Black History Month: Entertainers I Miss

This is the last week of Black History Month and I’d like to honor that. I’ve previously written about Blacks in the history of nephrology and other paths in life. Being a former actor and just having had a visit from a member of my acting community (a safe visit: double masked, hand sanitized, and social distanced.), I got to thinking about Blacks in entertainment who died of kidney disease.  

But first, this is what I included in the upcoming SlowItDownCKD 2020 to explain what Black History Month actually is: 

“As Andrea Wurtzburger wrote in People Magazine (I knew there was a reason I grabbed this first each time I waited in one medical office or another.) in the February 13, 2020… 

‘Black History Month is an entire month devoted to putting a spotlight on African Americans who have made contributions to our country. Originally, it was seen as a way of teaching students and young people about the contributions of Black and African Americans in school, as they had (and still have) been often forgotten or left out of the narrative of the growth of America. Now, it is seen as a celebration of those who’ve impacted not just the country, but the world with their activism and achievements.’” 

Now keep in mind that the further back we go, the more people there are that died of kidney disease since treatment was non-existent at first and then limited. Nephrology is a relatively young field of medicine. According to NEJM Resident 360, a nephrology journal for medical students, 

“The initial recognition of kidney disease as independent from other medical conditions is widely attributed to Richard Bright’s 1827 book ‘Reports of Medical Cases,’ which detailed the features and consequences of kidney disease. For the next 100 years or so, the term ‘Bright’s disease’ was used to refer to any type of kidney disease. Bright’s findings led to the widespread practice of testing urine for protein — one of the first diagnostic tests in medicine. 

The study of kidney disease was furthered by William Howship Dickinson’s description of acute nephritis in 1875 and Frederick Akbar Mahomed’s discovery of the link between kidney disease and hypertension in the 1870s. Mahomed’s original sphygmograph, created when he was a medical student, was improved in 1896 by Scipione Riva-Rocci, of Italy, with the use of a cuff to encircle the arm….” 

I’m listening to Art Tatum’s (10/13/09 – 11/5/56) music as I write today’s blog. According to National Public Radio (NPR): 

“One of the greatest improvisers in jazz history, Art Tatum also set the standard for technical dexterity with his classic 1933 recording of ‘Tea for Two.’ Nearly blind, Tatum had artistic vision and ability that made him an icon of jazz piano, a musician whose impact will be felt for generations to come…. 

Although his excessive drinking didn’t affect his playing, it did unfortunately affect his health. Tatum began showing evidence of euremia, a toxic blood condition resulting from a severe kidney disease. On Nov. 5, 1956, Tatum died at age 47, and although his career was relatively short, Tatum’s brilliant playing remains unparalleled and highly influential.” 

As far as I can tell, ‘euremia’ is either an alternative or misspelling of uremia. I could not find it despite multiple sources. Each one reverted to ‘uremia’. 

Have you heard of Ivan Dixon? No? How about the tv series ‘Hogan’s Heroes’? Encyclopedia.com organizes their information a bit differently: 

“Career: Stage, television, and screen actor, 1957-91; film and television director, 1970-93. 

Memberships: Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences; Directors Guild of America; Negro Actors for Action; Screen Actors Guild. 

Awards: Emmy Award nomination, 1967, for The Final War of Olly Winter; received four National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Image Awards; Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame; National Black Theatre Award; Paul Robeson Pioneer Award, Black American Cinema Society. 

For his achievements on the stage and screen, Dixon was inducted into the Black Filmmakers Hall of Fame. He was the recipient of four National Association for the Advancement of Colored People Image Awards, in addition to the National Black Theatre Award and the Paul Robeson Pioneer Award given by the Black American Cinema Society.” 

He died of complications from kidney failure. There seems to be no record of what these complications were, although we can guess. 

Barry White (9/12/44 – 7/4/03), a singer and songwriter whose voice I will always miss, died of a stroke while awaiting a transplant. His kidney disease had been caused by hypertension.  The following is from Biography.com, which has much more information about him. 

“…. Love Unlimited’s success in 1972 can in large part be attributed to White’s throaty vocals in such hits as “Walkin’ In The Rain With The One I Love.” The group’s success rejuvenated White’s own career, receiving acclaim for such songs as “I’m Gonna Love You Just A Little More Baby” and “Never, Never Gonna Give Ya Up” in 1973 and “Can’t Get Enough Of Your Love, Babe” and “You’re The First, The Last, My Everything” in 1974…. 

During the peak of his career, White earned gold and platinum discs for worldwide sales. The UK singer Lisa Stansfield has often publicly supported White’s work and in 1992, she and White re-recorded a version of Stansfield’s hit, “All Around The World.” During the ’90s, a series of commercially successful albums proved White’s status as more than just a cult figure….” 

To be honest, the only way I could have enjoyed writing this blog more is if these talented people were still with us. 

Until next week, 

Keep living your life! 

Just in Time

I woke up this morning thinking about Audre Lorde. She was the New York State Poet at one time and considered herself a “lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,”but more importantly to me, my writing mentor and friend… and I miss her terribly. Thinking about Audre led me to thinking about my younger daughter (Abby) who won the Black History Month Essay Contest in her elementary school several years in a row by writing about Audre’s and my friendship.

That stopped me for a moment. Audre, Abby, Black History Month. This is Black History Month and it’s half over. Time to write about Black History in Nephrology today.

As Andrea Wurtzburger wrote in People Magazine (I knew there was a reason I grabbed this first each time I waited in one medical office or another.) in the February 13, 2020 issue which was also posted at https://www.yahoo.com/entertainment/black-history-month-explained-started-175250248.html,

Black History Month is an entire month devoted to putting a spotlight on African Americans who have made contributions to our country. Originally, it was seen as a way of teaching students and young people about the contributions of Black and African Americans in school, as they had (and still have) been often forgotten or left out of the narrative of the growth of America. Now, it is seen as a celebration of those who’ve impacted not just the country, but the world with their activism and achievements.”

Now that we know what Black History Month is, let’s see how we can apply it to the field of nephrology. This is what I wrote in SlowItDownCKD 2017 (February 7th) about Dr. Kountz:

“Samuel L. Kountz, M.D was another innovative contributor to Nephrology from the Black Community. As Blackpast.org tells us:

“In 1961 Kountz and Roy Cohn, another leading surgeon, performed the first successful kidney transplant between two people who were close relatives but not twins.  Over the next decade Kountz researched the process of kidney transplants on dogs.  He discovered that monitoring blood flow into the new kidney and administering methylprednisolone to the patient after surgery allowed the body to accept the new organ.

In 1966 Kountz joined the faculty at Stanford University Hospital and Medical School and in 1967 he became the chief of the kidney transplant service at University of California at San Francisco (UCSF).  There he worked with Folker Belzer to create the Belzer kidney perfusion machine.  This innovation kept kidneys alive for 50 hours after being removed from the donor.  Through Kountz’s involvement at UCSF, the institution’s kidney transplant research center became one the best in the country.  Kountz also created the Center for Human Values at UCSF, to discuss ethical issues concerning transplants.”

Kidney News Online at https://www.kidneynews.org/careers/resources/opinion-re-establishing-trust-and-improving-outcomes-in-nephrology introduced me to someone who should be noted in Black History Month in the future since the general public needs to be aware of Chronic Kidney Disease in order to be tested and, ultimately, treated. Dr. Bignall echoes my own thoughts.

“O. N. Ray Bignall II, MD is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics in the Division of Nephrology at Nationwide Children’s Hospital and The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He is also a member of the American Society of Nephrology’s Policy and Advocacy Committee.

‘To re-establish trust and improve outcomes, we must carry health equity from “the bedside to the curbside.” From research and discovery, to policy and advocacy, nephrologists must engage directly with community members, stakeholders, and lawmakers. Minority communities need to see nephrologists in their schools, houses of worship, block parties, and community centers. We can increase our involvement in community-based participatory research (CBPR) that engages community members in the design, study, and implementation of evidence-based discovery. Nephrologists should also be taking our message to city halls, state houses, and our nation’s Capital to promote kidney disease research and advocacy for all our patients – especially those with disparate outcomes.’ ”

I felt compelled to include Dr. Charles DeWitt Watts who, while not a nephrologist, was eminent in breaking racial barriers so we could have Black nephrologists available to us. The following is from Duke University Medical Center and Library at https://guides.mclibrary.duke.edu/BlackHistoryMonth.

“Dr. Watts spent more than 50 years advocating for civil and human rights and for the quality of medical care for all residents of Durham, especially the poor and underserved. He broke racial barriers when he pushed for certification of black medical students.

First African American to be certified by a surgical specialty board in North Carolina.

Played key role in founding Lincoln Community Health Center, a free standing clinic, which served people regardless of their ability to pay.

Joined the staff of Lincoln Hospital as Chief of Surgery in 1950. Lincoln was one of the few American hospitals at the time that granted surgical privileges to African-American physicians.

Completed his surgical training at Freedman’s Hospital in Washington, DC under the tutelage of Dr. Charles Drew.

Worked to prepare Lincoln’s interns and residents for board certification and convinced Duke University Medical School to oversee Lincoln’s training program so that students could get board certified.

Fought along with other community leaders for the creation of one integrated public health care facility, Durham Regional Hospital, built in Durham in 1967. This led to the closing of both Watts and Lincoln hospitals.

Served as Adjunct Clinical Professor of Surgery at Duke and Director of Student Health at North Carolina Central University.

Served for 28 years as Vice President and Medical Director for North Carolina Mutual Life Insurance Co., the largest African-American managed insurer in the country.

Member of the National Academy of Science’s Institute of Medicine, a fellow in the American College of Surgeons, and an active participant in the National Medical Association.”

Until next week,

Keep living your life!