LOS ANGELES - After watching the Super Bowl at the White House earlier this month, Bill J. Releford says he is still "levitating" from the experience.
Dr. Releford, an assistant professor at Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science who launched the Black Barbershop Health Outreach Program in 2007, was among 100 guests invited to watch the Super Bowl with the Obamas. He said he still felt as though he’s walking in air.
|Bill J. Releford, who founded the |
Black Barbershop Health Outreach
Program and CDU faculty member, outside the White House.
Guests watched football highlights while spending the bulk of their time networking, Dr. Releford said. Those he chatted with included, activist Rev. Al Sharpton, actress Jennifer Lopez and her husband, Marc Anthony, as well as Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor to Obama.
"I felt butterflies in my stomach," Dr. Releford said. "It was surreal. I was blown away by the whole experience."
Shortly before halftime, one of Obama's aides struck up a conversation and asked Dr. Releford to wait until he returned. Soon, Obama appeared, shaking Dr. Releford’s hand. As Dr. Releford was being introduced, Obama interrupted the aide, and recalled the president saying, "I know all about the black barbershop program."
The comment helped Dr. Releford feel validated in his work. He has made personal sacrifices to pull together the program. The program, which allows those getting haircuts in black barbershop to be screened for diabetes, high blood pressure and to learn about prostate health, has spread nationwide. Dr. Releford has been featured on several television networks as well as profiled in newspapers and magazines. Even better, the program now has been recognized by the president.
As the football game paused for halftime, Dr. Releford--still without an appetite--shared the news with his dad. He told his father how proud he was to be at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and how gracious the president had been. Later, Mrs. Obama spoke to him in passing, saying she hoped he was enjoying the evening.
The invitation came out of the blue a week earlier when a White House representative called his cell phone, asking him to attend the party. Whatever plans he had for Super Sunday were scuttled. Though he still shakes his head at making the guest list, he has already noticed some benefit. The White House will be represented at Dr. Releford's 3rd Annual African American Men's Health and Empowerment Summit on Sat., Feb. 26 at the Los Angeles Convention Center. The event is open to the public and there's no charge.
While focused on grander plans for the barbershop program, Dr. Releford said the excitement he felt from attending the White House party has hardly faded.
"It was, perhaps, the most exciting event in my adult life," Dr. Releford said. "Never before have we had contact with the White House. I was totally floored, and I'm still levitating by the whole experience."
Deep Dish Pizza
German Potato Salad
Twice Baked Potatoes
Snyders Potato Chips and Pretzels
Chips and Dips
Beverages including the following beers: Hinterland Pale Ale & Amber Ale (Wisconsin), Yuengling Lager and Light (Pennsylvania), White House Honey Ale.
About Charles Drew University of Medicine and Science
CDU is a private, nonprofit, nonsectarian, minority-serving medical and health sciences institution. Located in the Watts-Willowbrook area of South Los Angeles, CDU has graduated more than 550 medical doctors, 2,500 post-graduate physicians, more than 2,000 physician assistants and hundreds of other health professionals. The only dually designated Historically Black Graduate Institution and Hispanic Serving Health Professions School in the U.S., CDU is recognized as a leader in translational and health inequities research, specifically with respect to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, mental health, and HIV/AIDS. Recently, the CDU/UCLA medical program was named the “best performer” in the University of California System with respect to producing outstanding underrepresented minority physicians by the Greenlining Institute. For more information, visit