caregiver and I have always found joy in enhancing the quality of life for people of different ages and backgrounds. I like empowering them, protecting their rights and improving their health, safety and well-being.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

My proudest accomplishment has been my commitment over the years to strengthening the health and well-being of children with special health care needs and their families. I’m also proud to be making a significant contribution to the success of Children’s Wisconsin and the community through advocacy and leadership, and developing partnerships.

What do you think are the greatest hurdles to improving diversity and health equity? 

The greatest hurdle is ensuring that everyone has the resources they need to achieve their fullest potential for health. We know that health care is a basic human necessity. This includes not only access to health care, but also other social factors like housing, food and jobs that contribute to a person’s well-being. Health care is just one of many systems including housing, education and employment that have long maintained policies, practices and norms that are biased against people of color. 

What do you love most about your job and working at Children's Wisconsin?

I love working with a team that shares the same values as I do and welcomes anyone to have a voice and be a part of our work. My peers care about me as a person and about my professional growth. I have a team that supports each other and works together to make sure we are serving children and families to the best of our ability. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve dealt with as an African American in health care? How did you overcome them? 

Working in an environment where I am the only person of color and serving a patient care population that is predominately people of color can be a challenge, and I am often reminded about the hurdles to improving diversity and health equity. Joining the Black Professional and Allies Inclusion Resource Group gave me an opportunity to bring awareness to these challenges and talk about it with the hope that I can bring a about change that will improve diversity and health care for everyone. 

Artie Turner, LPC, behavioral health consultant, River Glen Pediatrics and Next Door Pediatrics

Artie Turner, LPC, is behavioral health consultant at Children’s Wisconsin River Glen Pediatrics and Next Door Pediatrics primary care offices.Why did you choose this line of work?

Everyone should have access to high quality mental health care. It is beautiful to witness people find balance and joy when provided with a safe and supportive environment that promotes growth. It is truly an honor in my role as a behavioral health consultant (psychotherapist) to provide a trusting and empowering space for kids and families to express themselves openly without fear of judgment. It is a privilege to sit with children and families and help them develop new skills and strengths that can positively impact their lives.

Is there anyone who was instrumental in you becoming a licensed therapist?

I witnessed my mother engage in selflessness each day as a daycare assistant when I was younger. I saw her exude compassion and presence when talking and helping a family. I did not know this was what I would be doing, but I felt I would always be in a space where I was providing healing.

What do you think are the greatest hurdles to improving diversity and health equity? 

I provide support to two clinics that primarily provide services to black and brown youth. The pathways to effective support and intervention for mental health are complex and challenging to navigate in this role. I believe Children’s Wisconsin is working on strategies that are culturally responsive for promoting positive mental health outcomes for all children and families using the integrated behavioral health model.

What do you love most about your job and working at Children's Wisconsin?

Children’s Wisconsin allows me to work with our future. Kids are an incredibly engaging and intriguing audience to work with. A child’s circumstances creates challenges that can only be met with determination, creativity and integrity. Working with children is a rewarding experience, but doing it at Children’s Wisconsin makes it even more special. I love being able to pop into exam rooms to introduce myself to children and families the same day they express mental and behavioral health concerns. I believe representation matters in a space such as this one. It is such a beautiful moment to walk in to exam rooms and say to families, “I am the behavioral health consultant here at your clinic. My job is helping children and families live healthy lives.”

What are some of the challenges you’ve dealt with as an African American in health care? How did you overcome them?

The biggest challenge is overall burnout. Perceived cultural racism, hours worked per week, providing care to families with complex needs and balancing productivity leads to frequent exhaustion. Balancing my personal needs with the mental health need of my community is a lot and difficult to express at times. The stress manifests as compassion fatigue when I am so drained from others' emotional pain that it impedes my ability to empathize with people. Burnout among Black mental health professionals is driven by high job stress, time pressure, over-capacity workload, productivity and racial discrimination, which can sometimes be overwhelming.

As a Black mental health clinician in the primary care setting, I sometimes feel like I can't mess up. I don't want people to look at me even more. I feel like I need to be perfect. It's that pressure to prove that we, as Black providers, can do it, too. It is something I continue to work on. I deal with burnout often, but I am working on putting a significant emphasis on self-care for myself. Self-care for me looks like putting in vacation days without guilt, getting outside on my road bike, seeing my therapist, spending time with friends and family, engaging in my meditation practice, working out consistently, meal prepping, trying something new each week that challenges me, being aware of the stories I am telling myself so that I can be open and filled with love and joy. I am intentional about doing all these things because I love helping people navigate life's journey, and for me to give the energy that I do each week, I must take care of my own mental health!

Kenya Alexander, director, Coding and Integrity

Kenya Alexander, director, Coding and Integrity, Children's WisconsinWhy did you choose this line of work?

While in high school, I was involved in a health careers exploratory program at a hospital in my hometown. I was amazed to see the inner workings of a hospital and knew that I wanted to be in health care. As a result of the program, I also knew that I wanted to work on the business side of operations. I had a great college advisor who directed me to the health information management program. Anatomy and physiology and medical coding were my favorite courses, and as they say, the rest is history.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

My proudest accomplishments are definitely my children. I know that children will do as you do, and not as you say, so I hope to set the best example for them by exhibiting integrity, a great work ethic and allowing them to be a witness to my ongoing goal of continuous improvement.

What do you think are the greatest hurdles to improving diversity and health equity?

I think that the greatest hurdle to improving diversity and health equity is access to healthy food, transportation, education, medical care and socioeconomic support for many underserved communities. Children’s Wisconsin’s focus on creating equity by working to meet the specific needs of each individual is a great way to begin to overcome these hurdles.

What do you love most about your job/working at Children's Wisconsin?

I love the culture of collaboration at Children’s Wisconsin. Being relatively new to the organization, I would sometimes have difficulty finding the information that I needed to do my job. When this occurred, there was always a peer, a team member, a clinician, HR or IT ready and willing to assist. This creates a feeling of community, even while working remotely. As I gain tenure here, I am always happy to pay it forward to the newest members of the organization.

What are some of the challenges you’ve dealt with as an African American in health care? How did you overcome them?

The greatest challenge that I have dealt with as an African American female in health care is the difficulty in finding a mentor who looked like me. I did however find many great people over the course of my career who didn’t look like me, but were happy to offer direction, encouragement and support along the way. We all have so many more commonalities than differences.

Promise Dzakpasu, MD, pediatrician, River Glen Pediatrics

Promise Dzakpasu, MD, pediatrician, Children's Wisconsin River Glen Pediatrics Why did you choose this line of work?

I've always known that I wanted to be a pediatrician. I worked hard to achieve that goal and I have no regrets. I have been very happy and satisfied in my career choice.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

It is hard to choose a greatest accomplishment as I truly consider each day at work an accomplishment and it provides motivation for me to keep serving my patients. I love caring for kids from infancy through young adulthood. It is a rewarding experience to watch my patients grow up and to play a meaningful role in each family's journey in raising healthy adults.

What do you think are the greatest hurdles to improving diversity and health equity?

As a pediatrician with a large African American patient population, one of the barriers I see to keeping children healthy is lack of proper nutrition. There is a higher prevalence of early childhood obesity in this patient population which puts them at risk for many serious diseases later in life. We need more social programs to build trust between the African American community and health care providers. I realized that there is still a lot of mistrust of the health care system when so few of my patients have been willing to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. Unfortunately, this vaccine hesitancy has extended to refusing early childhood immunizations as well.

What obstacles have you had to overcome in your profession?

I am fortunate in that I have not experienced any discrimination as a Black physician working at Children’s Wisconsin. I work at the River Glen Pediatrics primary care office with smart, wonderful colleagues and staff that serve a diverse patient population with compassion and cultural sensitivity.

Clarence Montgomery, behavioral health case manager, Chorus Community Health Plans (CCHP)

Clarence Montgomery Behavioral Health Case Manager, Chorus Community Health Plans Why did you choose this line of work?

I choose this particular discipline because where I came from there were no role models, helpers or individuals with community resource support experience who could provide needed resources for drug addiction or mental health.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

Being there when a CCHP member finally “gets it” after weeks, months or even a year passes and that member calls and is ready for help from me and CCHP. Or they have received resources or services and that member calls and informs me they are happy in their life because I did not give up on them despite all the clinics, relationships and even family difficulties they have been through.

What do you think are the greatest hurdles to improving diversity and health equity? 

The “greatest” hurdles systems, organizations face when trying to improve diversity and health equity is working on inclusion. Diversity is an ongoing process but inclusion must be applied in leadership roles because those shades and experiences will provide better synergy amongst the various cultures and ethnicities in that system or organization.

What do you love most about your job/working at Children's Wisconsin?

Children's Wisconsin asks employees to focus on what makes a better experience for the families we serve. That love I have being an employee for Children’s Wisconsin spills over to members and my peers. That is the foundation that Children’s Wisconsin supports and provides the “best” to me and those members I work with. 

What are some of the challenges you’ve dealt with as an African American in health care? How did you overcome them?  

Knowing how to advocate has helped me overcome some of the challenges I have dealt with as an African American in health care. Whether it was for me, my daughters or the CCHP members I work with, overcoming through “advocating,” which is an action word, provides me more positive outcomes at work and in my life. 

Mya Harris, LCSW, behavioral health consultant, Mayfair Pediatrics

Mya Harris, LCSW, is a behavioral health consultant at Children’s Wisconsin Mayfair Pediatrics primary care office.Why did you choose this line of work?

I chose to get my social work license and to become a child and family therapist for several reasons. One is due to the fact that human behavior is complex and fascinating to me. The other is that I enjoy helping people find solutions to their challenges. Lastly, I am intrigued by others’ stories and experiences because each individual is unique and you never know what someone has gone through.

What is your proudest accomplishment?

My proudest accomplishment is creating the Clinicians of Color with Shanna Sullivan, LCSW, RPT-S. We created this group in order to provide a safe, welcoming place for us to laugh, collaborate and share with one another. Additionally, anytime I have been able to help families improve their well-being is an accomplishment. These families took the necessary steps to make healthy changes and I was able to be with them during their journey by providing support and guidance.

What do you think are the greatest hurdles to improving diversity and health equity?

I think the biggest hurdle is acceptance. Accepting that diversity, inclusion and health equity is as important to the foundation of an organization as the people who work hard to sustain it. Additionally, when the people within the organization reflect the population they serve, the organization will not only become more authentic but manifest into something greater than it had been.

What do you love most about your job/working at Children's Wisconsin?

I love working in integrated behavioral health as a behavioral health consultant. I love the ability to have a visit with a child and their family on the same day they are seeing their doctor. One of the reasons I became a behavioral health consultant is to reduce the stigma of mental health for everyone, but particularly for people of color. By being more accessible to families, and by including mental health as part of the check-up, it helps to normalize that our mind and body are connected.

What are some of the challenges you’ve dealt with as an African American in health care? How did you overcome them?

I was taking my child to a provider that did not seem genuine and did not validate my feelings as a mom. I switched providers to a Children’s Wisconsin provider and couldn’t be happier about my experience and my Children’s Wisconsin experience.

Special thanks

Children’s Wisconsin is committed to creating an environment and culture that is intentionally inclusive, diverse and anti-racist. Teams of Children’s Wisconsin employees and providers are working to increase the diversity of our workforce and enhance our culture of respect, equity and inclusion. Special thanks to our Inclusion, Diversity & Equity department and our Black Professionals and Allies group. To ensure better outcomes for the kids and families we serve — and to help us achieve our vision of all children in Wisconsin being the healthiest in the nation — we are working to address social determinants of health and to improve racial equity in health care.