Important Conversations

Atrium Medical Center and the City of Middletown Health Department have set out to address the injustices that exist in the communities they serve that negatively affect the health and well-being of people of color.

After many discussions on how to accomplish this, the organizations decided to hold open conversations with local residents.

To start the conversation, the organizers knew that they had to go back and learn about past inequalities before they would be able to address those that currently exist. The title of the first community gathering, “Conversations with Our Ancestors,” reflected that message.

“We must learn and understand our past before we are able to correct our future and close gaps in all areas of disparities, including our health,” said Jackie Phillips Carter, health commissioner for the City of Middletown.

“The first conversation allowed the community to meet Black physicians who provide care in Middletown,” said Andre Harris, MD, chief medical officer at Atrium Medical Center. “The opportunity to answer questions, start discussions, and plan for the future was a great first step.”

While the conversation that took place at the Robert “Sonny” Hill Community Center in Middletown was facilitated by Atrium and the City of Middletown Health Department, the discussion was community-led. It was held on June 19, also known as Juneteenth, the national holiday commemorating the emancipation of African American slaves at the end of the Civil War.

“Juneteenth was an excellent time to start the conversation. Celebrating freedom from bondage is only the first step,” said Phillips Carter. “Freedom from ignorance of our past history is key in coming to terms with the real reasons that we may be predisposed to generational illnesses.”

The event also offered free health screenings, including blood pressure, glucose, cholesterol, mental health awareness, and breast and cervical cancer prevention, to help attendees “know their numbers” and identify any areas that may need

The second conversation was held on Oct. 16, and featured Dr. Harris, Michael Robertson, MD, and Michelle Eakins, MD. The topic, how to talk to your doctor and what you should ask during a visit, was requested by several attendees during the first discussion.

“We armed the community with information and encouraged them to not be reluctant to bring up issues with their doctor,” said Dr. Harris.

Atrium Medical Center and the City of Middletown Health Department are planning to hold these conversations as an ongoing series to promote important discussions and improve health in communities of color.

“The goal is to bridge the gap between Atrium Medical Center and the community,” said Dr. Harris. “We are attempting to listen as well as educate.”