BIOGRAPHY

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

BIOGRAPHY
Shirley Jackson Whitaker, MD, MPH
"Is your blood pressure less than 140 over 90? If not, why not?"

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.). She is presently serving the Springfield community by giving health information on the Denise Stewarts Gospel Program on STCC every Sunday morning. As if that were not enough, she recently started a campaign to prevent the suppression of votes by creating a website to address and support awareness of the issue.

She was the art protege of one of American's leading artists, the late Leonard Baskin. 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, in 1998, wrote the Declaration Against Violence to Women and accompanied that declaration with a powerful pen and ink sketch depicting a woman immersed in distress. Since writing The Declaration and drawing the sketch sixteen years ago, Dr. Whitaker has continued to make contributions to the community of western Massachusetts. She has done several community-building and -enrichment programs. She is a long term resident of Amherst who was trained as an internist and Nephrologist. As a part of her desire to continue to give back to her community, she weekly shares her medical knowledge with the western New England community on a Sunday morning radio show. She recently recommitted to her project to increase awareness about domestic violence by working to take her Declaration and sketch that is now known as The Indomitable Spirit (TIS) to another level. Her goal is to make a film that will combine dance, music and visual art, thus taking something that has been a part of her for over sixteen years and making it a part of us all.

From 2012 – 2015 she spearheaded Amherst High School's African American Achievement Night. There has been celebration and honoring of nearly 1000 students. She says making things better for people is what she was given life to do. She says, if you are not saying something to make it better you should not say anything at all.

The many talents of Dr. Shirley Jackson Whitaker