Representation Matters: The Importance of Minority Visibility in Health Care

Two UF Health Jacksonville doctors share their unique experience in working together as brother and sister and how their culture is making an impact on health care.

It’s a unique trio – physicians, colleagues and siblings.

“Often, our familial ties and professional paths intersect…and its synergistic for our patients and community,” Jeremy Coleman, MD, said.

For Dr. Coleman and his sister, LaRae Brown, MD, MHA, FACOG, that’s the reality. Two African American physicians leading in the medical space, Brown and Coleman are patient favorites at UF Health North and UF Health Wildlight.

“We have the same heart to take care of patients,” Brown said. “We chose to be physicians, we chose to work here. So, every day when we leave our kids and our spouses we’re going to give our patients 100%.”

Brown is a UF assistant professor and the medical director at UF Health Women’s Specialists – North, and is also chief of the division of obstetrics and gynecology at UF Health North.

Coleman is a UF assistant professor and the medical director at UF Family Medicine – Wildlight and Amelia. He is also the medical director of Primary Care Sports Medicine.  

Raised in Yulee, Florida, they take pride in being able to serve the community that nurtured them.

“Patients know that we are going to take good care of them,” Brown said.  “Whether they have a broken leg or need to deliver a baby, they know that they can trust us and we are truly humbled by that.”

Leading in their fields

Since our last sit down with them in 2018, there have been significant developments in their careers.

“After transitioning from a smaller UF clinic in Yulee, I was able to see our Wildlight facility develop from the ground up, and see all of the varying service lines emerge to provide exceptional care.” said Coleman.

Coleman has amplified the need for sports medicine experts in area schools with sports programs.

“This initially started as a passion project, making sure we were taking care of the high school athletes at Yulee and West Nassau County High School with volunteer event coverage and free physicals,” he said.

That evolved into hiring full time UF Health athletic trainers and tremendous financial backing by the Nassau County School Board.

“Now we have athletic trainers at every high school in Nassau County. We are also incorporating our orthopaedic faculty and residents to cover games. We are also working to expand our Primary Care Sports Medicine team to offer these services across Northeast Florida.  This is a benefit to our community and to UF as well.”

In addition to her current roles as medical director and chief, Brown has transitioned her career to focus on physician leadership opportunities within medicine – joining national and state organizations focusing on maternal health and well-being. That change was highly encouraged by the late Leon L. Haley, Jr., MD.

“Dr. Haley told me that there would come a point in my career where there would be a limited number of patients that I could touch,” Brown said. “He mentioned if I rose the ranks of leadership I can positively impact more patients. So, I got my masters of health administration.”

Representation improving patient care

“One of my goals is normalizing seeing African American physicians,” Coleman said.

In 2020, the American Association of Medical Colleges reported out of all medical doctors in the United States only 5.7% are African American.

When they were growing up, the only African American doctors they saw were on television. Decades later, what was once on screen has materialized in their lives. Both doctors emphasize the importance of having physicians that reflect a multicultural community and note how this can also improve patient care.

“I didn’t realize until I was an adult how important representation is – particularly in medicine,” Brown said. “At UF Health Jacksonville, we have the opportunity to collaborate with our colleagues to gain a greater understanding of the patient populations we serve, their social determinants of health and in turn respond in the care we deliver to improve their overall health.”

They also note disparities within the community that negatively impact patients trying to lead a healthier lifestyle.

“You have to think about health care on a community-based and even a global scale. It’s hard to eat healthy food items if you live in a food desert and have to drive seven miles to the nearest grocery store,” Coleman said. “As an organization, we find ourselves having to fill that gap with services such as the UF Health Jacksonville Urban Health Alliance Food Pharmacy and Social Services Hub. And we do that very well here at UF.”

Celebrating heritage and creating opportunity for the next generation

“We’re the culmination of our ancestor’s hard work,” Brown said.

Being medical professionals is more than just a dream realized and fulfilled – it’s an opportunity to set the pace for individuals of all backgrounds who follow in their footsteps.

“It’s humbling and I wear my heritage as a badge of honor,” Coleman said. “For centuries, African-Americans have been fully capable of excellence in any arena, many were just barred from an opportunity.”

Brown and Coleman recall the importance of mentorship and the positive impact it had on their lives and look to embody that for those who seek guidance.

“We serve as a resource and hope to inspire anyone who has a goal, medical or non-medical, to achieve that,” said Brown. 

What’s Next

As they continue to serve their community, Brown and Coleman look forward to making a continued impact through the advancement of new projects and developments.

For Coleman, he plans to continue expanding his vision for the sports medicine program. He also hopes to create a campaign geared toward providing tools for conflict resolution, positive self-images, mental and physical wellness in the community for young African American men.

Brown will continue to build on her projects as well which include partnering with Ann-Marie Knight, MHA, FACHE, vice president of community engagement, and the UF Health Jacksonville Urban Health Alliance for a community series entitled, "Life’s Course." The series focuses on dealing with toxic stress and the affects it has primarily on African American women. 

Featured Faculty

LaRae C. Brown, MD, MHA, FACOG

LaRae C. Brown, MD, MHA, FACOG

Assistant Professor
Chief, Division of General Obstetrics and Gynecology (North Campus); Medical Director, UF Health Women's Specialists - North

Jeremy L. Coleman, MD

Jeremy L. Coleman, MD

Associate Professor
Medical Director, UF Health Family Medicine - Wildlight; Interim Medical Director, UF Health Family Medicine - Amelia Island; Medical Director, Primary Care and Sports Medicine