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MHI Health Pulse - March 2024


March 2024

MHI Updates

Dear reader,

The Multicultural Health Institute has had a busy start to the year – and despite our funding limitations - our dedicated team continued on volunteering while we work towards greater self-sufficiency, we would not have it any other way! To kick things off, we partnered with the American Red Cross on January 11th to bring their Community Disaster Risk Reduction Coordinators to Oneco, FL and provide a presentation on disaster preparedness in Florida, and in particular, amongst vulnerable communities. The following week, on January 15th, we participated in the Annual Community Screenings and Health Fair in Newtown by providing blood pressure screenings and promoting different community health projects, such as ongoing clinical trials and environmental justice initiatives. We ended the month by hosting our first installment of our Lifestyle Change Program: Nutritional Education Program partnered with Feeding Tampa Bay in Oneco, FL with a wonderful turnout and raving reviews! 

In February, we kicked off Black History Month with the first installment of cancer awareness lectures by MHI and the Safe Children Coalition’s HIPPY program on February 7th. This installment covered breast cancer awareness with a presentation by Dr. Vida Farhangi. The following day, February 8, we headed to Oneco, FL to continue our second installment of the Lifestyle Change Program: Nutritional Education Program by creating a healthy snack with a variety of nuts and dried fruits. On February 14, we hosted our first Healing Circle by Dr. Bola Sogade which covered maternal health and women with heart disease, how we need to love ourselves more through better care of ourselves and those we care about. This event is the first of many successful Healing Circles that we will continue to host each month, often in collaboration with colleagues from the Gulf Coast Medical Society, so stay tuned for the reveal of our upcoming speakers! 

To continue our monthly review, February 21 was the last installment of the cancer awareness lectures hosted by MHI and the Safe Children Coalition’s HIPPY program in which Amie Miller, MSN APRN gave a presentation on lung cancer awareness for 30 participants and staff members. The following day, participants of the Lifestyle Change Program: Nutritional Education Program in Oneco, FL created a healthy salad and discussed the importance of different proteins in a balanced diet. We are pleased to continue our hybrid model, expanding access to the information shared.

What a way to kick off 2024 and end Black History Month! Thank you to all of our partners that we have worked with thus far and to the Manatee and Sarasota communities for entrusting us to listen to your needs and act on them. We look forward to continuing to engage and educate throughout the remainder of the year with more community events, lectures, screenings, and future community health information requests. Happy Black History Month and check out our website, , for more resources and information.

– The Multicultural Health Institute Team

Upcoming MHI March Events

02 - Black Health Matters Winter 2024 Health Summit and Expo: Inspiration For Your Mind, Body, and Soul - Hybrid (In-Person in Atlanta, GA and Virtually) @8:30 AM

Join co-hosts Dr. Rashad Richey, Dr. Contessa Metcalfe and Dr. Maria Boynton, along with an inspiring lineup of doctors, nurses, healthcare professionals, health and wellness advocates, and fitness experts, who will be on hand to empower you. Sessions will include Workouts with The Guru of Abs, Mental Health, Multiple Myeloma, Asthma, Heart Disease, Small Cell Lung Cancer, Dermatology, Sarcoidosis, Kidney Disease, & Fitness.

  • In-person attendees will enjoy FREE breakfast, lunch, giveaways, prizes and parking. 

  • Virtual attendees can win great prizes by engaging throughout our platform by asking questions, using the Chat feature and downloading valuable information - including videos and documents - in our virtual Exhibit Hall!

07 - MHI’s Lifestyle Change Program: Nutritional Health Program sponsored by Feeding Tampa Bay - Bradenton, FL @ 5 PM

Join us for the LAST installment of our 4-session biweekly nutritional program. This program is focused on tips to help individuals stretch their food dollar, eating on a budget, and purchasing food at the best price. Each lesson includes interactive activities and a recipe demo. Participants also get a printed recipe booklet of low-cost, easy to prepare recipes. Join us in person at the Oneco Hope Global Methodist Church at 2112 53rd Ave E Apt 4, Bradenton, FL 34203. Register at

9 - The Fight For Black Lives Panel Discussion - Sarasota Art Museum @ 12:45 PM

Join MHI and the Gulf Coast Medical Society at the The Fight For Black Lives panel discussion, featuring our very own MHI Board of Directors member, Dr. Washington Hill, in providing local insights on healthcare injustices against Black lives. The panel discussion will take place after the film’s 11:30 AM screening on Saturday, March 9 @ 12:45 PM at the SHS Alumni Auditorium within the Sarasota Art Museum at 1001 South Tamiami Trail, Sarasota, FL 34236. We urge you to support the film festival and this discussion!

16 - Black Family Wellness Expo - Sarasota, FL @ 10 AM: Join the Multicultural Health Institute and The Links for a FREE health and wellness event with voter’s education, health screenings, wellness presentations, financial education, and mammograms*, and more! Bring your friends, family, and neighbors to improve your health and wellness. Join us in person at Light of the World Church at 3809 Chapel Drive, Sarasota, FL 34234.

 (*Mammograms need to be scheduled at

National Observances: National Kidney Month

World Kidney Day is an international health observance celebrated each year on the 14th of March, aiming to raise awareness of the importance of one’s kidneys and to reduce the frequency of kidney diseases through educating the public on chronic kidney disease (CKD) and preventative steps one can take. Diabetes and high blood pressure are key risk factors for CKD, as such, those with diabetes and high blood pressure should be screened regularly for CKD. 

People need to ensure regular hydration, especially with climate change and increased heat exposure. People tend to swell and retain fluid when the kidneys are not working well, they may also be anemic and feel very fatigued. Most kidney diseases attack one’s nephrons, which are tiny structures in the kidneys that filter the blood. Some are acute effects from medications or illnesses and infections that improve when the temporary insult improves. However chronic damage, especially from multiple medications, uncontrolled Diabetes, or high blood pressure and under hydration, can lead to kidney failure. Then a person has to go to Dialysis for mechanical help in filtering out toxins from their bodies.  Furthermore, the kidneys produce hormones that are used by other organs in the body, meaning that if kidneys are damaged, other organs can also be damaged or not function as well due to the lack of hormones. According to the National Kidney Foundation, African Americans are 3x more likely and Latinx Americans are 1.5x more likely than White Americans to have kidney disease. We are grateful to have MHI Speaker Bureau member  Dr. Janis Lawerence-Jackson, a Black Nephrologist providing excellent care in our community.

 Current News Updates

Sarasota Memorial Health Care System is pleased to announce the return of the Summer Employment Program at a variety of locations throughout the system for students ages 16 to 24.

Applications for this program will go live on Monday, March 4, 2024, at 8:00am and close Friday, March 15, 2024, at 8:00am. Applications will be available on the SMH career website on the Featured Events Page and shared on PeachJar to all Sarasota County Schools. 

Prospective participants may have the opportunity to work in various health care areas, including but not limited to Nursing, Supply Chain, Information Systems (IT), Human Resources, and Hospitality Services.

The program runs from June 3rd to July 26th, with a mandatory intake/registration session on June 3rd, details of which will be shared at a later date. 



1. We are pleased to note that our MHI Scholars Marquia Walker and Anna Nguyen have both been accepted to medical schools, however deliberating on final selections, very much impacted by the exorbitant costs they have to figure out how they will fund while continuing to pursue this lofty dream. Hope is on the horizon for our future doctors. We know that  investment in programs like National Health Service Corps and other loan forgiveness or elimination strategies increases the number of dedicated community physicians serving vulnerable populations. 

Many young people enter medicine with lofty altruistic goals of serving the community, however the prohibitive cost of higher education can be daunting, and influence career paths into more lucrative subspecialities. Kudos to New York for being progressive and generously investing in the future,with free medical education at Albert Einstein and NYU:

Thus, it was a rewarding full circle moment to return and celebrate progress made at UC Davis medical center, now #1 among public health systems on Forbes’ list of Best Large Employers. Considering current dismay with the recent Supreme Court Decision to abolish Affirmative Action, we now have UC Davis as the most diverse medical school after Howard University in D.C.  This was based on 3 years of data and their emphasis upon inclusivity, community engagement, and system change.

2. Dr. Merritt gave the keynote address at the UC Davis Aspiring Black Physicians Conference for over 100 students interested in medical careers. Celebrating the 30 year anniversary of student and volunteer faculty-run Imani Clinic that she helped found, it gave a deep sense of satisfaction and progress despite numerous local and regional challenges. Even more so to see some of the students who used to straggle out of bed on a Saturday morning to volunteer when we were getting the clinic going, now attendings and teachers in their own right. Reach one, Teach one/Reach one – this is what we do through generations.



By. Lisa Merritt, MD

The African American Physiatry Special Technology consulting group was invited to attend the Consumers Electronic Show (CES) in Las Vegas last month. Over 140,000 attendees and several thousand exhibitors from around the world met across the city, oohed and ahhed at all the amazing gizmos and gadgets. It was really the “Jetson’s take on a Star Trek adventure Futureshock”! I was particularly drawn to the chatty Artificial Intelligence (AI)-driven droids, 3D holograms and amazing Planet Earth Sphere show, as well as varieties of alternative energy, water purification, and communications systems.

 In your ear AI-driven simultaneous language translators and eyeglasses that allowed you to see a patient’s electronic chart while examining them, or to simultaneously hear and see better were also very cool. AARP had an entire installation dedicated to future smart home aging in place strategies which we look forward to including in the fall at AAPMR. “Health Tech” is huge and we look forward to presenting updates on biosensing devices and ways to optimize aging in place during future lectures. It was wonderful to take part in the special reception for Blacks in Tech, part of the active pipeline development and commitment to equity, recognizing the power of diversity in innovation and importance of DE&I. 

Dr. Evans, President of the American Psychological Association, took time to meet with our young doctors and doctors to be, and in his APA Monitor editorial, speaks to the challenges of mis-Information mongering as a most significant issue facing our country today and the importance of viewing it from a behavioral health lens in order to counteract it.

Environmental Justice - Air Quality

There is a groundswell of effort, policy shifts and funding being directed towards historically vulnerable communities to address the greater impact of decades upon decades of environmental injustices and associated health impacts. Further possible research projects are underway and we look forward to strengthening data sources with our recently placed “Purple Air” monitors throughout North Sarasota. We appreciate the opportunity to find ways to keep going through a variety of collaborative partnerships and possible additional funding. Meanwhile, keep on reducing, reusing, recycling wherever and whenever you can. 

You can also track fluctuations of fine particulate matter in the Manasota Region and see the real time readout of the Fine Particulate count here:

Given the ongoing Environmental Health Challenges impacting our state and nation, We know the importance of advancing community efforts with emphasis on education, individual and collective action to do what we can however we can.  Getting more air, water and soil monitoring in our area is now an active goal in process. Learn about the Environmental Impacts and steps you and your family can take to improve your health in our recent report and consider joining the Environmental Collaborative, reach out to You can read the entire convening report here, and if you or your organization would like us to make a personalized presentation for your organization summarizing the findings, data updates and emerging recommendations, please submit a request to

Eleanor’s Portico of Arts

Dr. Merritt gave a well received lecture to about 80 Northern Trust Bankers on the power of Art in Healing on February 23, 2024. She spoke of the unique perspective as a daughter and mother of artists. Northern Trust has been a long time supporter of Eleanor Merritt’s work and legacy as well as for the ongoing efforts of MHI to level the playing field through education and prevention strategies to reduce health disparities.


The group Eleanor Merritt and Carol Poteat-Buchannan supported extensively, Through Women’s Eyes is proud to present an outstanding film series from March 7-9:

  • This includes The Fight for Black Lives- a featured documentary about the racial disparities between Black and white women, especially in maternal health. It is a riveting and important story. The showing will be held Saturday, March 9 at the Sarasota Art Museum on the Ringling College Museum Campus within the SHS Alumni Auditorium at 11:30 AM. The showing will be followed by a conversation with the filmmaker, local participants, and members of the Gulf Coast Medical Society (

  • Blue Sunshine is a featured narrative about the life of a trans woman school teacher in contemporary rural India; 4:45 Saturday, March 9, Sarasota Art Museum SHS Alumni Auditorium. The filmmaker will be in attendance. 

Single films $12; all festival passes available.

More info and ALL tickets here.

If you like our work and reading our newsletter, we welcome your continued support!

You can make one time or recurring donations here:

Sarasota Office:

1781 Dr. Martin Luther King Way

Sarasota, Florida 34234

Office: 941-906-9484

Fax: 941-225-8198

Oneco Office :

Oneco Hope Global Methodist Church

2112 53rd Ave. East #4 & 5

Bradenton, FL 34203

Phone: 941-906-9484al Methodist Church


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