For Black History Month 2020, NCSD is honoring pivotal Black public health leaders and organizations that have made major contributions to the mission of health equity.
To conclude NCSD’s Black History Month celebration of pivotal Black public health leaders, we interviewed Oni Blackstock, MD, MHS the Assistant Commissioner of the Bureau of HIV at NYC Department of Health on health equity related issues.
Dr. Blackstock was inspired to practice medicine after witnessing her mother find joy and fulfillment working as a doctor in central Brooklyn. Motivated by her mother’s involvement in community work, Dr. Blackstock sought to work at the intersection of advocacy and primary care by taking her patients’ social context into consideration when caring for them. After traveling to Ghana to work on HIV research, she returned to the U.S. to work on HIV related issues.
Dr. Blackstock notes that historically, the voices of women in the U.S. have not always been centered in regards to the HIV epidemic. Most women who are impacted are form the most marginalized groups such as sex workers, Black and Latina populations, and substance users. She adds that the HIV epidemic cannot end if women aren’t part of the effort.
Referencing how different polices rooted in racism, such as mass incarceration, alter how people people interact and relate, Dr. Blackstock makes the connection between how these dynamics can change sexual networks and lead to concentrated STD rates affecting minority populations.
“We cannot end the HIV epidemic if we don’t also address STIs. We can’t address the rising rate of STIs if we don’t also address HIV.”Dr. Oni Blackstock
Dr. Blackstock makes the case that interventions targeting STDs need to look at the larger social context and they ways in which racism or sexism affect peoples’ ability to keep themselves healthy. Programming needs to be culturally responsive to engage with specific populations.
Dr. Blackstock oversees and supervises all programmatic and administrative activities for the Bureau of HIV/AIDS. She is also a primary care physician, HIV specialist and researcher. Dr. Blackstock’s prior research has included developing and testing interventions to improve engagement in HIV treatment and prevention services. She has an interest in community-engaged research and advocacy and has been funded by the NIH, NYS Department of Health, and the Centers for Disease Control and prevention. Dr. Blackstock received her undergraduate and her medical degrees from Harvard. She completed her primary care Internal Medicine residency and ambulatory chief residency here at Montefiore/Einstein, as well as an HIV clinical fellowship at Harlem Hospital. She received a Master of Health Sciences Research from Yale School of Medicine’s Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Clinical Scholars Program.
Dr. Oni Blackstock is also identical twins with Dr. Uché Blackstock. Both sisters attended Harvard, their late mother Dr. Dale Blackstock’s alma mater.