Remembering Dr. DeNorval Unthank's legacy
This month, we honor the work of Dr. DeNorval Unthank who in 1931 became the only black physician in Portland.
At the time, Dr. Unthank delivered babies at home because he wasn’t allowed in hospitals. Though barred from local hospitals and medical societies when he arrived, he never gave up and eventually served at Emanuel Hospital in the 1950s. Dr. Unthank was a dedicated doctor and civil rights activist who broke racial barriers. He was the first African-American member of the Portland City Club and a co-founder of the Portland Urban League and was named Doctor of the Year in 1958. He achieved dozens of other honors and died in 1977. His name is on a local park in what was once the heart of the Black community.
His legacy of health lives on through his granddaughter Marsha Jordan. Jordan works as a part-time coordinator at a local non-profit where she facilitates courses on self-management of chronic diseases prevalent in African-Americans, like diabetes and certain cancers.
A long-time hairstylist in the community, she uses her beauty shop chair to share information on the risk factors and warning signs of a heart attack and stroke. She also understands how physical fitness, along with diet, is key to managing many chronic diseases. This led her to become trained to teach water aerobics.
We salute Dr. Unthank and his family for leaving a legacy of health and wellness.