NEW ORLEANS (AP) — In the background of a powerful photo of 15 black medical students from Tulane University is a slave cabin. In the foreground stand the students, wearing the white lab coats that tell observers they’re members of a highly trained and prestigious profession.
“We are our ancestors’ wildest dreams,” tweeted Russell Joseph Ledet, who conceived of the photo.
The image of a group of African-American medical students from Tulane University in New Orleans visiting a former slave plantation in Louisiana called the Whitney Plantation has resonated with viewers as well as with the students in the photo who called it an emotional moment. All are members of the Student National Medical Association which aims to support minority students who are underrepresented in the medical profession.
Ledet, who has his Ph. D. and is studying to get his medical degree and M.B.A. at Tulane, said he visited the plantation over the summer with his daughter and a friend. His daughter noted that being a black doctor in America was an important milestone and how far he and others had come from what their ancestors had experienced.
Another student in the photo, Sydney Labat, 24, said the trip to the plantation came at a time when the students are furiously studying before the holidays. Both she and Ledet were preparing for a neuroanatomy exam.
“So we needed a moment to take a step back, sort of acknowledge our history and realize where we came from and get a recharge essentially,” said Labat.
The students hope the photo will also serve as an inspiration to children of color, letting them know that they can also become doctors.
Seeing the photo and the harsh conditions of the slave quarters juxtaposed withthe successful, professional students brought out conflicting emotions, said Labat.
“I know personally, I was spiritually moved. I was emotional. I was incredibly grateful. I was incredibly sad at the same time, thinking about these are the conditions that my ancestors lived and worked in, she said.
Follow Rebecca Santana on Twitter @ruskygal.