Kingston, Jamaica native and former volleyball star, Dr. Naima Stennett, is combining her passion for children’s health with cycling as part of the Great Cycle Challenge for the Children’s Cancer Research Fund. Stennett is a team of one riding to raise funds toward cancer research. She’s participated in 18 rides and has completed 302 miles of a 400-mile ride.
“I’m doing this because cancer is the largest killer of children from disease in the United States – 38 kids die every week,” said Stennett. “My challenge will be tough, but it’s nothing compared to what these brave kids face every day of their lives as they battle this terrible disease. And so I am taking on this challenge to end childhood cancer and save little lives.”
At the age of 16, Stennett received a full volleyball scholarship to North Carolina Central University (NCCU) where she received her bachelor’s degree in biology with a minor in chemistry. During her college career, she represented Jamaica in international tournaments, including the 2006 Pan-American games, 2017 World Qualifiers, and multiple Caribbean volleyball championships.
Stennett earned her Master’s degree at NCCU, entered medical school, and earned her medical degree in 2017 from East Carolina University at Brody School of Medicine in Greenville, NC. She was the recipient of the North Carolina Minority Medical Award at the annual Dr. Andrew Best Banquet.
Dr. Stennett is currently finishing her residency in Family Medicine at the University of Miami at Jackson Memorial Hospital in Florida and will pursue a career in Sports Medicine. She’ll begin her one-year fellowship in Sports Medicine at University of North Carolina-Chapel Hill. She plans to work with young athletes in underserved communities.
The doctor is a member of numerous professional organizations that include the American Academy of Family Physicians; American Medical Society for Sports Medicine; Black Professional Network of Miami; American Medical Association; and Student National Medical Association.
Stennett is the founder of the Dr. Naima Stennett SAT Scholarship Fund that pays the full SAT costs of volleyball players in Jamaica and the Caribbean for college admissions in the U.S. She mentors pre-medical and medical students. Stennett wants her most lasting and fulfilling achievement to be one of helping others achieve their dreams.
As a physician, she was treated like any other highly trained professional working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. When she went home, she experienced the ugliness of racism. One white male neighbor called the police on her 12 times. While working 13 and 14-hour shifts, he repeatedly complained that she held loud parties. The condo association refused to address the harassment and even texted her about the loud party going on while she was physically at the hospital.
The courts were no help, refusing to issue a restraining order unless she was in physical danger. Police showed up on her doorstep on a regular basis as a result of the complaints and she now suffers with PTSD when she sees police or the flashing lights of a police vehicle.
She sees racial disparities in the access to healthcare, education, and how COVID-19 affects minorities. Stennett volunteered for the Surveillance Program Assessing Risk and Knowledge of Coronavirus to conduct random antibody tests in the community. She still remains committed to making a difference and leaving her mark on the world.
Photo: Jeremie Mcleod/Dr. Naima Stennett