By CBS4 Health Specialist Kathy Walsh

(CBS4) – A respected Colorado physician is asking people to choose compassion over prejudice.

Dr. Deb Saint-Phard

(credit: Dr. Deb Saint-Phard)

In our series Elevating Black Voices, Dr. Deb Saint-Phard explained she used to think the color of her skin didn’t matter. That belief changed last summer.

READ MORE: CBS4 Special Section Elevating Black Voices

“I didn’t think my blackness was an issue,” said Saint-Phard.

She is the founder and director of the Women’s Sports Medicine Program at UCHealth. She is a lesbian and single mother of two biracial girls. She has never been a civil rights activist.

“I thought I had bypassed the stigma of being Black in America,” she told Health Specialist Kathy Walsh.

That’s because Dr. Saint-Phard’s family fled Haiti when she was a baby. Her parents were physicians. She grew up a top student and athlete. She went to Princeton University and excelled at discus and shot put.

“I never had a negative racial experience at Princeton,” said Saint-Phard.

Her friends were mainly white. Some were even famous, like actress Brooke Shields.

Dr. Saint-Phard competed for Haiti in the 1988 Olympic Games in Seoul. She went to medical school at Temple University.

“If I just worked hard enough, the color of my skin wouldn’t matter. That was a belief that I had and that was wrong, that was wrong,” she said.

It was the killing of George Floyd that changed her mind.

“Literally watching a man, George Floyd, be murdered on national television with no compunction or remorse from his killer,” said an emotional Saint-Phard.

When Dr. Saint-Phard thinks of her life up to last summer she says she envisions a frozen lake.

“The image I have is that I have been skating and just underneath that lake I can see the Black faces of people who have suffered,” she explained. “There’s a long history of Black people being seen and treated as animals. I am privileged and now I’m awake.”

Dr. Saint-Phard was among hundreds who joined “White Coats for Black Lives Matter” kneeling for 8 minutes and 46 seconds on the lawn at the Anschutz Medical Campus … the amount of time a police officer knelt on George Floyd’s neck.

Dr. Deb Saint-Phard

(credit: Dr. Deb Saint-Phard)

The physician now educates herself about systemic racism and asks others to do the same. She has raised money for the Southern Poverty Law Center to enroll Black voters.

“This last election gave me hope,” she said.

But she worries for her daughters.

Dr. Deb Saint-Phard

(credit: CBS)

“I don’t feel that I can keep my children safe because they’re Black,” said Saint-Phard. “It’s my responsibility to help make change. I want for white people in this time to choose compassion towards Blacks over prejudice toward Blacks.”

Dr. Saint-Phard asks all to honor Black history, but address racial injustice today for a better tomorrow.

Resources to understand systemic racism

The Anti-racism Digital Library
How to Be an Anti-Racist in Denver

Kathy Walsh