Ep 124 – The Color of Care: How Healthcare Killed My Father Because of the Color of his Skin, with Keith Gambrell

The Gambrell-Fowler family pose for a portrait. From left are Keith Gambrell, Gary Fowler, Cheryl Fowler, Troy Fowler, and Paris Fowler.










Oprah Winfrey began her crusade to change the healthcare system when COVID-19 elevated our national awareness of health inequities in our country – a result of exacerbated health outcomes triggered by coronavirus infection across racial lines and the longstanding preexisting disparities that were already there. She launched The Color of Care education  campaign to prepare current and future doctors, nurses and medical professionals to play an active role in combating systemic racism in the delivery of healthcare, as well as provide others with the necessary tools to advocate for and empower patients who experience these inequities. The Color of Care movement for more equitable healthcare in America began when Oprah Winfrey was inspired to take action following the death of Gary Fowler.

In this episode, we discuss the tragic and unnecessary death of Gary Fowler inflicted by a grossly negligent and racist healthcare system.  Multiple hospitals have the blood of Mr. Fowler on their hands; however, this is a story of hope in that his death started a national campaign for health equity. Oprah says the following about the death of Mr. Gary Fowler: “I read a story that haunted me…the story of the Fowler family. When Mr. Fowler became ill, three different hospitals turned him away. He went home, sat in his recliner, and died. I wondered how many different Gary Fowlers there are out there. What if I told you the biggest indicator of how long you are going to live is your zip code? What if access to lifesaving care for somebody that you love depended on the color of their skin? The COVID pandemic exposed a tragic divide in our healthcare system. We now need to stand up, and we need to do something about it. We need to change an entire system. This is something you start now! Together we can make it better.”

The story of Gary Fowler’s death is the focal point of the recent documentary, The Color of Care that premiered on the Smithsonian Channel earlier this summer. From executive producer, Oprah Winfrey, this new documentary chronicles how people of color suffer from systemically substandard healthcare in the United States and how COVID-19 exposed the tragic consequences of this inequity.  The Color of Care documentary traces the origins of racial health disparities to practices that began during slavery in the U.S. and continue today. Using moving testimony from those who lost loved ones to COVID-19 and frontline medical workers in overwhelmed hospitals, it interweaves expert interviews and powerful data to expose the devastating toll of embedded racism in our healthcare system. The Color of Care is produced by Harpo Productions with executive producers Oprah Winfrey, Terry Wood, and Catherine Cyr. The film is directed by OSCAR®-nominated and Emmy® award-winning director Yance Ford and produced by Kate Bolger and Yance Ford. After listening to this podcast, I urge you to watch the Color of Care to understand how the system was built, why it doesn’t work for everyone, and how together we can make it better!

This episode is sponsored by the American College of Lifestyle Medicine.

How to get involved and learn more!

At the Smithsonian Museum for a screening of “The Color of Care” are (from left) Dr. Hetty Cunningham, associate professor of Pediatrics at Columbia University; Yance Ford, the Oscar-nominated, Emmy-winning filmmaker and director of the film; Dr. Ala Stanford, founder of the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium; and Keith Gambrell, who’s featured in the film during which he talks about his father who died from COVID-19 after being denied care.
David Fowler, 76, died of coronavirus on April 6, 2020. His son, Gary Fowlier passed away only hours later.












Episode Bookmarks:

01:30 The tragic and unnecessary death of Gary Fowler inflicted by a grossly negligent and racist healthcare system.

01:45 How the death of Gary Fowler inspired Oprah Winfrey to start the The Color of Care movement for more equitable healthcare in America.

02:30 “We now need to stand up, and we need to do something about it. We need to change an entire system. This is something you start now! Together we can make it better.” – (Oprah Winfrey Special PSA)

03:30 How do the murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery impact societal awakening for social justice and health equity?

04:00 The Color of Care documentary that traces the origins of racial health disparities to practices that began during slavery in the U.S. and continue today (watch trailer here)

05:00 Join the Color of Care movement as a Medical or Nursing Student, Medical Professional, or aDoctor or Nurse

05:30 Learn more about this week’s sponsor, The America College of Lifestyle Medicine and download the new Institute/ACLM Intelligence Brief on Lifestyle Medicine and Health Equity

06:30 Introduction to Keith Gambrell, the son of Gary Fowler

07:00 Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.”  — Martin Luther King, Jr.

07:30 Keith Gambrell tells the story of the death of his father, illustrating how systemic racism and anti-blackness are a public health crisis.

09:45 The hospital sends Gary Fowler home despite him being acutely ill from COVID-19.

10:00 The doctors wrote him off and didn’t listen to him. The health system didn’t give him a fighting chance and failed my father. They sent him home to die.”

10:15 Keith’s grandfather passed away from COVID-19 just hours before the passing of his father.

11:30 He shouldn’t have had to go to three different hospitals to seek treatment…and he didn’t even get treated after all of that.”

12:00 Every hospital sent us a billed after my father died…for services they didn’t even render when they refused to treat him.

12:30 The body of Gary Fowler resided in the home for over 10 hours after death from COVID-19.

13:00 Keith’s mother comes down with COVID-19 within a few hours after the death of her husband.

13:30 A patient with food poisoning from bad sushi was admitted to the hospital at the same time Keith’s mother was denied admission.

14:30 Keith is forced to take his mom to a second hospital (after his father dies from COVID-19 upon being denied treatment by three hospitals!)

15:45 Keith’s mother is sent home from the hospital after only two days. (She ends up developing pneumonia and blood clots post-discharge.)

17:00 “My dad would be here today if he wasn’t written off by the healthcare system.”

17:15 Health equity is an issue that needs to be discussed in America. Why aren’t we receiving health care? We are equal human beings just like everyone else.”

18:30 Our lives begin to end the day we become silent about things that matter.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.

19:30 Keith discusses his experience working with Oprah Winfrey and The Color of Care documentary.

20:30 Keith’s job now is to use his voice to advocate for health equity so we can eliminate racial disparities in our country.

21:00 Referencing Keith’s Op-Ed on the deaths of Floyd, Arbery, and Taylor and how there are

22:20 Keith discusses the parallels between the death of his father and racially-motivated killings.

23:30 No one cares about us. The entire system needs to be overhauled.”

24:30 How COVID-19 raised awareness of health inequities in African American communities that have persisted for centuries.

26:00 Doctors should listen more to patients. They should learn how to take into consideration what patients are telling them.”

27:30 Keith advocates for the need for medical schools to provide training in culturally competent care for minority populations.

28:00 Eric explains how value-based care is about health equity and relationship-based care.

29:00 Gary Fowler was never tested for COVID-19 – despite providers knowing that he had been exposed by close contact to his father who had tested positive, and was hospitalized!

30:30 Keith discusses the role that churches can play as a cornerstone for activism, resources, and community building to improve the health for communities of color.

31:30 Daniel explains the importance of culturally competent care in the provision of health equity.

33:00 All people, regardless of color, should be treated equally when going to the hospital.  My dad was begging for his life and sent home with a piece of paper.

34:00 The medical establishment has a long history of mistreating Black Americans — from gruesome experiments on enslaved people to forced sterilizations and the infamous Tuskegee syphilis study.

35:30 Keith provides perspective on what it will take for Black people to begin trusting the healthcare system.

37:00 The resilience of black communities in Detroit

38:00 My family had to learn how to take something so negative and make it positive. Our pain can change the world.  It is time for a change in the healthcare system.”

38:45 Keith wears the ashes of his father and grandfather around his neck inside gold teddy bear pendants to remember their legacy.

39:00 Don’t be afraid to speak out. Watch The Color of Care documentary and get involved!

40:00 Keith shares personal stories about who his father and grandfather were and how their lives impacted him.

42:30 Parting thoughts from Keith on the need to change healthcare for the better.

43:00 The Color of Care education campaign is working to prepare current and future doctors, nurses, and medical professionals to play an active role in combating systemic racism in healthcare.

44:00 The Institute for Advancing Health Value is screening The Color of Care on 11/30 and hosting a Virtual Health Equity Summit on 12/1!

Keith Gambrell of Detroit is seen in a window in the front of his house while on quarantine with COVID-19 symptoms in April 2020. Gambrell has had his life ravaged after losing his grandfather and stepfather to COVID-19 along with his mother being admitted to Henry Ford on a ventilator.
Gary Fowler at his happiest – a man who care his family and lived his life in love for them.












Oprah Winfrey was inspired by the death of Gary Fowler to develop the Color of Care documentary in hopes of exposing rampant racial inequities in our healthcare system.