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West Point holds black history program

WEST POINT — The City of West Point’s 15th annual Black History program had a theme of “One Hour.”

Program emcee Sandra Thornton had a goal of getting it done in that time span, and everyone working together pulled it off with a few minutes to spare.

A speech, the presentation of lots of awards and some very good singing and praise dancing took place within that 60-minute time frame inside the West Point Park gym.

The guest speaker for the program was Dr. Keith M. Hall, a U.S. Army veteran of Operation Restore and Continue Hope in Somalia and currently an anesthetist and physician’s assistant at the Emory Critical Care Center in Atlanta. He encouraged a large number of school-age youngsters gathered inside the gym to believe that they can do anything they set their mind to do.

“I want you to believe that you can do it,” he said.

Hall said that he had grown up in the less-than-prosperous side of town in West Palm Beach, Florida. He learned a good work ethic from his father, who has a brick mason, and his mother, “who did the best she could for us.”

On some days, Hall’s dad would leave home at 4 a.m. and not get back till after dark. That kind of dedication toward making a living and providing for a family made a deep impression young Keith.

Hall was very tall at a young age and excelled in basketball. His talent got him a scholarship to Johnson County Community College in Overland Park, Kansas. He played for two years and earned an associates degree. He then joined the Army, hoping to get into the medical field. He was a medic on what was thought to be a rather uneventful mission to Somalia. That’s not the way it turned out. It would get nasty and put the Army medics who were there under extreme stress. It would provide the setting for the famed movie “Blackhawk Down.”

Hall said that he had been trained by medics who had been on battlefields in the Vietnam War. Their instruction served him well that day. “56 people were killed,” he said.

Many more were spared. The experience motivated Hall to get more medical training when he was honorably discharged.

Hall would practice in internal medicine and emergency medicine until being recruited to join the University of Kansas Otolaryngology Head & Neck Surgery Department in Kansas City, Kansas.

Hall credits God for giving him the inner strength to study surgery for six years. He’s had the opportunity to study at Case Western Reserve University in Ohio and Emory University in Atlanta, two of the world’s leading centers of learning in the field of anesthesia training.

He has also had training at the University of Washington and the University of Toronto, two other internationally respected places of learning.