August 16, 2018
BE MODERN MAN: MEET ‘MR. ENGAGEMENT’ KEVIN M. SIMON, M.D.
BE Modern Man is an integrative program that honors the essence, image, and accomplishments of today’s man of color. With features of today’s leaders, executives, creatives, students, politicians, entrepreneurs, professionals, and agents of change—these men share the common thread of creating a new normal while setting the bar in tech, art, philanthropy, business, and beyond. The BE Modern Man is making a positive impact, his way, and has a story to tell.
BE MODERN MAN KEVIN M. SIMON, M.D.
Profession: Physician-Psychiatrist, Mentor, Researcher and Health Policy Expert
One Word That Describes You: Engaging
What does being one of the BE Modern Man 100 Honorees mean to you?
First, I’m thankful to God for his grace and mercy. Being an honoree and recognized for my efforts toward improving the lives of those suffering from serious mental illness, reminds me that “No work is insignificant. All labor that uplifts humanity has dignity and importance and should be undertaken with painstaking excellence.” —Martin Luther King Jr. Secondly, it’s humbling to be recognized [by] Black Enterprise, a leading multimedia company founded by Earl G. Graves Sr., a fellow Morgan State University alum and native of Brooklyn, New York, where I too call home.
What is your “Extraordinary Impact?”
In the African American community, there continues to be a significant amount of stigma toward discussing mental health topics, including depression, anxiety, trauma, suicide, substance abuse, and psychosis. Although, this is slowly improving with the likes of social influencers in the entertainment, sports, and media industry opening up about their struggles. Concurrently, there is also a drastically low percentage of African American male physicians (less than 2% of practicing physicians/psychiatrist are men of color). As a black male physician/psychiatrist, I am acutely aware of those two worlds culturally and professionally, so when I’m mentoring a group of young black males, I’m always encouraging and trying to be a positive force in their life. Then when I’m treating a black patient who has grown distrustful of the medical system or struggling through poverty, addiction, or trauma, I make it a point to recognize that this may be the only time a provider acknowledges that their concerns matter and I listen. Thus, I believe those are a few minor ways in which I am having an extraordinary impact.
What are you doing as a BEMM to help support black male achievement now or in the future?
Currently, I mentor several young African American males from grade school, high school, college, and medical school and serve as a reminding force that they are more than capable of achieving their greatness. Concerning advocacy, there is a group “Physicians for Criminal Justice Reform” that I am a part of that works toward improving the justice system, which disproportionately affects men of color. I currently serve as the only African American male chair of a national medical organization fellowship that serves the purpose to create future leaders in the field of Public Psychiatry. In the future, I plan to develop a tier-mentoring program focusing on adolescent African American boys to prepare them better for the world ahead.
What are some examples of how you have turned struggle into success?
Matriculating through undergraduate, graduate, and professional school, while at times being one of a few minority males, allowed seeds of self-doubt to grow, which in turn caused me to question whether I was capable of actually becoming a physician when so many said I couldn’t (Imposter Syndrome)—which is the exact opposite mindset you want when attempting to complete grueling training. So, after any negative review, failed exam, or poor performance at various stages in this journey, I would have to put my ego aside and ask for help from mentors, advisers, and significant others.
(Photo Credit: KreativTouch Group, Inc )
What is an important quality you look for in your relationships with others?
Empathetic, dependable, good listener, and reciprocity.
What are some immediate projects you are working on?
Several book projects and grants revolve around the various aspect of improving mental health for different age groups. There will be one book published this fall titled “Pediatric Mental Health for Primary Care Providers: A Clinician’s Guide,” which will feature practical guidance for parent education regarding common pediatric mental health concerns. I am working on two other books that will be published in 2019: One will focus on essential laws that positively impacted social determinants of mental health, while the other will be used to teach physician-psychiatrist trainees and early career psychiatrist on how to be influential leaders within the public sector of Mental Health Services. There’s also a grant being supported by the American Psychiatric Association Foundation that we recently secured that will enable us to create a forum for African American males to talk about mental health issues utilizing barbershops in Atlanta.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Philippians 4:13 – I can do all things through HIM who strengthens me.
What advice you have for other men who want to make a difference?
“If you don’t have time to do it right, when will you have the time to do it over?” —John Wooden. This quote resonates with me because oftentimes, we strive for the quick fixes, solution, or plans but in all honesty making a difference and being excellent in one’s mission is about putting in the time and having an understanding of delayed gratification.
How do you prep for an important business meeting and/or event?
I’ll use another MLK quote “If a man is called to be a street sweeper, he should sweep streets even as a Michelangelo painted, or Beethoven composed music or Shakespeare wrote poetry. He should sweep streets so well that all the hosts of heaven and earth will pause to say, ‘Here lived a great street sweeper who did his job well.” I genuinely believe that you should prepare well and that looks different for everyone, for me, that’s being extremely critical of fine details.
As a busy Modern Man, how do you unwind on vacation?
Being married, my wife and I schedule regular vacations twice per year that allow us to reenergize. However, during the week, I regularly workout, play basketball, and practice self-care.
If you could travel and stay anywhere in the world, where would it be and why?
Anywhere that has a combination of a warm breeze, ocean sounds, and a hammock.
It’s our normal to be extraordinary. Follow @BEModernMan and join the conversation using #BEModernMan.
Come celebrate the BE Modern Man 100 Men of Distinction at the 2nd Annual Black Men XCEL, Aug. 29–Sept. 2, 2018, at PGA National Resort & Spa in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida.