Glenn Ellis Warrior for Wellness
Junious Ricardo Stanton
Glenn Ellis was born in Birmingham Alabama during the tumultuous era when Blacks were actively engaged in a valiant struggle for human rights, desegregation and relief from the enduring ravages of racial oppression. He grew up in the thick of the struggle, seeing first hand how reactionary whites resorted to indiscriminate violence and terrorism in their vain attempt to stifle the movement.
Ellis was one of a family of nine children who grew up in a tight nit segregated community. His father worked in the steel mill. The four girls killed in the 16th Street Church bombing on September 15, 1963: Addie Mae Collins, Carol Denise McNair, Carole Robinson and Cynthia Wesley were childhood friends of Ellis.
That hideous act of terror also injured over twenty innocent people most Ellis and his family knew. The rampant violence became part of the fabric of life in Birmingham. Ellis was classmates with Condoleezza Rice. He knew James Bevel and Hosea Williams from their activism in the community and he worked for the legendary entrepreneur and patron of the struggle A.J. Gaston.
This experience and the tutoring of his parents, grandparents, teachers and community infused Glenn Ellis with as purpose and mission. He witnessed what it meant to sacrifice to ameliorate the egregious affects of racism and privation on Black people and do whatever could be done to facilitate change for the better. His community and family motivated him to expand his horizons and opportunities, to always remember his people and his obligation help his community.
Ellis migrated to Philadelphia to attend the University of Pennsylvania. He always had an interest in medicine, health and well being, so he was in the pre-med academic track at Penn. But Ellis’ motivation caused him to take an alternative track from medical school. He chose to pursue advanced degrees in public health and health care ethics. In that capacity Ellis travels the world researching, lecturing and comparing US “healthcare” with services provided by other countries and cultures.
Sharing how his experiences in Birmingham and working with Dick Gregory helped shape his life path and his push to derail America’s racist system, Ellis said, “When racism takes place within the context of healthcare and medicine, now we’re talking life and death. Statistically over one hundred thousand Black people die every year from preventable deaths that only take place because of racism. This is not to say there are some white doctors out there injecting poison into people but rather they are neglecting to raise the level of care that somebody deserves or making sure their complaints are believed.”
As an example Ellis shared that many sickle cell patients are viewed as drug addicts, junkies or malingerers due to racial bias on the part of emergency room physicians and nurses. “A study was done at Virginia Tech that did a survey of medical students around the country and this study revealed that the overwhelming number of medical students think Black peopled because of our melanin can tolerate a higher threshold of pain so they require less pain medication and they are minimizing the pain Black people are experiencing.
“There are different ways to articulate it so if you come in and state exactly what kind of medication you need then you are a drug seeker, that’s what they (the medical people) call them, or a junkie. If you can’t articulate it (the level of your pain) but are begging for something to alleviate the pain, they downplay it like ‘You’re not hurting that bad.’ If the person has been to the hospital before (for treatment) then they say, ‘You like the high’ or ‘they must be selling it’”.
Citing similar studies at Philadelphia Children’s Hospital and in Boston Ellis stated the studies showed the Black children were consistently given less medication and attention. “All this speaks to how deeply institutional racism is entrenched in our society and more so in the medical field.”
Ellis has studied abroad and observed how other countries treat their citizens. Ellis travels around the United States lecturing medical students, hospital staffs and administrators to point out these patterns in the hope these students and administrators will see their roles differently and change the paradigm. He also writes a syndicated weekly column, he hosts a radio program on WURD and has written four books with a new one coming out in March and two others in the works on medicine, health care and the history of Black doctors in Philadelphia.
For Ellis this is a calling, a life’s mission. “I don’t have a choice, this is an obligation. I’m grateful that this is something I love, that I am passionate about and all that but I don’t have a choice. I am grateful the ancestors opened a pathway for me to get to where I need to be going, I take this very seriously.”
Glenn Ellis is a man of the people; he is available for consultations, lectures and workshops. He’s committed to sharing information via the media and in person. His Website is https://www.glennellis.com there you can access archives of his podcasts, his newspaper columns and purchase his books.