Commemorating Black History Month with Valley Health: The Legacy of Resilience and Progress in Healthcare

Submission by: Crystal Lovett, RN, IBCLC

Last year, in speaking with a friend, I realized that I am Black History! On January 1, 2022, I became the first Black International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) in West Virginia. As owner of Mocha Milk in the Mountains LLC and through my work as a Peer Counselor and Nutrition Associate with the Valley Health WIC Program, it is my hope that I will not only serve the community in a perinatal and nutritional aspect but also inspire others to pursue their dreams.

Dr. Anitra Ellis, DNP, owner of Anitra E. DNP LLC has been a local inspiration of mine. Our first meeting occurred during the Future of Nursing WV Action Coalition’s “40 Under 40” Emerging Nurse Leader Awards gala in 2019, where we were both award recipients. Dr. Ellis works tirelessly to facilitate her community members have access to equitable health care. Staysha Quentrill CPM, CLC, and owner of Freedom River Midwifery is another local inspiration. During my last pregnancy, I was searching for a birth doula that looked like me and a friend recommended Staysha. Not only was she my doula, she has become a colleague and friend. 

There are many abhorrent moments in American history, as well as the present-day racism that exists in our healthcare system, that push me to continue working towards facilitating access to equitable healthcare. For example, the maliciously unethical Tuskeegee Study1 conducted to observe the natural progression of syphilis and the barbaric experiments performed on enslaved Black women in the name of “modern gynecology”.2 The cervical cells of Henrietta Lacks were used for research purposes without her knowledge or permission.3 There was a time when enslaved Black women were forced to breastfeed the babies of the enslavers, while their own babies went hungry.4 Health disparities and reproductive injustice continue to exist today.


  1. Tuskegee Study and Health Benefit Program. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. January 9, 2023. Accessed February 9, 2024. 
  2. Owens DC. More than a statue: rethinking J. Marion Sims’ legacy. Dr. Deirdre Cooper Owens. August 26, 2020. Accessed February 9, 2024.  
  3. Khan FA. The immortal life of Henrietta Lacks. The Journal of IMA. August 10, 2011. Accessed February 9, 2024.
  4. Gyamfi A, O’Neill B, Henderson WA, Lucas R. Black/African American breastfeeding experience: cultural, sociological, and health dimensions through an equity lens. Breastfeeding Medicine. 2021;16(2):103-111. doi:10.1089/bfm.2020.0312
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