CLEVELAND (WJW) We’ve all heard the phrase, “representation matters”.
It’s a saying, many times used to reflect the significant impact of seeing oneself in media and positions of power.
Growing up, Dr. Charles Modlin told Fox 8 News, he didn’t have that representation.
“I never actually had an opportunity to see any Black physicians, Black dentists, attorneys,” said Modlin.
So, how does a little boy from small-town Indiana become the first and only Black kidney transplant surgeon in the history of Cleveland Clinic? His parents.
“They stressed to me the importance that it’s my responsibility to give back to the community because the community was behind me, supporting me, and to always remember, you know, from where I came and that my successes were not merely the result of my own efforts,” said Modlin.
Modlin took an interest in the kidney and urinary tract during medical school, but it wasn’t until after his kidney transplant fellowship at Cleveland Clinic in 1996 that he learned about the significant health disparities his own community faced.
“Black men develop and die from prostate cancer twice as often as their white male counterparts and a lot of that is because of delayed screening, delayed examinations, you know, men not being aware of the fact that they need to get screened for prostate cancer,” Modlin said.
Dr. Modlin responded by founding the Minority Men’s Health Fair in 2003. It’s something he’s proud his dad had the chance to see.
“He would be standing there right next to me on the day of the health fair, and I would be worried. I said, ‘Well, is anybody going to show up?'”
Over the next 18 years, with the support of local organizations and churches, Modlin and a team of volunteer doctors served 35,000 men by giving them free, preventative health screenings. Many times, they uncovered serious health conditions and even debunked medical myths.
“Nowadays, most prostate cancers are detected by a simple blood test, it’s called a PSA. We don’t even always have to do the historical prostate examination,” said Modlin. “Many of these guys have told me to my face, nobody cares what happens to me whether I’m alive, you know, dead or alive and that’s not the case, you know. We want you to come to the health fair because you matter.”
After more than three decades at the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Modlin is now MetroHealth’s first Medical Director, Inclusion, Diversity and Equity. In his new role, he’s actively recruiting doctors and nurses to diversify MetroHealth’s staff and continuing the Minority Men’s Health Fair.
It’s fair, Modlin says, once left a man so emotional, he had to leave the building.
“He explained that back in the 60s, he and his grandfather had brought his grandmother to that particular hospital and they were turned away and told, ‘Well, we don’t treat your kind here,” said Modlin. “So, he had seen this organization turn full circle to where now, they were welcoming individuals, you know, minority, Black individuals into this health fair. I mean, we had a sea of thousands of Black men.”
Those thousands of Black men are a group Dr. Modlin says he was called to serve.
“I’ve had so many opportunities that other people haven’t had. So, it’s my responsibility.”
The Minority Men’s Health Fair is free and will be held on April 28 at three MetroHealth locations. You are encouraged to register here.