Practitioner of the Year (tie)

Healthcare Achievement Awards 2020

Practitioner of the Year (tie)

Dr. Darrell Gray II, Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center

For Dr. Darrell Gray II, being a doctor is more than just showing up in a white coat. It’s about making a difference by listening, promoting diversity and meeting patients where they need care. 

Gray is a gastroenterologist at Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center who attended medical school at Howard College of Medicine in Washington, D.C. Although he believed he would become a cardiologist, he realized he could make a difference as a gastroenterologist. 

A large part of Gray’s mission is his commitment to promoting diversity in medicine, which he says has the ability to save the lives of vulnerable populations who are at risk due to implicit bias, overt institutional racism and lack of opportunity in the field of health care. He says one way these problems can be addressed is by promoting diversity in medical schools and hospitals across the nation.

“It’s really important that the face of our health care looks more like the face of America,” he says. 

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On a national level, Gray is chair of the American College of Gastroenterology’s Diversity, Equity and Inclusion committee. He’s also the medical director for the national African American Male Wellness Initiative.

Locally, Gray serves as a medical director for Healthy Community Day, which provides free health screenings to Central Ohioans each summer, and he serves on diversity committees for the James Cancer Hospital and the Wexner Medical Center. In 2014, he created the Provider and Community Engagement (PACE) program for health equity in colorectal cancer prevention.

The program screens uninsured or underinsured patients for colorectal cancer, which is especially important for black men. According to the American Cancer Society, colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths, and African American men had a 25 percent higher incidence rate for colorectal cancer and a 50 percent higher mortality rate from 2006-10 compared with Caucasians.

So far, the program has offered 194 free or low-cost colonoscopies to uninsured or underinsured individuals in the area. “We’ve found hundreds of polyps. We even detected in one of our earlier years an early-stage rectal cancer that was removed,” Gray says.

He says the program has required the time and dedication of many doctors, nurses, staff members and patient advocates who donate their time to make it a reality. Although the program has been mostly focused in Central Ohio and only in the month of March, he hopes to expand the program year-round and throughout Ohio. “It’s just one small thing in the ocean of things that need to be done,” he says. “But I’m just happy to play a part in that.”

As part of these projects, Gray hopes to provide equal care and opportunity to patients and increase diversity in the medical staff.

“That’s what health equity is about,” he says. “It’s about ensuring that everyone has a just and fair opportunity to be as healthy as possible. And that’s part of my mission.”

Gray says he’s seen the impact diversity can have in interactions with his own patients. During a recent colonoscopy exam, he met a new patient, a middle-aged African American man, who asked Gray if he was old enough to be a doctor, something he says he hears often.

“He also expressed how proud he was that I was in this field and I was in this position because he hadn’t had a black physician before, and being a black male that meant something to him,” Gray says. The interaction was one of many such exchanges he’s had with patients.

Trinita Weaver, a patient of Gray’s, has been an information associate with Ohio State for 23 years and a Columbus resident all her life.  After meeting Gray at a Healthy Community Day, she’s been his patient  for two years. Weaver says she hopes he never retires. 

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“He is just such a wonderful person inside and out,” she says. Even when he fusses at her for not following his advice between visits, “he does it caringly.”

Gray says it’s his calling to love his neighbor, and the combination of community service and health care is just one way he shows that. 

“This is where I feel like my talent, my time and my treasures lie,” he says “And I’m giving it all I’ve got.” 

Heather Barr is an intern for Columbus CEO.