Recognizing Black health professionals: Keyonna King, DrPH

Keyonna King, DrPH, UNMC College of Public Health

Keyonna King, DrPH, UNMC College of Public Health

For Black History Month, UNMC celebrates the achievements and contributions of Blacks and African Americans and encourages the community to reflect on our nation’s history. A series of activities are planned throughout February. UNMC also will highlight the perspectives of Black health professionals at the medical center.

Today, UNMC Today recognizes Keyonna King, DrPH, UNMC College of Public Health.

How does Black history influence your life as a health professional?

Black history had a very significant influence in building my self-identity and selecting my career path. My mother’s boyfriend at the time always gifted me Black history books and culturally relevant jewelry, which really helped to initiate building my identity as a Black woman. As a result, I remember I bought this book titled “One More River To Cross” by James Haskins when I was in middle school. That book changed my life. I was able to read about 12 amazing Black Americans who encountered so much adversity, which was very relatable to me at that time (and still is). It helped me realize my dreams and that I could be and do anything that I wanted with discipline and focus. That book helped to set the path for my health professional career, which started out with interest in becoming an OB/GYN physician, then a psychiatrist, but ultimately, I landed in public health because I believed I could make the most impact and have more connectedness with my community.

What can we do to support Black individuals pursuing or interested in a career in health care or public health?

Early exposure to careers in health care or public health is critical. The earlier the better. I encourage parents to seek out those opportunities available for their kids to learn about science and math. When I was in elementary, my mom enrolled me in “Odyssey of the Mind,” also known as “OM.” I’m not sure if that program still is around, but it was great for improving critical thinking and using science to solve problems. I also encourage using the summer months to participate in camps and any other activities that will prepare students for the coursework required for these career paths and to build connections.

If an individual is already pursuing a career in health care, I would encourage them to identify a mentor in the health care field and regularly meet with them.  Often, Black health professionals are the minority, so we need to create a network to help guide up-and-coming health care professionals to make their educational and professional journey as seamless as possible. It’s also important to identify and join professional groups to begin building a network that you can lean on, especially during challenging times of the program. The stronger the support system, the more likely a person will achieve their goal of becoming a health or public health professional.


  1. Regina Idoate says:

    Dr. King, I am so proud to be your colleague! I loved reading this and I absolutely agree that mentorship and early exposure to careers in health care or public health is critical. You are such an amazing role model for future generations!!!

  2. Brenda Council says:

    Your experience magnifies the importance of exposing young people of color to their history and to courses that develop critical thinking skills early and often. You are such an inspiration, and I’m honored to work with you in the community.

  3. Pastor Portia Cavitt says:

    Congratulations! Dr. Keyonna King, it has been a pleasure working with you in the North Omaha community, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic.

  4. Dr. Donna Stewart says:

    Congratulations Dr. King!!! I am so very proud of you and all you are doing for our community!!! Proud to personally know a “Dr. King” in my life time. Grateful for the opportunity to collaborate with you on many projects.

  5. Theola M. Cooper says:

    Congratulations Dr. King!! I am grateful for the time we worked together to address health disparities in Our community.

  6. Immaculate Wesonga, RN says:

    Very motivating article for a public health enthusiastic person. I hope to join you soonest.

  7. angela mooss says:

    Congratulations Dr King! You are truly a role model in the public health landscape.

  8. Lisa Spellman says:

    Keyonna, you are the best! I’m so happy to see you featured and to hear your wisdom!

  9. Aisha Conner says:

    Congratulations Dr. King! I am so thankful you are being recognized for you dedicated work to the community and beyond.

  10. Precious S Davis says:

    Nice Dr. King! Keep pushing the envelop and leading the way. Happy BHM!

  11. JaQuala Yarbro says:

    You are an inspiration to us all! Thank you for your contributions and dedication.

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