Meet the nurse clinician shedding light on pioneering Black scientists

CBC Quebec is highlighting people from the province’s Black communities who are giving back, inspiring others and helping to shape our future. These are the Black Changemakers.

As a child, Stephanie Bumba never saw any Black people in the history books and cartoons she read, or the science movies she watched.

In school, she learned about the contributions of pioneering white scientists but was left wondering why she wasn’t hearing about Black scientists and what they had achieved.

So last summer, Bumba, who is now a nurse clinician, created a web series called Ces afro-scientifiques d’hier à aujourd’hui, or Yesterday’s and Today’s Afro-scientists, dedicated to telling the stories she longed to see.

“These Afro-scientists were hidden under historic rubble, and it’s the time now to make them visible and to dispel the ignorance surrounding these scientific pioneers,” she said.

Each episode features someone who worked in health sciences and whose discoveries and inventions are still relevant today. The episodes are in French, but the second season, slated to debut this month, will feature English and Spanish subtitles.

So far, she has profiled people such as Dr. Charles Drew, a surgeon who organized the first large-scale blood bank in the U.S. and directed a project that sent blood and plasma collected in New York to Britain in order to treat people during the Second World War.

In addition to working as a nurse clinician during a pandemic, Bumba is doing a master’s degree in health care administration at Université de Montréal.

She did a lot of the research for the series last summer, after work. She would come home, take a nap and then spend her evenings and nights combing through the databases she has access to through her studies to look up information about people she wanted to highlight.

Bumba said the episodes have been well received so far — two have more than 10,000 views on her YouTube channel, Nurse Stephie TV. She has heard from high school teachers who are showing the videos to their students.

Her career as a science communicator is evolving; after Bumba wrote an op-ed that appeared in La Presse, the Montreal Science Centre invited her to write a series of blog posts about pioneering Canadian and Quebec scientists for Black History Month.

Bumba said she wants young Black people to have scientists to idolize so that they, too, are inspired to do great things.

“Black history is not only about slavery and the hardship, it’s also about those pioneers who contributed to the advancement of our health-care sciences.”

The Black Changemakers is a special series recognizing individuals who, regardless of background or industry, are driven to create a positive impact in their community. From tackling problems to showing small gestures of kindness on a daily basis, these changemakers are making a difference and inspiring others. Meet all the changemakers here.

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