Recorder honors Black medical professionals at Golden Laurel reception

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Throughout history, people of color have been pioneers and innovators in every field of inquiry and enterprise. The proverbial African-American footprint is apparent in our nation’s infrastructure, history and culture. In the field of medicine, we celebrate giants such as Daniel Hale Williams, who created the modern art of open-heart surgery, and Rebecca Lee Crumpler, the first African-American woman to earn a medical degree, as well as numerous others. Last week, the Recorder honored 12 of Indiana’s own history makers at the second installment of the Golden Laurel Professional Reception series.

The event was presented in partnership with Mid-States Minority Supplier Development Council and sponsored by IU Health and Franciscan Alliance.

“Despite barriers and opposition, people of color have taken the concepts of industry and innovation to new heights,” said Recorder President Shannon Williams. “Today, we have many more history makers and modern-day pioneers in our midst. It is an honor for us to recognize these 12 outstanding individuals for their service and dedication.”

Read on for more on the 12 honorees: 

Dr. Jerome Adams

Dr. Jerome Adams is the first African-American to be appointed to the position of Indiana State Health Commissioner by a Republican governor and only the second African-American to hold the position in the state’s history. Adams has served as the Assistant Professor of Clinical Anesthesia at the Indiana University School of Medicine and has been a staff anesthesiologist and the chair of the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee of Eskenazi hospital. Adams’ service has extended beyond the U.S., as he’s also been a researcher at medical schools in both the Netherlands and Zimbabwe. He has also worked under Nobel Prize winner Dr. Tom Cech. Adams received his B.S. in biochemistry and a B.A. in biopsychology at the University of Maryland/Baltimore County.

Dr. Akin Akinwande

Dr. Akin Akinwande earned his initial medical degree from the University of Ibadan, Nigeria. He completed his residency in Internal Medicine at the State University of New York Health Science Center and Kings County Hospital in Brooklyn, New York; a cardiology fellowship at the University of Wisconsin Hospital–Madison; and an Advanced Cardiology Fellowship at the Deborah Heart and Lung Hospital in New Jersey. Upon completing his studies, Akinwande held leadership positions in North Dakota before moving to Indianapolis, where he became a partner with Indiana Heart Physicians in association with St. Francis Heart Center. There, he founded and was medical director of the Midwest Valve Center. In 2009, he founded Pinnacle Heart Specialists, where he currently practices. 

Dr. Tina Ayeni 

Dr. Tina Ayeni graduated from the Mayo Medical School and completed her residency at Duke University Hospital. Ayeni has been practicing for more than a decade and is a licensed obstetrician/gynecologist in three states: Indiana, Minnesota and Texas. In 2016, she joined the Franciscan Physician Network. Tina is board certified by the American Board of Obstetrics and Gynecology.

Dr. Monet Bowling 

Dr. Monet Bowling received her medical degree from the Indiana University School of Medicine and completed her residency at Indiana University Medical Center. While at IU, she received tactical training to calculate and manage patients experiencing a multitude of issues ranging from simple breast pain to breast cancer. Currently, Bowling works as a board-certified breast surgeon with the Hendricks Regional Health Medical Group. She has been an active advocate of breast cancer prevention. Outside her work with the hospital, she serves as a mentor for rising young medical students. Bowling is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Inc.

Donna J. Burks, R.N. 

For more than 20 years, Donna J. Burks has worked in the nursing department of Eskenazi Hospital, formerly known as Wishard Memorial Hospital. Recently, she was promoted to the position of associate chief nursing officer at the hospital’s primary care location. Through her leadership, Burks has helped to usher in a more collaborative care initiative that will allow Eskenazi patients to receive consistent care, regardless of location. Burks’ service includes being a member of the Fetal Infant Mortality Review Team and the Indiana State Nurses Association. She is also active as a health coach with locally owned gym, Studio G Fitness. She received her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Marian College in Indianapolis.

Dr. Virginia A. Caine 

Dr. Virginia A. Caine is the director for the Marion County Public Health Department and an associate professor of medicine for the Infectious Disease Division of the Indiana University School of Medicine. She has been recognized as Practitioner of the Year by the National Medical Association and was largely instrumental in the creation of the nation’s first AIDS education program for physicians. Her work has led to statewide reductions in the spread of syphilis and the rate of infant mortality. Caine earned her bachelor’s degree from Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota, her medical degree at New York Upstate Medical Center in Syracuse and her Infectious Disease training at the University of Washington in Seattle.

Dr. Joseph M. Croffie 

After receiving his M.D. degree from the University of Liberia in Monrovia, Liberia, in 1986, Croffie earned his postgraduate medical education in General Pediatrics and Pediatric Gastroenterology at Riley Hospital for Children, Indiana University School of Medicine. In 1995, he started the Neurogastroenterology and Motility program at Riley Children’s Hospital and has since served as the program’s director. In addition to his work at Riley, Croffie is a nationally and internationally known expert in gastrointestinal motility disorders, has authored or co-authored 73 original scientific manuscripts and has served as associate editor for the International Journal of Pediatrics.

Dr. Danyelle Loveless 

Dr. Danyelle Loveless, a Spelman College graduate, grew up in Michigan, where she returned after receiving a Bachelor of Science degree in Biology/Biological Sciences. Loveless is currently a board-certified family practitioner affiliated with Community Hospital East and North and has been in practice for more than 20 years. For three consecutive years, she received both the Patients’ Choice Award and the Compassionate Doctor Recognition. Among her other honors, she has also received the Castle Connolly’s Top Doctor award, the Indianapolis Top Ten Doctor award and the On-Time Doctor Award.

Dr. Lauren Dungy-Poythress 

Dr. Lauren Dungy-Poythress earned her medical degree from the University of Michigan and received further training in Obstetrics and Gynecology during a residency in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Today, she is one of the nation’s leading perinatologists. Dungy-Poythress is also an educator specializing in Maternal-Fetal Medicine. She has served in leadership roles for numerous renowned medical organizations including Indiana Healthy Babies Consortium, March of Dimes, Indiana Prematurity Birth Initiative, Julian Center and the Dungy Family Foundation. 

Dr. George H. Rawls

Dr. George H. Rawls is the former president of the Aesculapian Medical Society and a retired clinical professor of surgery at the Indiana University School of Medicine. After practicing surgery for more than three decades, Rawls served as assistant dean at IU for five years before retiring.

Rawls graduated with honors from Florida A&M University and Howard University School of Medicine, after which he served two years in the U.S. Army and did a surgical residency at Ohio State University.

His civic engagements have included board service with the Children’s Museum, Urban League, Flanner House, Goodwill and Indianapolis Zoo. He also serves as an elder at Witherspoon Presbyterian Church and is a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity Inc. and the 100 Black Men of Indianapolis. 

Rawls has received two Sagamore of the Wabash awards, the state of Indiana’s highest civilian honor. 

Dr. Cherrell Triplett 

Dr. Cherrell Triplett, a Chicago native, earned a degree in Civil Engineering and Operations Research from Princeton University before transitioning to the medical field. She earned her medical degree from Loyola University of Chicago’s Stritch School of Medicine. When her studies were completed, she taught in the obstetrics and gynecology program at the University of Nebraska before moving to Indianapolis. Triplett’s specialty is in women with high-risk pregnancies and female abnormalities. She has served as chair of the Perinatal Patient Care Committee at Franciscan St. Francis Medical Center. 

Dr. Antonio Turner

Indianapolis native Dr. Antonio Turner received his A.S. in Optometric Technology/Opticianry and a B.S. in General Studies with a concentration in Math and Science from Indiana University. Last spring, Turner established Acuity Eyecare and Eyewear in downtown Indianapolis. Turner gives back to the community through partnerships with The Wheeler Mission, PACE and Morning Light, where he and his staff provide free, comprehensive eye care. Turner has been awarded Optician of the Year by Indiana University. He is also the president of the Optometric Student Association at Indiana University.

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