By Nya Gabriella Peets A handful of Hampton…

By Nya-Gabriella Peets

A handful of Hampton University students filled the seats in Ogden Hall, along with professionals from the black community. As they sat in the seats Wednesday night, they listened to the Black Family Conference history and the future of medical research.

They were welcomed by piano playing in the background and student ushers.

The ceremony began with an invocation by university Chaplain Debra L. Haggins O’Bryant. She was followed by Joan McMillian Wickham, who introduced the theme of the conference, “Reducing Health Disparities: Promoting Healthy Families across Generations.”

Next, Arlene J. Montgomery, dean of the School of Nursing, spoke.

She thanked the audience for their attendance, reiterated the theme, and explained the importance of it for black families.

“Healthy families fill healthy communities,” said Montgomery.

William R. Harvey, the president of Hampton University, gave the history of the Black Family Conference. He began the conference because he felt that there needed to be a forum where issues can be discussed that affect the black community.

Harvey mentioned the health issues that are detrimental to the black community, including heart disease, obesity, and diabetes, all issues to be discussed during the conference. He also said that the Hampton Roads area has the highest STD rates, and most of the people living with the disease are black. After sharing his shocking statistics, he winded down his speech by thanking everyone involved for their interest.

After a musical selection, university Provost Pamela V. Hammond introduced the keynote speaker, Dr. Allan Thornton, radiation oncologist with the Hampton University Proton Therapy Institute.

Thorton approached the microphone apparently comfortable with a relaxed stance. However, the speaker may have been too comfortable; he spoke quickly, making the message a blur.

He talked about the current state of medical research in America. Thorton explained that how America decides to finance medical research could affect the country for next five years. To reduce the problem, America has to teach medical students to learn and make use of their resources. Fellowships, tutorials, and externships could help with this education.

In between points, he talked about his experience as a proton therapy expert.

Harvey named the Jemmott family the honored black family of the conference. They were honored for their contributions to the community.

The writer is a freshman journalism and communications student at the Scripps Howard School.