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Denver’s SeriesFest holds panel on Black representation in medicine


DENVER — Actor Jocko Sims and Dr. Nia Schwann Mitchell joined forces at SeriesFest: Season 10, an annual TV festival in Denver to participate in a panel on the importance of Black doctors.

The event included a screening of the TV show “New Amsterdam” followed by a panel discussion on representation in medicine on the big screen and in real life medical settings.

Sims, who played Dr. Floyd Reynolds on the show “New Amsterdam,” said the role taught him about the impact he can have on future generations who watch the show and see a Black man playing the role of a doctor.

“Being on New Amsterdam, I had parents reach out to me to say, ‘Thank you for the role that you’ve played… My Black son or daughter now want to be doctors because of Dr. Reynolds.’ And that was very inspirational,” Sims said. “I think it was about that time where I started to realize, well, this show and this role that I have is making a greater impact than I realized. And I started to look and I started to learn about the disparities in health care.”

Sims said those disparities recently hit close to home. 

“My mother — she had been going to a doctor because she had headaches and dizziness for a while,” he said. “She went to a neurologist, and he kept sending her home, telling her that she just needs rest, that she’s dehydrated, you know, giving her some sort of medication to kind of just calm her and she didn’t feel that that was right. So, she went to an ENT (ear, nose, and throat), who happened to be a Black ENT and he was a little more thorough. Wasn’t even his job to look at the areas that, you know, she needed help with. And I think he’d ordered a CAT scan or something. And that’s when they discovered she had a tumor in a pituitary gland.”

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Dr. Mitchell, a member of the Mile High Medical Societyand internal medicine doctor who completed her residency at CU Anschutz, asked Sims to join her effort to help more Black students enter the medical field.

“We need more Black doctors,” Mitchell said. “Only 5.7% of the doctors in the United States are Black or African American, right? And we are actually 13% of the population. So we are underrepresented in that way. And part of it could be that there are less people going into the STEM fields. But I think there’s also an issue with how much it costs to be a doctor, right? Because people can end up with $250,000 in debt just for medical school. And that doesn’t necessarily include their undergraduate debt. And so that’s really important. And that’s why we started the scholarship.”

The scholarship is called the CU School of Medicine Charles J. Blackwood, MD, Endowed Memorial Scholarship. Blackwood became CU’s first Black medical school graduate in 1947.

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“We decided we were going to start our own scholarship,” Mitchell said. “So we went to the CU Development Office and said, ‘How do we get this started? And so they explained that if we could raise $100,000 over five years, that the president’s office would match that.”

They raised the money in three months.

“And then we said, ‘Well, you know what, here’s the problem. Once that money’s gone, it’s gone.’ What we actually want to do is get an endowment going,” Mitchell said. “And with an endowment, you can actually have a scholarship in perpetuity — so, forever. And so our goal was to then develop to raise $4 million over the course of five years, and then have a full tuition scholarship for a Black student in every entering class.

Denver’s SeriesFest holds panel on Black representation in medicine

They now have until June 30 to reach that goal. They are $500,000 away, Mitchell said.

Mitchell and Sims said they are both hopeful that they can raise that remainder.

To learn more about the scholarship and representation in medicine go to moreblackdoctors.org.
 
SeriesFest is an annual television festival held in the Denver metro area that celebrates TV series.

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The event is also a nonprofit that organizers describe as being “at the forefront of episodic storytelling by providing year-round opportunities for creators and industry professionals to connect, collaborate, and share stories, which inspire and impact global audiences.”

SeriesFest: Season 10, the name of this year’s event, marks 10 years since it was first held.

This year, SeriesFest will run from May 1-5 and will include panels, screenings, and networking events that will be held at the Sie FilmCenter, Red Rocks Amphitheatre and Asterisk event space.

On Friday and Saturday, SeriesFest will hold an Independent Pilot Competition, giving TV show creators a chance to screen their 18- to 60-minute drama, comedy, unscripted, or animated television pilots in front of TV executives. Winners can potentially have their shows picked up by a network.

The closing night event for the festival will be the Cowboy Carter Dance Party, inspired by Beyonce’s latest album, and will be held at Red Rocks on Sunday, May 5 at 7 p.m.

SeriesFest Beyonce dance

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