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By Nikki Inda, CEO, Ladder Up LLC

While February is nationally celebrated as Black History Month, it’s important to amplify and recognize the inspiring work Black and African Americans accomplish to better our communities year-long beyond the celebratory month.

Black History Month began in the Jim Crow era, officially being recognized in 1976 as part of the nation’s bicentennial celebrations. It honors and celebrates the immeasurable contributions Black and African American people have made throughout the United States, recognizing much of that came from tough sacrifices.

From government careers to sports, performing arts and the media, Black Americans have helped progressed every career industry, including medicine and STEAM (sciences, technology, engineering, arts and math), which is where our story today focuses.

Here we share the remarkable local work and national impact Dr. Dexter Frederick is having on the next generation of youth who are pursuing careers in medicine.

Frederick is a physician who is board certified in Internal Medicine and Pediatrics, a published author, and CEO of B.E.S.T. (Brain Expansions Scholastic Training, Inc) located in Tampa Bay.

PRSA Tampa Bay member, Nikki Inda (NI), CEO and founder of Ladder Up, LLC, connected with Frederick (DF) to share how he’s driving health equity and using his voice to create a more diverse medical and STEAM field. For Tampa Bay PR professionals who are involved in health care or diversity communications, this is a valuable community resource to be aware of.

Growing Up In Diversity

NI: What does Black History mean to you and why is Black History important?

DF: When I think of Black history, I think of the civil rights leaders, Black and white, whose shoulders we stand on. Without their sacrifices and push for justice, we would not be where we are today.

As an African American man who grew up in one of our U.S. Territories, I was surrounded by doctors and nurses who looked like me, so I dreamed of becoming a medical doctor one day. However, when I left my native land and entered college, I realized there were not many doctors who looked like me. I thought that if I am ever blessed with achieving my dream of becoming a doctor, then I would seek to change that narrative.

Inspiring A New Generation

Since 2004, my life goal has been to inspire the next generation of medical professionals who mostly come from Black and Brown communities, but more importantly, become a role model for all kids who aspire to become a doctor, a nurse, or other health professionals.

NI: What year did you create B.E.S.T. Academy

DF: In 2004, B.E.S.T. officially became a non-profit organization. I’m proud to also share more than 5,000 scholars have successfully participated and completed a number of interconnected B.E.S.T Programs and our enrollment continues to increase.

Approximately 100 scholars have been accepted into medical school, are actively in medical school or have graduated medical school. We also have about 750 scholars who pursued other healthcare-related careers outside the medical school path.

Creating Inclusive Environments

NI: What legacy or life goal do you work to leave behind?

DF: People are dying every day due to health disparities, and it affects communities of color at exponential levels. If I can just play a small part in closing the gap, allowing more people to live lives that are full and complete for themselves, their families, and their communities, then my life would have been worth living.

Part of that work is also passing down my passion to ensure a sustained vision for the future. To that point, I’m proud to share that my eldest daughter Jayde, graduated Summa Cum Laude from Oakwood University, Huntsville, Alabama, and is currently in her first year of pursuing a medical degree at Loma Linda University School of Medicine.

NI: How can others in the community support your legacy and hope for the future?

DF: Be inclusive. When I think of inclusivity, I think of an analogy that says, I don’t only want to be invited to the party, but I would like to be invited to dance, speak, or sit at the table once I am invited. So, I ask you to ask people to dance, speak, and sit at the table. Ask someone who doesn’t look like you.

Inclusion means creating an environment that gives equal access and opportunities irrespective of one’s race, gender, disability, medical or other need. We are inching there as a society, but we’re not quite there yet.

Breaking Barriers

NI: What advice would you like to share about Black history?

DF: I would say, Black history can be summarized in one word: Excellence! I love this quote from Dr. Charles Drew, a renowned surgeon, medical researcher, and pioneer in the preservation of life-saving blood plasma, “Excellence of performance will transcend artificial barriers created by man.”

In all our impact, let us do it with excellence. I think there has been great effort to keep the celebration of Black History alive through the media, books, and display of images of Black excellence.

More About B.E.S.T: Dr. Frederick’s B.E.S.T. Organization provides long-term solutions. With the growing number of youths seeking careers in health care, B.E.S.T. offers a pathway to achieve excellence. Kids are looking to attend B.E.S.T. Currently, the academy is exploring opportunities to help sustain funding, so no child gets left behind.

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