Get empowered about your healthcare

BY LASHANTE KEYS, Empath Health Community Partnership Specialist

Dr. Martin Luther King said, “Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” Our healthcare and the choices we get to make surrounding it matters, and we cannot be silent about that.

Dr. Kentaya Beeler understood this sentiment more deeply when she was diagnosed with a brain tumor in 2009 at the age of 31.

“Most people say I don’t want to talk about it,” she said, referring to their end-of-life wishes or difficult health care decision making. Beeler had to have those difficult conversations with her parents and young friends and then get her affairs in order before she could have her life-saving surgery, which left her unable to walk for 18 months.

Beeler took her experiences to heart and approached her pastor at  Mt. Zion Progressive Missionary Baptist Church in St. Pete, in partnership with Empath Health, in the hopes she could spur conversation and action around advocating for healthcare for their parishioners, as well as others in the community.

From those conversations came two well-attended sessions: one on advance care planning/living wills and the other on what Palliative Care is and how it can improve the quality of life at the end of life.

“The living will session was so popular I had to get more Empath Health living will materials because so many participants shared the information with family and friends that they wanted to do their advance care planning too,” said Beeler.

Beeler’s story will be featured at Empath Health’s third annual Gospel Health Brunch in partnership with MLK Day of Service Friday, Jan. 17. This event includes delicious brunch-style foods, uplifting gospel music and education from community members and Empath Health staff.

This year our theme is focusing on healthcare advocacy and empowerment – for yourself and those you care about. The program will feature interactive presentations about advance care planning, a spotlight on Empath Health’s pediatric programs, uplifting music from Pastor Jon Matthews and the New Philadelphia Ministries and more. Maria Straud returns as host for the third year.

According to a recent study from the University of Virginia, there are many misconceptions about African Americans and their health that not only African Americans believe but also many doctors.

These misconceptions continue care disparities and distrust often found between patients and their physicians. Empowering and advocating about our healthcare is imperative and our Gospel Health Brunch hopes to be a part of this change.

Returning for the second year-in-a-row is Pastor Matthews and the New Philadelphia Ministries. He said: “A popular untruth is what you don’t know won’t hurt you. Empath Health is out in our community, providing services that can help us through those things.”

He believes that this information needs to get out in the community, and the format of the brunch with the gospel music will help draw people in.

Join Empath Health’s Gospel Health Brunch Friday, Jan. 17, 2020, at Empath Health Community Service Center, 3050 First Ave., S, St. Petersburg. Doors open at 6 p.m. and the program begins at 6:30 p.m.

Please RSVP at or call Dee Touhey at 727-523-3427.

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