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Introducing our second blog in the “Celebrating Diversity: Voices from our Kyruus Health Community” series: As we continue to honor diversity and amplify voices within Kyruus Health, our second blog spotlights Tina Brown-Stevenson, a remarkable individual whose journey has woven through various roles, shaping her perspective on healthcare.

From being a Registered Nurse to her position as SVP at United Healthcare Networks, to now being a Kyruus Health board member, Tina shares insights on her identity, experiences, and the crucial role of equitable care access in health for the Black community.

Join us in delving into Tina’s story, discovering the layers of her identity beyond a black woman, and understanding the challenges and triumphs she navigates in the healthcare landscape. As we celebrate Black History Month, let Tina’s narrative inspire us to advocate for inclusivity, access, and cultural sensitivity in healthcare, echoing Kyruus Health’s commitment to a more equitable and compassionate future.

Tina Brown-Stevenson

Member of the Kyruus Health board of directors

Tell us a bit about your background and the story of how you came to be connected to Kyruus Health?

I’m a registered nurse by background. My expertise in leveraging facts and information to improve healthcare makes me passionate about what I do, because data doesn’t lie. It’s important to remember that healthcare has nuances though — it’s not just about hard data but about people.

I joined the Kyruus Health board via a search firm, but I also knew another board member, Gary Gottlieb, who helped me to secure the position. This shows why it is important to leave a positive legacy imprint with people.

How would you identify yourself?
Patricia Hill Collins has a book about intersectionality that describes how you can define yourself as ‘black, a woman, a wife.’ It’s kind of the matrix of that intersectionality. Obviously, I identify as a black woman, but I am so much more than that.

How would you describe your experience with this identity?
I love this question. You are often told how you should be. In high school, I was told I could be a teacher, social worker, or nurse and it really shaped my identity.

As an African American and a woman, I used to subconsciously apologize in situations that I shouldn’t because it was programmed into me, like when someone stepped on my foot. I don’t do those things anymore.

What is something about you that you want others to know more about?
I am tenacious and persistent to a fault — I mean that in a good and bad way. I will
keep pushing until they knock me down. It can be a very discouraging thing if you don’t know how to say, “we will reset our sights or go about it a different way.” So I always ask coworkers and people I work with to push back on me.

From your perspective, what does celebrating Black History Month mean to you?

It’s joyful. It means being proud. It makes you take a step back and think of other minorities and what they’re going through. Living in Florida has broadened my perspective on Spanish-Americans and what other minorities experience. You can love and embrace your history and be sensitive to other people’s history. I remember when Black History Month first became a thing, much like Juneteenth did recently, and everyone thought, “it’s not going to last,” but it has become celebratory.

How would you encourage your colleagues to honor and celebrate this month?

Every year I read another book. This year’s book is “Pregnant While Black: Advancing Justice for Maternal Health in America” by Monique Rainford. I chose this book because I am a neonatal nurse clinician by practice. In my field, you see the illnesses babies experience, as well as illnesses mother’s experience. Black women experience all of that and more — prenatal, postnatal, and challenges in having the medical community listen to them. I’ve seen first hand the lack of access issues African-Americans face in our country.

This year my daughter and I will also be going to the Boston Museum of Science’s new exhibit from ReRooted, an immersive experience of Black hair culture, part of the Museum’s Black History Month celebration.

How do you perceive the role of care access in health for the Black community?

Care access for the Black community is getting worse because of the challenges in the healthcare system itself. There are less practitioners, less appointment availability, and more illnesses being identified, but Kyruus Health is on the cusp of ensuring that everyone has access to quality care.

There is a stigma about mental health in the black community — there’s a “get over it” mindset. If a new mom going through postpartum depression has other kids with mental health illnesses, now you have a depressed mom taking care of a newborn and depressed teenager. If the teenager doesn’t receive the attention they need, it becomes an avalanche of cascading issues.

People also face challenges in obtaining adjunctive services. Exploring the possibility of co-locating services, which involves providing medical care along with child care, and advocating for legislation that supports individuals needing treatment without jeopardizing work commitments would have a positive impact on care access.

Lastly, emphasizing culturally appropriate care is crucial and fostering diversity should begin by incorporating culturally appropriate training in medical schools.

What are the most significant gaps that must be addressed to achieve more equitable care?

Basic public health is where we need to start, ensuring people have access to fresh fruit, transportation to medical appointments, and so on. Public health should focus on prevention and early diagnosis. In the simplest words, we can encourage folks by telling them to move and think good thoughts. Emphasizing that healthcare starts with you is important.

Some questions we should be asking are, how do you as a physician or school counselor help people feel more confident given their beliefs? How do you help people understand the basic diagnosis? The public health system needs to help the healthcare system better meet people where they are.