Gerald Deas
VHFP Visionary

Born April 15, 1931
Brooklyn, New York

Physician, poet, activist, motivational speaker, playwright, columnist, and author

Physician, poet, activist, motivational speaker, playwright, columnist, and author, Dr. Gerald W. Deas has dedicated his life to serving his community and empowering the youth of the black community. Dr. Deas made history as the first black recipient of the New York State Medical Society Award, and now serves as an associate professor of preventive medicine at SUNY Downstate Medical Center in Brooklyn.

Born on April 15, 1931 and raised in Brooklyn, New York, Dr. Deas attended Boys High School and later Brooklyn College, earning a bachelor's and a master's degree in biochemistry. After completing his Master's degree, Dr. Deas was drafted into the Army and served during the Korean War. His duties included helping to identify the remains of fallen soldiers, an experience that ultimately led to the development of a hatred for war and domestic violence.  

After returning from the Korean War, Dr. Deas earned a master's degree in public health from the University of Michigan and became an MD in 1962, after completing his work at SUNY Downstate. Subsequently, Dr. Deas performed his internship and residency training in internal medicine at Kings County Hospital in New York. Dr. Deas later joined the faculty of preventive medicine at SUNY Downstate and served as an attending physician at Jamaica Hospital and Mary Immaculate Hospital in Queens for 35 years.

Over the span of Dr. Deas medical career, he has been recognized with many honors, awards, and distinctions. In the medical community, Dr. Deas is revered for his legendary struggle against the Argo Starch Company in the 1970s. After finding that a laundry starch sold in many grocery stores was causing black women to become anemic, Dr. Deas fought to have Argo repackage the starch in a powered form with a label reading "Not Recommended for Food Use." As a result, the Food and Drug Administration awarded Dr. Deas with a special commendation for his accomplishments. In 2002, Dr. Deas was awarded the Legacy in Motion award from the Arthur Ashe Institute for Urban Health for his leadership in urban medicine.   

Dr. Deas is also well known for creating poetry and music designed to inspire and motivate African American youth. His many poems, plays and songs have garnered national attention, including praise from Pulitzer-Prize winning poet Gwendolyn Brooks who said his poems are "rich with creative excitement." In 1969, Dr. Deas penned "A Black Child Who Can't Smile," a song about sickle-cell anemia that was recorded by the rhythm and blues singer Brook Benton and used by the March of Dimes. Other examples include "Oh! Oh! Obesity," a musical he wrote about the trials of being overweight and "Felon Sneakers," a poem addressed to young African-American males:

When our unfortunate black brothers go to jail,
The law-man ties up their feet.
He makes them wear felon sneakers,
With laces that cannot meet. . .
So tighten up on your sneakers,
Put a goal right in your mind,
Put your nose to that grindstone,
And success in life, you will find.
Dr. Deas has also been an influential figure in the media. He was the first black medical columnist for the New York Daily News , the chief medical correspondent for television's McCreary Report for ten years, and a contributing writer for the Amsterdam News and other local papers in New York. Dr. Deas also hosted a weekly radio show on WLIB, which led to his contributions on the 1991 film "Straight Out of Brooklyn."

Dr. Deas has been married to his wife, Beverly, for over 45 years, and credits her with helping and supporting him throughout his career, while also raising the their three children.

(* Biography adapted from the biography provided by the SUNY Downstate Medical Center.)


SUNY Downstate Medical Center Bio


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