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Vital Signs Are Stable, Dr. Melba Swafford

By Blog Master
Posted: 03/22/2021
Tags: bios, video
--- Notes thanks to Sharon Jarrett ---

The 1619 Project Discussion Group met on March 19th.  There were 18 participants.
Dr. Melba Swafford was the speaker for the meeting which was recorded and will be on the group's blog.
Dick Myers introduced Dr. Swafford indicating her formal biography and link to her book, Vital Signs Are Stable: A Black Woman's Journey Through Life, are on the blog.
Dr. Swafford began by saying she wrote the book to help others in the belief that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.
She shared details of her family and upbringing in Smokey City, Texas.  Her family were initially farmers who moved to the city.  Her parents worked as a janitor and housecleaner.  The transition from rural to urban life was a challenging one.  Most notable was the lack of familiarity with "the norms of white life" which left the family "isolated".  The family had no access to written documents, telephones, running water, electricity or indoor plumbing. Life was led in the neighborhood and on the streets which Dr. Swafford described as consisting of watermelon skates, sticks for baseball bats, tree climbing, firefly catching and pools made using the family wash tub..."Everyone knew everyone and all adults watched children.".
Dr. Swafford attended segregated elementary and high schools.  In high school she was exposed to African American students from more affluent families and to the idea of attending college.  With the assistance of one teacher in particular she applied to Howard University which she attended.  In her sophomore year her mother died after being removed from life support following a brain bleed. The uncaring treatment by medical staff was to have future effects on Dr. Swafford's life choices.
Upon graduation, Dr. Swafford worked in computer programming for IBM and NASA.  However, the idea of becoming a physician continued to be in her mind.  She entered a program to complete the pre med courses she lacked and was admitted to Howard Medical School.
After graduation, Dr. Swafford entered her intern and residency program in what she described as a  " white male bastion of male superiority".  Dr. Swafford shared many examples from her experiences having to be "twice as good in order to survive."
She concluded with her work since retirement.  She works to ensure African American students are supported in high school, encouraged to attend college and to enter medical school.  At the conclusion of her talk, Dr.  Swafford answered questions  and engaged in conversation with the participants.

Click on "Vital Signs Are Stable" to watch Dr. Swafford's presentation. You can purchase "Vital Signs Are Stable," at, Vroman's ( our local Pasadena bookstore).
Tagged as GuestSpeaker
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