St Louis has been the media quite a bit in 2020 with Netflix’s Self Made: The Madam CJ Walker Story and now with The Color of Medicine. Growing up in St. Louis, many a joke was told about ‘killer Phillips’ and how folk would notoriously go in for care and never come out – hence the nickname. But for previous generations, like my Mom who was born there, Homer G. Phillips Hospital was a revered institution named after respected member of the St. Louis community who changed the medical landscape in my hometown forever.
When COVID-19 aka the Coronavirus hit the United States, it made SARS and the Flu look tame. Hitting harder than any other health crisis ever before, it ‘s become impossible to ignore the fact that the African-American community has been particularly vulnerable. The disparity between the medical treatment that our community receives and others has never been more evident than it has been during this time and is a major cause for concern.
Directed by Joyce Marie Fitzpatrick and Brian Shackelford, The Color of Medicine: The Story of Homer G. Phillips Hospital enlightens its audience on one of the first institutions in the country (and I dare say the world) to treat African-Americans in a safe, hygienic and sterile environment. This meant that African-Americans in the community were no longer without medical care or resorting to illegal and dangerous methods of treatment. Homer G. Phillips Hospital was of utmost importance from its opening in 1937 to its dramatic closure in 1979, which incited riots in its neighborhood of “The Ville.”
Watching staff from the hospital reminisce about their training, the doctors and the fight to keep the hospital open was enlightening for those of us who only knew this institution to have a very different face. Nurses were not only taught to perfect their craft, but became cultured and educated in life along the way. It proves that when it comes to the African-American community we are always the discarded when it comes to healthcare then and now. As it was only when the rumor mill chattered saying more African-Americans were succumbing to the virus than any other group, stay-at-home restrictions became relaxed with no regard for the fact my people are more susceptible for the virus due to pre-existing conditions. Health issues coupled with the virus that would result in more death.
Knowing that once upon a time, there were medical professionals who took their oath seriously to care for ‘all life’ and that they were trained and sometime born in bred in my beloved hometown of St. Louis made me overwhelmed with joy. After all one of the doctors, Helen Nash, actually pierced my ears as a little girl. I had no idea the adversity she endured as a woman, a doctor and being African-American in her chosen medical field. Dr. Nash was a tough cookie and now I know why – but not surprised.
You won’t have to be from St. Louis to be enlightened, proud and educated when The Color of Medicine: The Story of Homer G. Phillips Hospital becomes available via on digital for an SRP of $4.99 – $9.99 from platforms including iTunes, Vudu, Google Play, Xbox, Amazon, and FandangoNow, as well as cable affiliates everywhere and to buy on DVD for $12.99 online at all major retailers on May 12th.