Shirley Jackson Whitaker, MD, MPH
Kidney Specialist | Artist | Community Activist

Shirley Jackson Whitaker, MD, MPH
"Take our talent and make it roar for change!"

Shirley Jackson Whitaker

Dr. Whitaker is the seventh child of Eddie and Charlie Mae Jackson (both deceased) from Waycross, Georgia. Dr. Whitaker did all of her early educational training in Waycross and then attended Clark Atlanta University completing a BS degree in Biology where she graduated with honors. After Clark, she attended Yale University School of Medicine-Department of Public Health. This experience enabled her to work as a community health provider and educator for the Auburn community, an underserved area of Atlanta. She attended Emory University School of Medicine, obtaining her medical degree in 1979. She did her advanced medical training in Internal Medicine and Nephrology in Virginia, California and Oregon.

After completing her fellowship, she and her husband moved to Massachusetts Pioneer Valley where she worked for 10 years at the Springfield Southwest Community Health Center (now The Caring Health Center). While there, she designed a children's coloring book against drugs in four different languages (Vietnamese, Russian, Spanish and English), a community health newsletter called Springer, and worked with the University of Massachusetts theater department to produce an imaginative drug prevention skit Monsters Among Us. This skit was thought to be the first children's rap opera ever produced. Dr. Whitaker went into private Nephrology practice in 2006 but she has continued to work in the Springfield community. In 2010, she designed a hypertension prevention project serving the Mason Square Area called Hypertension Intervention and Prevention Program (H.I.P.P.). Until July 2020 she served the community of western Mass by giving health information on the Denise Stewarts Gospel Program on WTCC every Sunday morning. She recently started a Facebook live health program centered on the Covid pandemic.

Dr. Whitaker had an early love for art which she has been able to weave into all aspects of her life. She was the art protégé of one of American's leading artists, the late Leonard Baskin who taught her printmaking process of etching. She was the first African American female in the Yale Glee Club and the only African American female in her medical school graduation class. She was one of the subjects in Carrie Weem's most famous installment The Kitchen Table. Growing up in South Georgia, she was taught early on the importance of being sensitive and caring towards others. She took all of her experiences from her love of medicine, art and people and published a newsletter, CONTROL, while in medical school. This newsletter was mainly for Grady hospital’s community which served the area were Dr. M.L. King had lived. In 1993 to strengthen the African American women of the western Massachusetts, she had program called, In Celebration of Black Women, which showcased the artistic talent and entrepreneurship of African American women. This program attacked women not only from Massachusetts but from New York and New Jersey. In 1998 because of her concern about violence against women, she wrote the Declaration Against Violence to Women and accompanied that declaration with a powerful ink sketch depicting a woman immersed in distress. This initiative was coordinated with violence prevention programs in Springfield. To addressed her concerns about African American children academic standing in Amherst schools, she along with others parents in the community established a program called Academic Initiate for Maximum Success(AIMS) which increased the number of African American students in the AP math programs to the highest tin he school’s history. From AIMS, students attended MIT, Tuft, Trinity and several other institutions of higher learning. From 2012 – 2015 she spearheaded Amherst High School's first African American Achievement Night to celebrate and honor nearly 1000 students.

Because of her interest and concerns about the over 4000 African Americans that were lynched, Dr. Whitaker produced the first ever funeral service, Ashes to Ashes, April 29-30, 2016 to celebrate and remember these lives. This service has been made into a film of the same name which is being considered for an Academy Award and will be featured in The New Yorker magazine in 2021. Dr. Whitaker continues to practice Nephrology in western Massachusetts and work to make contributions to her community. She lives in Amherst, Mass with her husband.

Community Activism/The Art of Activism

Ashes to Ashes: Organized a funeral service of over 4000 African American lynched #speakmyname
Ashes to Ashes book of etching: Book dedicated to the over 4000 African American's lynched. The book is in the Library of Congress
Ashes to Ashes film: The production of a film for funeral service from 2016 was filmed and was consider for an Academy Award for short documentary
STAND: Poem and an etching about the death of a friend from an abortion.
Don't Suppress the Vote: #dstv campaign with toes and t-shir used as part o the campaign tow work to stop voter
Sisters: A painting to honor and remember the enclaved women who underwent brutal surgery by gynecologist, Dr. Sims
Monsters Among Us: Anti-Drug Musical and Coloring Book (anti-drug campaign) in Celebration of Black Women
Paintings Celebrating Black women and their contribution to America and the world
Tote to Vote: #Tote2Vote Campaign to work to increase voter turnout and fight to stopped voter suppression

Black Health Matters

Live Medical Education Program
Concerned about the disparity in health care for African American in Western Massachusetts, Dr. Whitaker started presenting medical information on the local radio station from 2007 until 2020. She now does a weekly Facebook Live Health Program “Honey, We Need to Talk” concentration on the pandemic.


Social Justice Award
2018-MLK Social Justice Award for Health Disparities

The many talents of Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker