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Thrive In Your Strengths, Learn From Your Weaknesses


Note: This month, the Office of Equity and Diversity will be talking with UTHSC leaders in recognition of Black History Month.

Kara Caruthers, PA-C
Associate Professor
Assistant Program Director
Director of Community Engagement, Diversity, and Recruitment
Physician Assistant Program
College of Medicine

OED: What does Black History Month mean to you? Why is it important?

I see Black History Month as the selected time to appreciate and reflect on the contributions of a remarkable people, who altered the course of American society. Every time we stop at a traffic light, that is the contribution of Garrett A. Morgan. When we iron clothes on an ironing board, that is the invention of Sarah Boone. When we use the phrase “the real McCoy”, that is an ode to Elijah McCoy, whose inventions increased efficiency and speed of train engines. When we leave our homes and set our security systems, that is due to the work of Marie Van Brittan Brown, who developed a system to keep her home safe while she worked as a nurse.

As a medical provider, who is training future providers, Black History Month is significant to me because of Dr. Daniel Hale Williams, who performed the first successful open heart surgery and Dr. Patrician Bath, the first AA female doctor to complete an ophthalmology residency and receive a medical patent. Also, as a PA (physician assistant), it is important to reflect on Henry Lee “Buddy” Treadwell, who is the prototype for our profession. He was trained by a general practice physician, in rural North Carolina, often seeing patients and keeping the practice running, while the physician was away. Buddy Treadwell’s commitment to health care access, for his community, and his relationship with the physician, is what Dr. Eugene Stead modeled in the formation of the PA profession. The advances in science, technology, engineering, and medicine are abundant, but not commonly discussed or taught. Black History Month is important as it allows for reflection and celebration of these accomplishments.

OED: Do you have a favorite soul food restaurant in Memphis? What is one of your preferred soul food dishes?

Caruthers: I’m a recent transplant to Memphis (born and raised in Nebraska, but moved here from Birmingham, AL), but my go to soul food restaurant is Daisy’s Restaurant on South 3rd. My preferred dishes are collard greens, black eyed peas and candied yams.

OED: Will you share a favorite quote of yours, attributable to a figure in Black History?

Caruthers: “The way to right wrongs is to turn the light of truth upon them.” Ida B. Wells

OED: Is there a book, movie or author that you would recommend to others to learn more about Black History?

There are so many great resources that should be utilized to learn about black history! The PBS Eyes on the Prize series is an excellent watch, as is their special on the Black Panthers, which aired in 2015. The Brookings Institute has a great list of books and movies, both current and previously published: https://www.brookings.edu/blog/brookings-now/2019/02/07/brookings-experts-black-history-month-reading-list/. A personal favorite that I first read in high school, which made me challenge the commonly taught narrative of Africa, slavery, and the Black presence in the US, is Lerone Bennett, Jr.’s Before the Mayflower: A History of Black America.

OED: What is one experience that has shaped the person you are today?

While there are many experiences that have shaped who I am today, there are two important people who are critical in my development and those are my parents, Mr. Henry Caruthers, Jr., and Mrs. Mary Henderson Caruthers. My parents understood that representation matters and made sure that my sisters and I were aware of the great contributions that have been made by those who shared our culture and heritage. Their expectation that we thrive in our strengths and acknowledge, but learn from our weaknesses, are expectations that I continue for myself.