For Immediate Release June 19, 2024


Juneteenth celebrates the history and significance of the end of slavery. It honors the end of a woeful chapter in American history. People take this opportunity to plan events, host cookouts and celebrate their community.

“The idea of freedom is a universal one,” says Dr. Don Arnold II, endourologist and chief of surgery at SIH Memorial Hospital of Carbondale and SIH Herrin Hospital. “Similar to how we should all come together to celebrate the 4th of July, all Americans should be celebrating the freedom of the last pocket of approximately 250,000 slaves who were unaware the North won the Civil War.”

However, racism and prejudice still have a generational impact on access to care. Segregation ensured the Black community remained impoverished, creating a generational cycle of families struggling with housing and food insecurity, limited access to transportation and lack of consistent medical care. These non-medical environmental factors are called social determinants of health.

“It is important to be aware of these concerns when treating patients, because there are many experiences that can be a contributing factor to a sickness someone may be dealing with,” says SIH Podiatrist Dr. Turenne Metayer. “Psychological and social factors can trigger illnesses such as diabetes and hypertension. For example, if a patient was raised in a lower-class family, unfortunately they may not have access to quality nutrition, then it would not be surprising to know that they have diabetes. As a physician, it is important to listen and consider all factors that can be affecting a person’s health and find a common ground with them to improve it.”

Another factor that impacts access to care is trust in healthcare providers. Racism and prejudice play a large part in how the Black community has little trust for healthcare.

“It was not uncommon for slaves to have surgical procedures with little to no anesthesia, as it was felt they did not feel pain the same way as other groups of people did,” says Dr. Arnold.

This prejudiced mindset paved the way for continued unethical treatment of the Black community, as seen in the Tuskegee Experiment.

From 1932 to 1972, 600 Black men took part in this research study overseen by the United States Public Health Service to study the deteriorative effects of untreated syphilis. The participants were told they were being treated for “bad blood” and were not informed of their disease, even after treatment became widely available. By the time the Tuskegee Experiment was exposed to the public, 140 men had died from syphilis or conditions caused by the disease.

As a result, many in the Black community today still don’t trust public health officials or various types of medical treatment.

Dr. Metayer sees this when treating Black patients.

“It makes it hard for the Black community living in underserved areas – they will refrain from getting preventative care, which then increases their mortality rate. If a common health disparity in these areas is a lack of quality care in treatment of a disease, then there will be delays in seeking treatment or a diagnosis.”

It’s important for care providers to consider the patient’s background and perceptions of healthcare. Historical events like the Tuskegee Experiment can deter someone from seeking visits with their primary care provider or even routine health screenings.

As we collectively heal from this tumultuous history, Dr. Arnold wants patients to know SIH is committed to their care.

“Patients will receive the best healthcare possible,” says Dr. Arnold. “We do not treat people differently based upon race. Every person, regardless of their race and situation, should be treated with dignity and respect and without judgment. SIH has a widely diverse group of people working for the organization so patients can find someone they will be comfortable with.”