Dr. Gerald Onuoha is the people’s leader. He’s a charismatic and friendly person who knows how to rally the proverbial troops around a cause for which he’s passionate. If you saw him, I bet the first thing you might notice about him is his height, light eyes, and put together demeanor. I want to get to know the man behind the spotlight.
Dr. Gerald Onuoha (pronounced “oh-no-wah-ha”) lives in my neighborhood, and (from what I notice), he’s never home. He’s a busy man in the community. He’s accomplished: he graduated from Tennessee State University where he majored in Physics and Astronomy all while being heavily involved in Student Government activities and his fraternity, Kappa Alpha Psi, the Alpha Theta Chapter. He went on to study medicine at Meharry Medical College where he was also Mr. Meharry, President of the Pre-Alumni Association, and was Young Alumni on the Meharry Board of Trustees. As if that wasn’t enough, he is currently in his first year of his internal medicine residency, AND he runs his nonprofit “The Project DReam Community Initiative.” He now has his eyes set on entrepreneurship with his most recent endeavor, the Paragon Social Club which he hopes “will change the social culture of Nashville.”
Gerald finds satisfaction in his craft, expressing that …. “Medicine is my passion…. I find joy in contributing to the physical, mental, and spiritual health of my community. Medicine is not just about giving [the patient] drugs. Educating people on how to live a long and healthy life or even sometimes praying with them potentiates therapy; I treat the person, not just the illness.”
Another part of his passion is his non-profit organization Project DReam, which was born out the desire to increase the number of disadvantaged youth, specifically African-Americans, into the health care sciences and other health-related professions. He explains, “ There are children of color who grow up and have never seen or been treated by a doctor that looks like them [African-American]. This won’t change until we start inspiring the youth early. I want to teach the youth that being a doctor, lawyer, educator, engineer, journalist, or entrepreneur is just as cool as being a musician or an athlete. You can be a successful African American professional and balance being true to your culture. I [speaking of himself] wear a pressed dashiki shirt and strap my J’s on tight when I’m walking through the hospital wards at Meharry; I listen to a Future – March Madness playlist before taking exams, and may hit a dab after I’ve successfully treated a patient. We need to cultivate an environment of cultural excellence encouraging academic prowess, along with athletic and musical talents. I believe we should celebrate the young black physician from the inner city school, or the hometown blogger who took a chance on life just as much as we celebrate Lebron or Beyonce and Jay-Z (some of his favorite entertainers). But it will take all of us to make that change, I’m just doing my part.”
Gerald and three other Meharry students founded Project DReam in 2011 after seeing the need for minorities to have access to the opportunity of professions in medicine and healthcare. Project DReam provides tutoring, standardized testing materials, and scholarships to students. Currently, Project DReam is focusing on students from Pearl-Cohn High school but has plans to expand to other schools in the near future. “My goal is give every disadvantaged student the material and motivation needed to go beyond high school and their neighborhood to pursue their dreams. I then want to charge them to come back to their community and improve it; use your talents and skills to make your community better than you left it.”
The Paragon Social Club, his new pet project, is set to launch during the Meharry Graduation Weekend which is this weekend, May 20-22nd. The Paragon Social Club is a group open to all young professionals who are looking for a “good time with good people” as well having a component of giving back to the Nashville community. “We party with a purpose! There’s a pocket of Nashville professionals that are doing big things in their own right, but never cross their professional boundaries to get to know other people in their community.” The Paragon Social Club provides a social networking system to bring people together, not just to party but also for community development. We plan on the group having monthly professional “turn-ups”, quarterly book club meetings, wine and dines, as well as various community development projects.
There just aren’t enough platforms for our African American men to speak to the masses about social awareness, self improvement, and social responsibility, so I definitely wanted to invite Gerald to Nashvillesocialbutterfly.com.
Gerald and I met at Little Donkey in the Germantown area for our conversation. Also on site with us was Nashville Native photographer Jai Smith Photography (more from Jai S Photography in a future post). I chose this restaurant because it’s open and clean, the bar is settled right in front of the kitchen and the TVs so you can observe your meal being prepared as well as watch the NBA finals. We talked and sipped a few drinks as Gerald told me of his humble upbringings, about his initial lackadaisical approach to education, and his matriculation through Meharry Medical Center for where he now serves on the board of trustees. One of the first statements to me was “Karla, me being a Doctor is beyond my wildest dreams!” He is now a man making his dreams and the dreams of the community come true. I’ve witnessed his passion and I see a man with a plan; I’m a fan and a supporter, and I look forward to his vision becoming a reality in the #newnashville community. Scroll down to view our pictures from our conversation as well as Meharry Graduation Event Details:
Information for Meharry Graduation Weekend/Paragon Social Club Launch (click the images for details):