Celebrating Black History Month with Health and Wellness

A graphic showcasing four photos. From left to right, the text underneath each photo reads "Olabisi Sanusi, M.D., Dr. Antwon Chavis, M.D., Dr. André Walcott, Ph.D., and Dr. Sará King, Ph.D." The background image is a sunset over Mt. Hood taken from Marquam Hill with the Portland Aerial Tram coming into the foreground.

In collaboration with Travel Oregon, OHSU celebrated Black joy and the work of Black scholars and medical practitioners all month long.

February is Black History Month, and the theme this year was Health and Wellness.

Four OHSU providers and researchers were highlighted across social media: Dr. Olabisi Sanusi, Dr. Antwon Chavis, Dr. André Walcott, and Dr. Sará King.

Dr. Olabisi Sanusi

Dr. Sanusi is an assistant professor of neurological surgery at OHSU School of Medicine.

Originally from Nigeria, she came to the U.S. for college and landed in Portland to focus on her work in neurological surgery, especially in the brain and spinal cord cancer.

Her favorite parts about Oregon? Wine tasting, going to farmer’s markets, and trying out new restaurants.

She also keeps a great wellness routine, involving stationary biking, yoga, Pilates, dance cardio, singing, and writing poems. Listening to audiobooks on her way to work keeps her grounded.

Dr. Antwon Chavis

Dr. Chavis is a pediatrician at OHSU who’s lived and worked in Portland since 2013.

An Iowa native, he’s found a new home with his family in Portland. He loves exploring the city’s music and theater venues and sampling the food around town, especially at Blue Star Donuts, the numerous Black-owned restaurants, and Portland’s LGBTQ spaces.

When he gets outside, some of his favorite places include Forest Park, the Oregon Coast and Mt. Hood for ski weekends. As a foster parent, he enjoys taking his kids anywhere that encourages them to be active and adventurous.

At work, Dr. Chavis gets excited about teaching families and his colleagues about diversity and teaching children how to embrace their own race and the racial differences in others. “As a pediatrician, I have a big opportunity to decrease internalized racism and promote cultural self-identity formation,” he says. “I get to do this by helping parents create diverse play spaces in their homes (diverse books and toys), helping parents have hard conversations about big topics, and prioritizing minority physician recruitment and retention.”

Positivity is often in short supply these days, but Dr. Chavis recharges his batteries by going to the gym, taking dance and fitness classes, and engaging with his support networks including organizations like Multnomah County Healthy Birth Initiatives, which works to improve the well-being of African American mothers, fathers, and children.

Dr. André Walcott

Dr. Walcott is a program manager at the OHSU Fellowship for Diversity in Research.

Dr. Walcott hails from Modesto, Calif., and did his research studies in New York City before moving to Portland. In 2019 he became the first African American to receive a Ph.D. in behavioral neuroscience at OHSU.

In Oregon he has no shortage of favorite activities: hanging out at Mt. Tabor, running along the Portland waterfront, having a drink at Roof Deck at Revolution Hall, wine tasting at Laurel Ridge Winery, biking around the Portland-metro area (including the Banks-Vernonia Trail), floating down the Sandy River and spending time at the Coast.

More of his top spots include Tough Luck in Northeast Portland, dim sum in the Jade District, burgers from West Coast Grocery, and live music at the Wonder Ballroom. He also loves tending to his plant collection and spending time with his husband, Daniel, and their two cats, Gizmo and Gadget.

At work, Dr. Walcott is excited about being able to help post-baccalaureate scholars get into Ph.D. programs in the sciences. When he was applying to graduate school, he says, he had no idea how many barriers he was going to encounter. “There are so many unwritten rules and norms in higher education that if no one taught you them, then you go into these spaces blindly,” he says. “We call this the ‘hidden curriculum,’ and a lot of individuals from historically excluded groups in the sciences never uncover the hidden curriculum and end up leaving the world of academia.” He appreciates the opportunity to help others follow in his footsteps.

Dr. Sará Yafah King

Dr. King is a research scientist and NIH post-doctoral fellow in neurology at the Oregon Center for Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Neurological Disorders at OHSU.

That means Dr. King and her colleagues get to do research on mind-body interventions to support health and wellbeing. They study techniques like meditation, yoga, hypnosis, deep-breathing techniques, art-based interventions, and other methods to help patients thrive in the midst of adversity and pain. All of her research is in partnership with the Museum of Modern Art in New York.

“This is really exciting to me because it is so important to understand how to develop non-pharmacological approaches (or non-drug-based approaches) to help people cope with the chronic pain and discomfort that comes along with the experience of many mental health issues and diseases,” Dr. King says.

On a personal level, Dr. King is a big fan of meditation, yoga, and running, especially in Forest Park and along the Willamette River. She’s also a huge fan of shopping and dining at her favorite restaurants in the Hawthorne District, as well as visiting OMSI – the perfect spot for scientists.

Having lived in California as well as the East Coast and Midwest, Dr. King jumped at the opportunity to live and work in Oregon. “I knew it was a chance to explore and live in a place that would be wonderful for my overall wellbeing, in terms of the green environment and the much slower pace of life,” she says. “I also have a real penchant for the colder beaches of the Pacific Northwest … some of my friends in California think that’s strange, but what can I say, I love what I love!”