Category: Fall 2020, Georgetown Magazine

Title:Personal Reflections: Toni Lewis

Author: Interviewed by Jeffrey Donahoe
Date Published: November 17, 2020


toni lewis crop

All aspects of health care and social justice have been crazy this year. New York, Brooklyn, and even more, Bed-Stuy have all been hard hit. The disproportionate impact on communities of color was predictable. Racism in how society neglects Black bodies was already socially determined and in place because the system prioritizes those that already have the most.

There are so many chronic conditions and stressors underlying health and disease, and the stress of the coronavirus is just making it worse. The people I see in my practice and community are dealing with stress and burnout and grief.

We know that we can’t wait for governments. New York State supposedly had this great response, but the resources did not come to Brooklyn, certainly not to Bed-Stuy. We know we have to organize within our networks and communities to save ourselves. We know that ain’t nobody coming to save us. Community organizations get it, and they prepare and organize.

“That’s one of the things that I love about Georgetown—we don’t think small.”

Toni Lewis

My mom is in a nursing home in Southeast Illinois where I grew up in a town of 900 people, so that’s a worry. We talk daily. Again, it’s about communities and networks, and who is going to be there to help when needed.

You need to think about your block and also globally. I learned that at Georgetown. That’s one of the things that I love about Georgetown—we don’t think small.

I talk about my “spiritual assignment.” That idea was fed and nurtured at Georgetown, and I love that. It means thinking about who I am, why am I here, and what do I need? One day my spiritual assignment may be to protest and the next it might be to rest.

We each have our own special medicine to bring. At a moment like this, we need all of it.

Toni Lewis, M.D. (C’93, M’04) is a family and geriatric physician practicing in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood. Her commitment to social justice as well as medicine led her to co-found Health Equity Cypher in 2017 as well as being the founder and president of Liberation Health Strategies since 2018. Her wellness routine includes yoga and dance.

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