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SalterMitchell PR President Heidi Otway and Dr. Cheryl Holder discuss her family’s journey from Jamaica to the U.S., her experience as a black female medical student and now physician, and her current roles at the Florida International University Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, the Florida Clinicians for Climate Action and the Florida State Medical Association.
Chris Cate: Welcome to the Fluent in Floridian podcast, featuring the Sunshine State’s brightest leaders talking about the issues most important to the people of Florida and its millions of weekly visitors. In this episode created by SalterMitchell PR, our executive producer Heidi Otway, the president of SalterMitchell PR, talks to Dr. Cheryl Holder, a nationally recognized leader in the medical community and a staunch advocate for helping underserved populations.
Heidi Otway: Thank you for being a guest on this Fluent in Floridian podcast, we are so thrilled to have you.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Thank you for inviting me to be here and speak. I’ve been a Floridian for a while, so this is fun.
Heidi Otway: And speaking of Floridian, you’re not a native Floridian but you’ve been here for a number of years and you actually are from the Caribbean. So tell us your journey from the Caribbean to Florida.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Well, my parents, my mother came to the US, to New York back in the early sixties, and then we joined her in 1968. So I’m from Kingston, Jamaica, I grew up in a place called Harbor View. If you’ve ever been to Kingston in the airport, you have to go through Harbor View to go into any of the parts of Kingston or to go outside to the other coast. So you pass… many people have been through my community called Harbor View. It was one of the newest, suburban type development in Kingston and so it was planned community, lots of little cookie-cutter houses, and that’s where we lived. And then my mother came here for better opportunities. She’s a beautician, and she had a little salon in our house and my father was an accountant, but she wanted to do more. She’s been incredibly ambitious woman, very bright, very ambitious and so she came here.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: She was a domestic worker that’s how she was able to be sponsored and then she reunited the family and six to eight after about three years. So went to Brooklyn. I lived in East New York, Brooklyn. I remember 811 Cleveland street, very interesting neighborhood. Some parts of it looked pretty nice, other parts were very poor, very urban, very New York inner city [inaudible 00:01:55]. And we lived there for a year till they bought a house in Queens and Cambria Heights, Queens. We moved out to Queens and that’s where I grew up in Queens till I went to high school. Now I was always in the… Islands education is much more advanced for elementary school through high school than the US, at the time I was in Jamaica. You were generally a year or two ahead in your preparation, because in the Islands you leave, in Jamaica you leave at 16 in high school. So when I came to this country, I was pretty advanced academically.
Heidi Otway: Yeah, I was going to ask you, how was that transition from Jamaica to America for you when you were a young child?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Yeah, academically, I was ahead. So when I went to fifth grade it was very easy and I really wasn’t… it was a difficult year didn’t really learn as much and the kids were all very different, I was bullied of course, for being the Island person.
Heidi Otway: Yeah. Did they tease you because of your accent?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Yeah, for everything. And I was always a small child, I was a preemie, so I never quite got full huge. So I was always thin and little, so I was always picked on and I was in this country. In Jamaica it was no problem, Jamaica was fun. I was the youngest child of the family and lots of love and attention and we’re all fun. And the community in Jamaica was pretty much all new people and young families. So my elementary school at the time was… just in a good class, I was always in the A classes and all the kids in the A classes, all doing well.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: And in the Islands education and academic success is celebrated. So it was never a problem being at the top, as a matter of fact, it was the competition to be at the top. There’s always a competition to get the best grades, a competition to be on time, the competition to run the fast cause everybody did sports in Jamaica. So there’s always a competition to be the fastest, be the best grade to be the top girl or the top boy. So when I came to the US that was a very big transition where when you’re in the class doing well, you’re picked on.
Heidi Otway: Oh, wow.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Yeah, thank God I only stayed a year in that school. And all of us, all my siblings were taken out of Brooklyn because when I went to sixth grade, I was in the… they used to call it the IGC, Intellectually Gifted Children class. Then I was protected again with kids who are more like myself, because I love learning, I love to read, I love to learn, I love to talk about what I learned and I love to write about what I learn and that’s how it was in Jamaica. So the fifth grade was interesting in that it was, everything were about was very different and it was such a poor community and violent and just things that you’re not used to.
Heidi Otway: Yeah. So how did that shape you as you went through high school and then furthered your education?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: For me I enjoyed learning about the US that’s where I learned about roller skating and we learned about snow and we learned about-
Heidi Otway: Oh, imagine your first time.What was it like seeing snow for the first time?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Just exciting. I remember my first snow storm and we walked all over and how deep it was, it was so exciting. Everything was exciting and fun. I remember going to a store which was equivalent to a Walmart called Great Eastern and everything you can imagine in the store, huge store and I always loved colors and crayons and that was the first time I was able to get a crayon box of a thousand colors, it was just amazing. So Brooklyn was exciting and different and that’s the first time I saw people called Puerto Ricans, I didn’t know they existed.
Heidi Otway: Wow.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: And white people, we never really had much you saw them on television. And there was one white family left in the building where I lived and there were Puerto Ricans, which were all very new and of course, American blacks, which are all very new people. But being Jamaican and we had a very tight knit Caribbean group there in West Indian group, so we didn’t really mix that much with them. You went to school, but you didn’t really mix. I didn’t play that much with them, [inaudible 00:06:36] other groups that were there, but we [inaudible 00:06:38]. My brother now was more adventurous and he would play more with the kids, play something called Skelly, [inaudible 00:06:45] game, I didn’t see any after we left Brooklyn and roller skating.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: But I do know what I will always remember in Brooklyn was… what I saw that was just shocking and I still remember it, was the kids would jump onto the back of the bus in their roller skates and roll down the back of the bus and then in front of my stoop was where they would let go. And one day this little girl, she let go, but she was new to the block she was visiting her Puerto Rican cousins at the top of the block and she was new and she let go and fell on the back and hit her head that she laid in front of my house for a while, the stoop. And that’s when, I talk about it before in one of my TED talks, about just no ambulance ever came. We were all waiting and waiting and I still… This is where you realize when they talk about adverse childhood events and things, I can still see her, this is 50 something years later.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: And I can still see her, I remember her hair because she was one of the first Puerto Ricans that didn’t have dark hair and she was taller, she had sort of a light brown hair, very thick, like a horse in a ponytail. So the blood was caking in the hair, you could see it. And she was fairer than the other Puerto Rican people and she just laid there. The neighborhoods it’s very poor and New York city back in the sixties cops would show up but ambulances didn’t come and there weren’t a lot of services. So finally the police picked her up and took her. And that sort of stayed with me as you go through and you see the inequities in the world, it’s just so unfair.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: So I got into science, I’ve always liked math and science and so in elementary school, I was in that special class and then I was supposed to be skipped, but the teacher recommended to my mother, I’m so small, don’t skip me another year, don’t skip a year and send me the high school too early because I really looked young and tiny. [inaudible 00:08:54] into the height of middle school, junior high school, they called it, for seventh and… it’s seventh, eighth and ninth. It was probably one of the most violent high schools, middle school in Queens, it was just incredible.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: But again, I was in a special… SP classes, it protected the small group of kids. So we got the best teachers, the best everything. And I got the incredible math teacher who when it was time to take the test where the specialized high schools in New York, and we didn’t know anything about this in my family. We’d heard a little thing about Brooklyn tech from my brother who’s really smart, but we moved and so we didn’t hear anything about it till eighth grade, when my teacher said, “There’s a special class, a special school for kids who are math and science and I think you should take this test.” And he said, “And I’ll give you a few classes.” He gave the whole class, prepared the whole class to say, “Let’s see how many of you could take this test and go to the school.”
Dr. Cheryl Holder: So he gave us some classes and gave us some ideas. What the test was like, not many because we were mainly all black kids, I think there are one or two Spanish, Puerto Rican kids in my SP class. And [inaudible 00:10:13] we’re going to go on to high school in Queens, that was where you would sort of track those kids and then the few who would test out. But in the past not many would test into [inaudible 00:10:23]. So thank God I took the test, I did very well and everybody was shocked that I didn’t know anything about this. When you look back, you realize how expectations for black kids are so limited.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: When I went to Stuyvesant, you’re always stigmatized for going to a special program and for school. And I was not one of those kids who went to the special programs, because I just went straight in. But then I didn’t know the other black kids who were in the special program that they got into Stuyvesant. So I always show up in these situations where you’re the odd person out, the other black kids didn’t know who you were and the white kids didn’t want to talk to you because they said it was affirmative action and it was just… and the other black kids are all brilliant. I’m like, why does it matter, if they didn’t test… what’s the difference between a few points? But those few points labeled people so much and then for the folks who found out that I wasn’t in that program and I went straight through, then they labeled you something else. And it was just all unnecessary when I look back.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: But it was great experience, I love Stuyvesant. Again, because it’s filled with people who love to learn, who love to do well, who [inaudible 00:11:52] it was so exciting. Every year you’d have a week or so, where you could take any course you wanted to take, you could create your own course. I did a whole thing on Elizabethan, my senior year was an Elizabethan and pre-Elizabethan literature. I took calculus and pre-calculus and a different level math because I had the only black teacher in the school taught this higher level of math, I forget her name, but she was amazing.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: And so you able to learn some things in that school, it was just a wonderful school. And then it was in the city, in the village so you could travel and see all of New York. New York was our playground, the city was our playground. So when I look back at what I did in Stuyvesant, being able to have the freedom to run through New York city. I remember the alphabet cities, we went to Chinatown, we went to Feast of San Genaro in Little Italy. We went up to Harlem because I was on the gymnastic team so we would go there to compete, but you’d go to Harlem, you’d go to South Bronx, you’d go all over New York and it was just amazing.
Heidi Otway: Yeah. So very rich city, enriching culture.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: But that’s when I met some amazing American blacks, we learned to play bid whist, I learned about that [inaudible 00:14:02] culture and the dancing and the parties. It was just a wonderful four years of just total immersion into a city with kids who are all about learning and succeeding and also very radical. We had protests, everything you wanted. Now I look back it wasn’t special intellectually stimulating environment of specially selected kids from all over New York, but that was a great experience. Then I went to Princeton, which was different. It wasn’t like Stuyvesant, it’s very academic [inaudible 00:14:42].
Heidi Otway: Talk about that. Talk about that transition there and then how did you make your way to Florida.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Now, Princeton very, very different than what I experienced in New York. Where New York was welcoming and everybody felt like you belonged, Princeton was definitely clear social classes, the racial differences, the gender differences it. And this is back in 76 to 80, I went to Princeton. So Princeton is a different place now but then it wasn’t about getting together and creating that community as a Princeton community, it was pretty much about getting your grades and finding your group that was going to move you ahead. But met some amazing black folks because we had to all stay together, there were so few of us. So in that regard it was wonderful. In my freshmen house, I was with six other black women and they were from all over America and these are different group of blacks that I’ve never met before.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: A lot of them wealthy some were not so wealthy, rural blacks are blue blacks, there’s all different types of black folks. So that was exciting and then Puerto Ricans from the Island of Puerto Ricans from all over. I met my first native American and we used to have… I’ve heard about them and we played Cowboys and Indians when I was in Jamaica, but I never met a real Indian. And then we’d have [inaudible 00:16:21], we had a third world center and the third world center allowed us to share our cultural experiences. Being Jamaican, there are some other Jamaicans, so we help form the wiser West Indian Student Association-
Heidi Otway: Was that the first at Princeton?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Yeah. Princeton had by seventies… when we got there at ’76 the larger numbers had only started maybe four years before. The first female, we’re just graduating in 76 so by the time I got I was in the fifth class of women. So it was just beginning to be integrated when I got to Princeton. [inaudible 00:17:00] still hadn’t… diversity and inclusivity and all those things were not really on the agenda. It started to get into residential colleges when I was leaving because I got involved in student government and some other areas to improve the conditions at Princeton for diverse populations. [inaudible 00:17:21] didn’t do the eating clubs, which was an incredibly… I never heard of this, till I got there. We didn’t have fraternities and sororities, there were eating clubs and you had to bicker, never knew what that was either, and then you went and talked and socialized and interviewed to participate in the social world of these super wealthy people. And was mainly male, male houses and they had beautiful mansions on the street called prospect and the third [inaudible 00:17:52] was at the end at the bottom of the block. I mean, you’d have to pass… so like walk the [inaudible 00:17:57] pass all these mansions, with all their beautiful parties and then they all had black servants and it was quite a different world.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Of course the and did well. I was able to do my psychology, we had incredible teachers, I was able to do research, get published, read, create my own senior thesis. So academically Princeton was incredible, unmatched. Socially I enjoyed it because I found my own world, but looking back, there was so much that was open to me and people who are like me. When you’re young, you don’t realize it and it doesn’t matter because, “I don’t want to be with them anyway.” That’s what you were thinking and then when you get older you realize, “But how come we didn’t get the opportunity?” Because if somebody had given you more opportunities, you would have even learned more at that school and been able to take advantage of more. But for what I… it was fine, I didn’t mind.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Now for medical school, I went to George Washington. I chose George Washington because I liked the city and I loved their primary care program and I knew from ninth grade, I wanted to do medicine. And I think it’s just overall illnesses in the family, I still remembered that little girl and it didn’t interact and we moved soon after, I really don’t know what happened to her. But at Stuyvesant, there was a pre-med organization called Prep and I applied and I got in. And a lot of all the pre-meds were there and we were able to go to NYU on Saturdays, we had a lot of programs together, it was just exciting times. And so I knew I wanted medicine.
Chris Cate: The Fluent in Floridian podcast is brought to you by SalterMitchell PR, a communications consultancy focused on helping good causes win. We provide strategic insight and guidance to organizations seeking to make an impact in the nation’s third-most populous state. Learn more at SMPRFlorida.com. Now back to Heidi’s interview with Dr. Cheryl Holder.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: So I chose George Washington because it had a primary care program, which very early would take you in the communities and it sounded fabulous. I spent four years, there were four black people in my class, four black women, we all look totally different, I tell you to this day, they couldn’t tell us apart, we just didn’t matter.
But it’s been interesting times when you look back at this age and see how many ways you could have been pushed over to the other side because the society truly did not support you very well. Especially in medical school, that was just totally discouraging. Luckily, my friend from Princeton was in law school so we ended up being a roommate we’re still very close to this day and that was my support system.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: And the National Medical Association, one of the professors, that’s not… he was an adjunct, Dr. Green, a pediatrician, who took an interest in the few blacks that there were at George Washington and reached out to us. And so between the few areas that made you believe you could do this. I never delivered a baby in medical school and I looked back and I realized that they sent me to the place because it’s very competitive and unless, you know you want to be an OB, you’re not going to go to the hospital that delivers babies because they are going to work together and it’s totally different world. And if you’ve never been in that world of medicine back then, you didn’t know how to negotiate.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: So I ended up at the hospital that most of the non-OBs go to and especially the black non-OBs because most of the patients don’t want you to touch them because it’s a rich [inaudible 00:28:04]-
Heidi Otway: Yeah, I was wondering about that.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Yeah. So I ended up at GW Hospital and that’s the place that most of the white folks won’t have you work with them. So especially during childbirth, I never close. It didn’t matter to me cause I wanted didn’t want to do OB anyway. But when I look came back, I say, “Who knows what could have happened if these things were available to that child? To that young [inaudible 00:28:31]” I always knew what I wanted so it didn’t bother me, but who knows what somebody else, if they were pushed in that situation. And just the total being… just very little… thank God, my internal medicine resident, who has assigned to took an interest in me and taught me so much more medicine than I’ve ever imagined.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: But in general, most people, it was… The surgery rotations were all racists and they made some horrible comments about the patients and the poor people and it was a very interesting environment. And so when I was finished, I’m like, “Oh my God, never again.” I went to Harlem hospital, which I met the most incredible chair, Gerald Thompson, who was just a pillar of medicine for the black program. And so that’s when I really loved medicine at Harlem hospital. It was hard, but it was all dedicated black physicians who wanted to do what we set out to do, really make a difference in this world.
And Jackson Memorial hospital, one of my persons that I knew, the few white people who talked to me at George Washington medical school, and there are very few, I think you’re a three or four who actually made an effort to become a friend of mine, was Dr. Bearman. And when I came down to interview, she was here. And she says, “Wow, what a small world.” And so that’s how I ended up in Miami. They selected me to do my payback here. And so I came down knowing only one person-
Heidi Otway: I’m about to cry.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: No, it was so wonderful.
Heidi Otway: That’s very wonderful.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: So that’s how I ended up in Miami. The community health center, very similar to what I’ve always loved, which is in the Jackson system needed a medical director. So I could fulfill my payback and be a medical director of a community health center.
Heidi Otway: Wow, full circle.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Yeah, full circle. And it was at North Dade Health Center. And the team that I work with were incredibly black female nurses and when I learned the history of the black nurses in Dade County, you know they had to be top of their game to become and survive the Jim Crow [inaudible 00:33:28]nation. And North Dade Health Center had a lot of these nurses, just fantastic, strong, intelligent black women from different parts of Georgia who had migrated to the South, so it was a wonderful clinic. And with that, we were able to write grants, we developed school-based health centers, we did HIV care, we expanded the program, we did research. Across the community, we started off with like 30,000 visits by the time I left, we’re near 50,000 visits per year. It was the most dynamic health center for our communities. We’d have Easter hunts and Halloween and black history month and we did everything for the community. It was just-
Heidi Otway: Now where was the center located in Miami?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Opa-locka but it’s Miami gardens at 165th, right before you go over the 826. So is it was at Opa-locka and Carol City.
Heidi Otway: Yeah. I’m from Carol city, I grew up in Carol city.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: North Dade Health Center is off 27th, right at the expressway.
Heidi Otway: I know exactly where you’re talking about. I probably saw you when I was a little kid.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Yeah. So it was just an incredibly fun time and good medicine and good community work and really being impactful and trying to decrease HIV transmission, which I think we did a great job. When the community… this was the height of the community health center movement in Dade County. Because we would work together, the all [inaudible 00:35:48], Miami beach, North Dade Health Center, Jesse [inaudible 00:35:53] community, they all expanded and grew and really provided care. It’s changing a little bit now and the way healthcare is being delivered.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: The health department had a big role in bringing it all together and the health department, as you know got defunded between the last governor Scott and the new governor, they’ve really not funded the health department well so the role of public health has changed over time. And when that decline started happening and just difficult providing care, I decided to switch over to [inaudible 00:36:29] college of medicine, because they were going to start medicine, teaching it in a new way. And that’s using the social determinants of health and going into homes with a team of medical students to, hopefully impact and change and improve the health outcomes. And bringing medical students into homes so they could understand where this all starts, how do we make a difference in the homes?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Because people just don’t live… they don’t show up in your clinic and you’re going to have an impact and really change the outcomes by just what you do in the clinic. So I loved the concept and I went over in 2009 to be on faculty there and to teach the next generation.
So I’m able to continue the work that I started way back when, in a different way. And then now my big area is climate because there is an existential threat for entire humanity. And my patients are feeling the effects and every time I something happens and I, for the last five years, I’ve been seeing it because I work at the front lines and I say that they are our [inaudible 00:38:14]. If it happens to the patients that I care for-
Heidi Otway: Give me an example of what you’re seeing as far as the health impacts of climate change.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: I work with a gentleman who was a street vendor, so heat. When you see his kidney function worsening because of heat. When you see that when it’s a hundred something degrees outside and he has to keep working in this, how do you survive? I have a woman who COPD, she lived in one of these old houses, you know Opa-locka has those old houses, she was one of these federal workers, these County workers, because back in the sixties, they opened up and they gave some black women, some chances to be some low level clerical workers. So she’s now 30 years retired, has her little house in Opa-locka, but it’s falling apart, the ceiling is not good, the windows are not good, the insulation isn’t good. So when she runs her air conditioner, the bill is super high. And when it’s really hot and the bill is high, you can’t pay it.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: So then she came to me looking for FPL assistance. But the FPL assistance is for people who are using machines. FPL doesn’t think about the heat and installation and everything else is unfair and the energy burden is too high for poor people and then she can’t buy her medicines it exacerbates her COPD because she’s using her medicines more. This is years ago and now we’re talking about heat. This was five years ago, my patient was already dying with heat. And these trees that are growing super tall, if you go in Miami gardens, the trees are like to the roof way past a roof. They can’t afford to prune hundreds of dollars. When those trees come down in a storm and they bang your house, then you don’t get your… you can’t fix the house, you can’t get your mortgage, you can’t get your insurance because you got to fix the roof, [inaudible 00:40:13] from the one of the households we did.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Now, why are the trees so big? Climate change, the CO2 is… the trees are growing way faster than they should. They’re messing up the sidewalks, they can’t afford to prune them. They can’t afford it. And everyone goes, “Oh, we need trees, we need trees.” Yes, we need trees. But somebody had to help these poor people manage their trees.
So the climate change is impacting our communities right now. It’s not [inaudible 00:41:49] years, it’s not 50 years, it’s right now.
Heidi Otway: What is your role in trying to help?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: I’m trying clinicians, physicians much more involved and assisting the community. Because when you don’t have screens as a renter and you get the Zika and you get their West Nile and Dengue, who’s going to fix the screen? So this is one practical thing that as doctors, you can write a letter. So we’re creating the template for the letters so the doctors can start getting these screens put on. We can start with pregnant women, we can start educating the doctors that heat is definitely related to the pre-term labor. So if you’re living in the heat island, in which most of these folks are because of all the red lining and all those policies, then how do the physicians, they say, “Prepare that woman. She’s not one to go walk and go take an umbrella, if you’re pregnant and go walk around. No.” Between the hydration and staying cool that’s what you’re going to have to do. The elderly the same way.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: We’re going to have to put some cooling centers, places where people who can’t afford the AC has somewhere to go. So [inaudible 00:43:01], things that we have to start doing now, not 10 years from now, but right now, if we’re going to help our community survive. We’re going to have to do energy efficiency, weatherproofing, so many things we need for our poor communities to survive what’s happening to us right now. So again with the clinicians more involved and more aware of what’s happening, we can start billing and coding and educating the communities and getting that activism because they have to speak up before it’s too late. Because if you [inaudible 00:43:32] let it out, you’re going to move.
Heidi Otway: Now you’re over a group, that’s helping advocate for this, is that right?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: I’m in the Florida Clinicians for Climate Action, I’m co-chair and help put it together back in 2018 with the National Medical Association. So that’s one of the… And then Florida, you cannot live here and not know climate change is real. That we had a governor who wouldn’t allow us to talk about it and this current governor will pay for mitigation, but doesn’t want to get to the root cause that is fossil fuel and won’t push for stopping the burning that happens in sugarcanes.
Heidi Otway: So is that what your association is helping just spread that word and get more people involved?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: We’re trying to get at the clinicians… we are spreading the words of the clinician so that clinicians can identify the health impact and then code for the health impact and get the systems to support the patients. Because if I can make notes that the asthma is being exacerbated because of the pollution here, then somebody has to address the pollution. If I can [inaudible 00:46:24] Zika, because you don’t have screens on your windows, then I can have documentation and saying, “You better get screens on that person’s window.” So we are looking to using the health to leverage for the mitigation that’s needed for poor people.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Because poor people shows the impact in their health effects and so we have to mitigate the poor people. And that’s only through clinicians can we then identify the injury that’s happening and get the change. So if your child is getting all these rashes, because there’s so much mold in the apartment, these are all renters, we have got to get the landlords to do it. So we as clinicians can identify the health impact, we can then get the rest of the neighborhoods improve and the policy change because we see the harm.
Heidi Otway: So if anyone is listening to this and they want to learn more, they want to support this cause, where should they go?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Florida clinicians for Climate Action, floridaclinician.org, that’s what that will be the medical side and the health impact side. There’s Cleo Institute that talks about the person who… the housing issues and the other learning that the moms can do and the teaching, we really geared towards health and we geared towards teaching nurses, doctors, all the health professionals how to come together where we can identify the health harm from climate and then try and mitigate around it for that patient, which will then stimulate hopefully the rest of the conversation where we then push for policy changes.
Heidi Otway: So Dr. Holder, I know you have to go back and be with your patients. So I just wanted to ask you three questions that we always ask our guests when we close our interviews. And the first question is what Florida person, place or thing deserves more attention than it currently gets?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Well, for me it’s the people, the poor people, the folks in these neighborhoods that are struggling day to day working two and three jobs, especially the women. Oh my gosh. Not just the Black women, the Hispanic women, the women are so tired, they work so hard. That this pandemic for some of them, when they got the $600 and the 1200, it was the first time they could rest. And I would call them and do my visit and they’re like, “Oh, I’m doing okay. Oh, it’s all right.” Cause they could rest for a little bit and paid their bills. So what we need is to really support our women, our poor women of every race and make sure the wages are better so their children can survive because they work so hard for their children, they were so hard for their grandchildren and they sacrifice everything for their families and then we often don’t even see them. So I think the Floridian woman, I have to give my hats to and wish we could do more for her.
Heidi Otway: So when you’re not working, where’s your favorite place to visit in Florida?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Oh, in Florida? Well, I go visit my mom in Palm Bay. My mom is still alive at 92. She’s 91 will be 92. So she’s hilarious. She has dementia, but not too bad. Still remembers who she is and who I am. So I go visit her because she still gets so excited to see me. And then when we hang up to go, she goes, “Baby girl, love you, love you, love you.”
Heidi Otway: That’s amazing. That is amazing. And then my last question is, who is a Florida leader from the past or present that inspires you?
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Oh gosh, Dazelle Simpson. Oh my God. Dazelle Simpson, the first black pediatrician in the state of Florida, the first board certified black pediatrician. She went to Fisk. She died at 95. She just died last year. Incredible, incredible woman. She had her own practice. She is the granddaughter of Stirrup, who was one of the first black millionaires in Florida. The most humble woman, brilliant. She was the treasurer for our organization and she would keep the books and she would keep us on point and hopeful, loving, sharing wisdom. And she was in pain towards the end, but you would never know it. She’s a giant, she was a giant, Dazelle Simpson.
Dr. Cheryl Holder: Her husband, George is still alive. He’s also amazing, but Dazelle… And she didn’t get… she got some recognition in the black community, but had she been white she would have been like the Stoneman lady, Marjory Stoneman Douglas. She was like the black Stoneman Douglas for Dade County. She took care of so many of the children she was one of the first pediatric practices, just a giant, a giant in the field and just a giant for humanity. I don’t know if you know her, but Dazzle Simpson, amazing woman, amazing Floridian. And her family history with the Stirrups. Go back and review as Dazelle Simpson.
Heidi Otway: I will. I’m into history books, so I’ll definitely do that. Well, Dr. Holder, you’re a giant in my eyes and I’m sure when I get off this podcast, I’m probably going to cry some more, because you have inspired me in ways that I had never imagined. And I hope that I get to talk with you again to learn more. So thank you for being a guest on our Fluent in Floridian podcast.
Chris Cate: Thanks for listening to the Fluent in Floridian podcast. This show is executive produced by April Salter, with additional support provided by Heidi Otway and the team at SalterMitchell PR. If you need help telling your Florida story, SalterMitchell PR has you covered by offering issues management, crisis communications, social media, advocacy, and media relations assistance. You can learn more about SalterMitchell PR at saltermitchellpr.com. You can also learn more about the Fluent in Floridian podcast and listen to every episode of the show at fluentinfloridian.com or by searching for the show using your favorite podcast app. Have a great day.
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