In December 2016, the Oscar Nominated, historical documentary movie “Hidden Figures” was released with a Box Office Grossing Record of $236 million shocking the world because the movie focused on three African American Women in Computer Science from the 1940’s – 1970’s. They are Katherine Johnson, 100 years old (Mathematician), the late, Dorothy Vaughan, passed at age 98 in 2008 (Mathematician and Supervisor), and the late Mary Jackson, passed at age 84 in 2005 (National Aeronautics and Space Administration- NASA Engineer). They shattered color and gender barriers showing society that African American Women could achieve high levels of success in complex scientific fields especially calculating space flight trajectories for Project Mercury and Apollo 11.
The movie opened many eyes and expanded possibilities and hopes for young girls and women in scientific and technical careers. One brilliant idea was revealed at the second annual “Hidden Figures” Gala, an elegant, black tie event held in Atlanta, Georgia at the Hyatt Regency’s International Ballroom on October 27, 2018 and several vendors participated.
The Williams Forum for Diabetic Education and Healthcare (WFDEH), a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization created this yearly affair to recognize current distinguished women in medicine and science. I was fortunate and proud to be among this elite group of physicians and scientists as a photojournalist.
The Keynote Speaker was the Honorable Judge Glenda A. Hatchett, a world renowned authority in family law, who leads a two-time Emmy nominated nationally syndicated show. We were both impressed with the lives and achievements of these phenomenal women. In her presentation, Judge Hatchett challenged the audience to continue to support this venue possibly through education. She further offered insight into her own love for math and science and letting us know that at the end of her high school career she was accepted at the prestigious Massachusetts Institute of Technology but instead chose another educational path.
Credit can be given to the director of this event, Dr. Patricia Williams Bennett, her trustees and devoted friends. Dr. Bennett is a Podiatric Surgeon with an extensive background in clinical trials and research who had the vision for this event. Dr. Bennett’s career includes both domestic and international clinical research management at multibillion dollar global pharmaceutical companies where she originated clinical protocol designs for current pharmaceutical market leaders.
She is a global expert on complications of the diabetic foot and has lectured both nationally and internationally (including Cuba) on this topic. Dr. Bennett also serves on the Advisory Board of the School of Community Health and Wellness at her Alma mater, Morgan State University. She is also a graduate of Atlanta University and the New York College of Podiatric Medicine.
Dr. Bennett is involved in using some of the latest high-tech procedures for limb salvage including hyperbaric medicine and the use of bioengineered tissue. Through her nonprofit organization, The Williams Forum for Diabetic Education And Healthcare (WFDEH) williamsdiabetesforum focuses on healthcare disparities in underserved communities and mentoring in healthcare and scientific disciplines. Her vision for this annual fund-raising gala is to celebrate the lives and achievements of many women in medicine and science who are saving lives and making scientific contributions to the world daily; yet they are unknown to the general population. She wanted them to be seen and heard on the world’s platform and to be recognized as the newest “Hidden Figures”.
Dr. Bennett graced the podium with class and was proud to present the Honorees for 2018. She was able to host and be the Mistress of Ceremony for the “Hidden Figures” Gala 2018. Next year, the tentative location for this event will be New York City. The 2018 “Hidden Figures” honorees were:
Loretta Hicks, MD, MBA; United States Navy (Retired) Aviation Medical Officer has a private practice specializing in Family Medicine in Atlanta, GA. She provides compassionate, outpatient care to military retirees and their dependents even after her retirement from the United States Navy. She trains doctors in other military programs and Veteran Affairs (VA).
Ayanna MacCalla Howard, PhD (not present) – Chair, Interactive Engineering, Georgia Tech University, Technology, Roboticist. In the robotics age, a robot can safely perform procedures more accurately and precisely than done manually by surgeons. These procedures minimize bleeding while resulting in a quicker recovery.
Barbara Gales, MD, MPH is Medical Director Compensation and Pensions; Director Department of Rehabilitative Medicine Veteran Affairs Hospital in Spokane Washington specializing in Occupational Medicine and Rehabilitation Medicine and Internal Medicine. She received a BA degree in Biochemistry from Cornell University and an MD in Mexico. Currently she performs extensive detailed physical examinations of veterans with complex disabilities such as respiratory impairments, traumatic brain injuries, and poly-traumatic injuries. Dr. Gales is a master motivator and has an extensive 40 year history of mentoring those seeking scientific and medical careers.
Cheryl T. Gomillion, PhD is a Chemical, Material & Biomedical Tissue Engineer at the University of Georgia, Athens, GA. Part of her role involves developing bioengineered tissue (skin substitute) to be used in plastic and reconstructive procedures. Bioengineered tissue may be used to repair various types of catastrophic wounds such as gunshot wounds, burns and uclers. Also, Dr. Gomillion has developed a new interactive lab course for Biological Engineering Senior Capstone Design in which she mentors younger generations who will be making the next significant impact in the medical STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) fields.
Stephanie Miles-Richardson, DVM, PhD, Professor, Community Health & Preventive Medicine, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, GA. A dual doctorate which includes a degree in Veterinarian Medicine and a PhD in Pathology and Environmental Toxicology. She also helps students enter the STEM career fields and coordinates activities with the Center for Disease Control (CDC). Dr. Richardson is a Commissioned Officer who served as Assistant Director of Minority Health Policy at CDC and also worked within the Toxic Substances and Disease Registry division.
Sarah Y. Vinson, MD, Psychiatrist Lorio-Psych Group Triple Board Certified Children & Adolescent, Adult & Forensic Psychiatry, Atlanta, GA – who provides expert care such as psychotherapy, consultation and psychotherapy in mental health, and is the founder and Senior Editor of OurselvesBlack, the website and magazine. Ourselves Black was created as a platform for discussion about Black mental health.
Judy Greenlea-Taylor, DDS, MPH is a practicing dentist in Union City, GA. She was the 92nd President of the National Dental Association and has over 25 years of service and dedication to her dental profession. Dr. Taylor is the Dental Director for CareSource, the only nonprofit coordinated care plan, to serve Medicaid and PeachCare for Kids, members in Georgia. She was appointed by the Georgia Governor to the Georgia Board of Public Health in 2013 and reappointed in 2015.
After the award presentations were completed, a very special guest and a great surprise for Dr. Bennett and others in the audience was revealed. It was the world renowned, electric violinist, Ken Ford, who captivated the audience with his unique, artistic skills and style. Mr. Ford used his musical skills to mesmerize and entertain a totally attentive audience. All eyes were focused on his performance. He was unbelievable and fascinating.
Ultimately, Judge Hatchett rendered a magnificent, motivational and inspirational speech. Though, she may be in the law profession, she spoke of her love of Mathematics. She said she was so impressed with the phenomenal cadre of achievers and charged those in the audience to continue to support and disseminate information to students and others regarding this event and its focus on these precious “Hidden Figures”.
So, next time, when you think of the new current technology, think of these intriguing, outstanding women in medicine and science. These women were born to change the world with their brilliance, knowledge and skills and are saving lives and changing the world.
We thank Dr. Patricia Williams Bennett for her foresight and for being a “Hidden Figure”, while also acknowledging others in this category. She made us aware of the importance of education and technology in saving and preserving lives and giving a voice and a platform to previously unknown women in medicine and science known as “Hidden Figures”.
The 2019 gala is projected to take place in New York City, so we will see you there. The organization sincerely welcomes any philanthropic, sponsorship, support or donations which are the sole funding sources for this unique foundation.