Royals' Key reflects on Black History Month

KANSAS CITY -- To most, Black History Month is a time of reflection on the accomplishments of African-Americans in our society and culture. For me, every day, every week, every month of the year, I reflect on the accomplishments of African-Americans in our society and culture. That reflection is not just limited to 29 days of the year.

I think about how African-Americans before me helped to mold and shape my ideas as to the path that I forged in medicine, how I, as an African-American Orthopaedic Surgeon and Sports Medicine Physician, can help and inspire other young African-Americans to forge that same path.

I had many mentors along the way, from undergraduate days at Kansas State University to Medical School at the University of Oklahoma. The one person who helped me to realize my full potential and place in society in Sports Medicine was African-American Orthopaedic Surgeon Dr. Clarence Shields, who years ago with the Los Angeles Rams became the first African-American head team physician in any major sport. He was a well-educated, confident physician that was well respected by all, regardless of race.

People saw Dr. Shields as an extremely competent physician that happened to be African-American. I am so lucky and proud to consider Dr. Shields a mentor and a friend.

There have been so many others who have paved the way for me, starting with my parents, the late John H. Key and Barbara Key. My father was one of seven boys and one girl raised on a tobacco farm in Danville, Ky. My father was the first in our family to attend college. He graduated with a degree in Business Administration and worked for International Harvester for over 20 years. The path that my father had to take to make his dream come true was in the heart of the Civil Rights Movement.

I remember my father telling me that he had never seen his father sign his name and that my grandfather only had a third grade education. My father had to forge his own path, but endured the hatred and bigotry that was so prevalent in his day. My father would read me excerpts from Frederick Douglass, Martin Luther King and Malcolm X to get me to understand the dichotomy of thought in the African-American community at the time.

Black History Month, for most, is 28, or this year, 29 days of reflection of the accomplishments and achievements of African-Americans in our community and society as a whole. I reflect 24 hours a day, seven days a week and 52 weeks out of the year. I am blessed beyond belief to be the only African-American Orthopaedic Surgeon in charge of a Major League Baseball club.

I thank David Glass, general manager Dayton Moore, trainer Nick Kenney and the entire Kansas City Royals organization for the trust and faith that they have in me. I accept and bear charge of being a role model for other young African-American physicians who wish to attain this goal if it is their dream. Black History Month is an ongoing reflection, not just for the month of February.

Vincent H. Key, MD is the medical director and head team physician for the Kansas City Royals. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.