For the second year in a row, PennLive is celebrating Black History Month by honoring “Trailblazers and Trendsetters”: leaders and advocates in Central Pennsylvania who are committed to improving their communities through work, business, the arts, ministry and mentorship.
Over the next few weeks, we will publish profiles of more than 35 doctors, nurses, gardeners, ministers, educators, entrepreneurs, athletes, philanthropists, restaurateurs, authors, actors, and more. They are nominated by readers, and most are people who rarely appear in the spotlight. More people were nominated than we could accommodate; we will withhold these names for future use.
We hope you enjoyed reading about these trailblazers. If you missed last year’s Trailblazers and Trendsetters, you can find links to them here.
her story: Dr. Sharee Livingston began her medical career at age 9 as a “candy stripper,” a name once used to describe hospital volunteers, usually young women. The death of her great-grandmother in front of her only strengthened her resolve.
Livingston attended St. Joseph’s University and interned at Penn State Hershey Medical College, where she discovered her calling in women’s health.
Her life’s work has been dedicated to helping advance health care and medicine in black and brown communities.
Livingston is particularly committed to addressing and reversing the deep racial disparities in the health of women of color: Black women are three to four times more likely to die in childbirth; they suffer from chronic disease at higher rates than white women much higher, and may have less access to medical care and health care.
“As a physician, what I do affects 20 percent of health outcomes,” Livingston said. “Most people think doctors and nurses play a role in 100% of health outcomes. But compared to the social determinants of health, what I do as a doctor only plays a role in 20% of health outcomes. In What happens before a person walks into my office or hospital is more important than anything else.”
Livingston is a founding partner of the Patient Waiting Project, which is funded in part by UPMC and aims to increase diversity in medicine by increasing the pipeline of minority clinicians and supporting their practices. The aim is to close the gap in the number of medical professionals of color: only 5% of doctors identify themselves as black.
She is also a founding partner of the Diverse Doula Project, a Lancaster-based program that pairs doulas of color (pregnancy support specialists) with Black expectant mothers. The program provides women of color with encouragement, counseling, and empowerment to reduce pregnancy health issues among Black women.
Livingston recently co-founded For the Love of Women (FLOW), a nonprofit that works to combat period poverty—the lack of access to feminine hygiene products in marginalized communities.
Livingston joined Lancaster UPMC in 2006 and focuses on addressing factors that contribute to racial disparities in health, including social determinants, historical and systemic inequities, and implicit bias.
She noted that even the most prominent black women may be at risk because they don’t receive the thoughtful care they deserve.
“[Tennis star] Serena Williams is rich, famous and arguably one of the fittest black women in America, if not the average woman, but she’s not being listened to [during her pregnancy],” Livingston said. “That’s why implicit bias cannot be ignored. “
In her words:
“Research shows that when cultural congruence exists, patients are more likely to adhere to treatment plans, more likely to adhere to prevention plans, and more likely to participate in research. That’s why we have to diversify care.”
Chavon Momon-Nelson, DO
Her story: Dr. Chavone Momon-Nelson knew she wanted to be a doctor from an early age. She is fascinated by obstetrics and gynecology and its interactions across the continuum of primary care, preventive medicine, and surgery. Today, she is an obstetrician-gynecologist at UPMC Carlisle and UPMC Pinnacle Obstetrics and Gynecology Specialists in Carlisle.
“The icing on the cake is that I get to have children,” she said. “I definitely have the best job ever.”
A few years ago, Momon-Nelson and her teenage daughter started an Instagram column called Teen Talk Tuesday. Topics include back-to-school issues, dating, hygiene, women’s products and social media. Over the years, as participants grew older, discussions grew to include topics such as sleep, domestic violence and women’s health.
Momon-Nielsen is passionate about combating misinformation on social media, especially about women’s health. She sees a lot of this in central Pennsylvania.
The impact of social media on health care is staggering, she said. She is concerned that young people are generally turning to social media platforms such as TikTok and Instagram for health information. She said these spaces are often informed by people who are not qualified to lead the conversation.
“Fifty years ago, very few doctors were talking about health care on social media,” Maumon-Nielsen said. “But now physician involvement is becoming more common; we have to combat misinformation.”
To this end, she has an online presence on Instagram and TikTok. She focuses on fact-based information, although her goal is to entertain and engage. Momon-Nielsen focuses on preventive care, obstetric care, contraception, pain management and the importance of building a trusting relationship with your doctor.
She recognizes the power of social media—it allows her children’s friends to reach her and provides her with a safe space to facilitate conversations with young people about their health.
In her own words:
“Patients can get lost if there is misinformation and mistrust. So part of my online persona is to really be myself — I’m a doctor, but I’m also a mother, a wife, and a human being. I Love traveling. Conversations may get more casual, but that helps me relate. Be authentic, honest, matter-of-fact, relatable – that’s what matters most.
“When I think about inequality in health care, Martin Luther King Jr. said, ‘Of all forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most egregious and inhumane.’ I stand by that. It’s in black and white. I have to reflect on his words. He said it best. He said it in 1966 and now in 2024 we still have inequality.”