America’s Power of Diversity – An Asset in the Age of Globalization

Economists and demographers agree that America is undergoing rapid demographic transformation from being a majority nation of WASPs (White Anglo Saxon Protestants) to a nation in which the majority is an amalgamation of ethnicities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, 2060 is the year when people of all ages who are classified as white will be in the minority. By 2018, white children under the age of 18 will be in the minority in this country.

Group of Friends Smiling

An example of America’s burgeoning new ethnic and racial diversity is reflected by two of the nation’s most prominent political leaders and their children, who are part of the so called millennial generation.

800px-Barack_Obama_family_portrait_2011DeBlasios Charlin and kids

President Barack Obama (whose daughters Malia and Sasha have ancestral roots in England, Germany, America, and Kenya) said to NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio (whose children Chiara and Dante’s ethnic lineage are African-American, Italian, German, English, and St. Lucian) “your son Dante reminds me of what I looked like as a teenager.”

Obam#1 Dante Afro image copy enlarged

The president’s observation portends the new America – it’s a harbinger of the increasing ethnic and racial diversity unleashed by globalization. This is a shift that continues to outpace old mores and institutionalized responses to an emerging reality that equality and fairness must be seen as the birthright of every American, irrespective of race, color, creed, nationality, gender, or sexual preference.

According to the Brookings Institute: “Just like the postwar baby boom generation, which by virtue of its size and independent character, influenced all aspects of our economy and social institutions as it aged up the life cycle, so too will  today’s younger minority infused generation help to shape all aspects of our national life as they move into middle age.  It’s crucial for politicians, community leaders, and policymakers to pay attention to these changes as their decisions about how to incorporate this generation into the new American mainstream hold important implications for our nation’s future prosperity.”

Dr. Philip Juan Browning M.D. Pioneering Cancer Research Scientist and Physician

Today, on “World AIDS Day,” I honor the memory of my neighbor, friend, and Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity brother, Dr. Philip Juan Browning, who died in 2004. Dr. Browning an imminent scientist- physician was well -regarded as the first director of the Developmental Core and an essential member of the team that started the internationally esteemed Vanderbilt Meharry Center for AIDS Research. From his Vanderbilt laboratory Dr. Browning became one of the world’s leading scientific experts on viruses, cancer, and HIV/AIDS.

In 1994 only a dozen or so researchers were doing work on the pathogenesis of AIDS Kaposis Sarcoma. Philip Browning (Vanderbilt) was among that small band of scientists and physicians engaged in studying the intricacies of the disease.

Vanderbilt colleagues will remember Dr. Browning as a man of science, a man of faith, and a man who always pushed himself and others to make the world a better place. Here are some of their reminiscences:

“Phil worked tirelessly to help increase the ranks of minority researchers and physicians working on HIV-related problems. Excellence was the essential criterion for success in his eyes. He demanded that we set high standards as teachers and that students reach them. We will continue to work toward the goals that he valued so highly, and in so doing, we will honor and perpetuate his memory.” (Dr. Richard T. D’Aquila, Director, Vanderbilt Meharry Center for AIDS Research)

“Philip was truly loved by his colleagues and especially by the post-docs and students he worked with, not only in his own lab but throughout the cancer center. He constantly challenged himself and those around him to do and to be better. His courage and his commitment will continue to inspire us. Vanderbilt and the cancer center are better places because of the time he shared with us.” (Dr. Harold L. Moses, Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center)

“Philip has been more than a colleague, he’s been a true friend. He was someone who truly relished life and was the kind of person you want to be, or you want your son to be. He truly was a remarkable individual.” (Dr. David H. Johnson, Cornelius Abernathy Craig Professor of Oncology)

“Dr. Browning was one person in the cancer center who always made you smile, whether we were talking about science or about family. We were among the first cancer center recruits and had labs right next to each other. “He was an outstanding scientist. Over the years, we developed a wonderful friendship.” (Dr. Jennifer Pietenpol, Professor of Biochemistry and Ingram Professor of Cancer Research)

A graduate of Fisk University and Tufts University School of Medicine, Dr. Browning was Associate Professor of Medicine (Hematology/Oncology), Cancer Biology, and Cell and Developmental Biology. His wife of 24 years, Renee Upchurch-Browning, is a member of the VICC Clinical Trials Office.

After his diagnosis with colon cancer in four years ago, he saw his own experience as an opportunity to reach out to others. “Life is a temporary assignment, and we only have a little bit of time to make a difference,” he said.

My personal connection to Dr. Browning began in our native city of East Chicago, Indiana. He was a family friend. The childhood memories flooded when I discovered photographs of Philip and his three brothers .The Browning family including parents and five siblings were a huge part of my personal developmental years in a neighborhood that believed in the African Proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” As a Kappa man at Fisk, I proudly pinned Philip and my brother Kirk the night they crossed the Burning Sands and became lifelong members of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity.
Dr. Browning was one of six children said that, as a child, he never considered becoming a doctor. Instead, he wanted to be a “revolutionary” because growing up in the diverse city of East Chicago, Indiana shaped Philip’s broader political and worldview.

When I interviewed him in his laboratory at Vanderbilt University Hospital and Medical Center in Nashville in 2002, Dr. Browning stated that ”as a young man he felt he had few if any options for meaningful political expression, that he needed to become actively engaged in resisting systems of injustice, and the seemingly intractable, systemic problem of race discrimination and oppression.” But in the 70s believing then that education was not the most effective answer he dropped out of Fisk University having “given
-up on “the system” he even began living in a Black Panther Party commune; convinced
that racism could only be countered by the ideology of Black self-reliance.
Young Philip Browning, eager to make a difference within his community and the world joined the Chicago wing of the Black Panther Party engaged in preparing urban youth through tutoring programs and serving pre-school hot meals under the Black Panthers’ widely publicized and effective community based feeding program for under-privileged inner-city school children. Philip eventually became disillusioned with the politics of the BP Party. During this period It was at the behest of his beloved mother, and family matriarch, Mrs. Clara Browning, who challenged him to examine what contribution he wished to make with his life that Philip seriously began contemplating a career path that would enable him to use his full talents, intellect and energy. Gifted with a predilection to math and science he decided to return to Fisk to study pre-med because he believed, he could make a greater difference in the world as a physician and scientist. “I decided that maybe I could be educated after all and still be the man I wanted to be,” he said.

While attending Fisk he sat for the MCATS examination designed to measure aptitude for success in medical school and scored in the top 1 % nationally on a test that determines admission to medical school. Admitted to Tufts Medical School in Boston, Philip graduated at the top of his class. He smiled broadly a familiar smile,of a neighborhood whom always quietly wanted to make a difference, adding “my life’s ambition is to find a cure for cancer.”

Dr. Browning completed an internal medicine residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and fellowships at Harvard Medical School, the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and the National Cancer Institute. He eventually received an endowment from Vanderbilt University to establish the University’s first Cancer and AIDS research Laboratory, The Vanderbilt, Meharry AIDS Research Center Laboratory, locally known as “Philip’s Lab,” which conducts groundbreaking research and pioneers experiments in early HIV/AIDS treatments and cellular structure of the AIDS virus.
The Philip J. Browning M.D. Minority Medical/Cancer Research Fund has been established at the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center. Gifts can be made “in memory of Philip Browning” to the Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center, VU Gift Processing, VU Station B 357727, Nashville, TN 37235-7727.
R.I. P. Dr. Browning you remain in our hearts forever. R.I.P.

Pictured : The Browning bDr. Philip Juan Browning. M.D.Philip Browning labPhilip In Kappa  shirtPhilip as Revolutionary with ReneeBrowning Brothers Snooky Phil Pumpkinrothers four incredible young men, from left, Dr. Philip Juan Browning R.I.P. 2nd picture Edward “Pumpkin”Browning, Dr. Philip J. Browning,Dr. Gerri Browning M.D,and oldest brother James “Snooky” Browning. The 3rd. picture, Dr.Philip J. Browning in his laboratory at Vanderbilt University. Drs. Gerry and brother Philip Browning on a family ski trip. D.Day 2014