1. Please tell us a little bit about yourself – Primary occupation? Interests? Hobbies?
I am a native of South Carolina, though I’ve been in Alabama for 47 years now. My background is in education, with 25 years having been spent teaching science at J.O. Johnson High School. While I chose to stay in South Carolina and attend Morris College for my undergraduate degree, I received my masters from THE Ohio State University and obtained my certification in administration from Alabama A&M.
Although I’m no longer teaching, I still have a joy for learning. These days, I spend a lot of time reading anything and everything, from books to research reports and studies. I also enjoy swimming and try to start every morning at the pool.
2. What first prompted you to consider running for your House District seat and how do you believe your background and experiences help you serve in the legislature?
Well, I actually had not even considered running for office prior to the 1993 election. Throughout my life I have always been involved in various organizations and worked on campaigns, but I never intended to be an elected official. In fact, it wasn’t until a group of friends and district leaders approached me with the idea that I even considered this opportunity.
Looking back, it really is incredible just how my life came full circle. Having grown up during the civil rights era and participated in many demonstrations, I was now heading to the birthplace of that movement as a duly elected member of the Alabama House of Representatives.
3. During the last legislative session, you were a leading voice in bringing awareness to one of the Medical Association’s top priorities – reversing the maternal mortality crisis in Alabama and ensuring sufficient funding to combat it through public health research and strategy. Tell us a little about why this issue is so important to you.
That’s simple: because the women and families impacted by this issue told me their stories. I distinctly recall a young lady telling me how she did not speak or see a doctor until she was over six months pregnant. Similarly, another lady told me how she never went back to the doctor after having the child.
These women aren’t alone, either. Their stories, coupled with the mortality disparities for black women, is not something I could sit idly by and do nothing about. Fighting for better health care for women in Alabama is now a lifelong passion.
4. By funding the maternal mortality review committee, if Alabama is able to reverse its disturbing trend in maternal deaths like other states with similar programs have done, what kind of message does that send for the state’s ability to tackle other troubling health care disparities?
When you look at the real impact MMRCs have had in states like California – where the MMRC has decreased its maternal mortality rate by over 55% since 2006 – I am optimistic that we will be able to look back and see similar results. When a program is able to show reliable, positive data, it strengthens the argument for funding similar initiatives.
Moving forward, I believe more work needs to be done on policy that expands access for mothers and children and addresses social determinants of health. I intend to continue advocating for things like extending postpartum Medicaid coverage from sixty days to one year, as well as increased childcare services and educational options for those mothers and children.
5. If you could change one thing about our state’s health care system, what would it be?
Sticking with social determinants of health, I’d remove barriers to access to quality healthcare and the transportation to get there.
6. How can the Medical Association – and physicians statewide – help better address Alabama’s health challenges?
Having led a successful coalition to fund the MMRC, I think it’s critical for the Medical Association to continue being a leading voice for those who do not have the resources to do so. From expanding Medicaid to encouraging mental health funding and promoting rural health care access, the Medical Association can continue to be a leader in shaping Alabama policy.