In the Loop

News and views from across Mayo Clinic

March 9, 2022

Voices of Mayo: LaNorris Triplett on daring to be the voice that promotes forward thinking, representing his Black community at Mayo

By In the Loop
LaNorris Triplett

"Voices of Mayo" is a series that highlights Mayo staff and their stories, exploring their diverse backgrounds, the challenges they face, the opportunities they have been given, and their experiences at Mayo Clinic.

LaNorris Triplett, a workforce learning specialist in Human Resources at Mayo Clinic in Florida, was born and raised in Jacksonville. He shares his experience of going to predominantly white schools and opportunities Mayo Clinic has given him to learn from patients as well as represent his own community.

Most of my childhood was spent in predominantly Black neighborhoods, where playing in the streets and having an imagination was key to survival. I attended an elementary school outside of my school zone since my grandmother was on staff there. Most of the student population at that school was white.

I can vividly recall a memory while in fifth grade, where I felt the teacher singled me out simply because of the color of my skin. I was part of the School Safety Patrol team, and my friends, who happened to be white, and I were horsing around after school hours while on post.

One of the teachers heard us and only called me into her room. She proceeded to reprimand me for hesitating to come, and somehow that act of "rebellion" gave her just reason to label me a "thug." It was at this very moment that the words of my parents rang true. I knew any infraction or interaction I had with white people of authority was going to be different.

After finishing high school, I went on to attend the University of North Florida. The university and surrounding area were predominantly white, but I found solace within my dorm mates and by becoming a member of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, the first Black collegiate fraternity.

Due to my involvement with the fraternity and within the community, I spent a lot of time with my fraternity brothers across the water at Jacksonville's very own historically Black college and university, Edward Waters University. While I am very proud of the education and experience, I received at University of North Florida, it would be dishonest of me to say Edward Waters University didn't give me a sense of belonging and acceptance among the students that I didn't always feel at my own university.

When you are the minority, it becomes a challenge to feel comfortable fully expressing one's culture in crowds where students, faculty and staff don't represent you. The urge to be yourself conflicts with the external pressure to conform to make them feel comfortable around you.

W.E.B. Du Bois says it best in "The Souls of Black Folk": "It is a peculiar sensation, this double-consciousness, this sense of always looking at one's self through the eyes of others, of measuring one's soul by the tape of a world that looks on in amused contempt and pity. One ever feels his two-ness — an American, a Negro; two souls, two thoughts, two unreconciled strivings; two warring ideals in one dark body, whose dogged strength alone keeps it from being torn asunder."

"Dare to be the voice in the crowd that provokes positive forward movement. Stand tall on the platforms put before you, base your words on the foundations of your past experiences and your actions on those of your ancestors."

LaNorris Triplett

It was during my junior year that I began my Mayo Clinic journey that would later become my career path. Being an outgoing individual provided me with a sense of security as I began to meet more people in the community and from around the world. I started as a radiology technician assistant, transporting patients to and from their various scans.

These intimate moments allowed me to have brief conversations with patients from various backgrounds and learn about their life experiences. These encounters allowed them to learn more about me as a reflection of the community that I come from. For instance, when I would get complimented on how articulately I spoke or how my demeanor was so mild-mannered, I would capitalize on these opportunities to teach by informing them that I'm no different than my ancestors before me.

As I advanced my career through the departments of Mayo Clinic, I was put in positions where I would be a either patient's first encounter or I would be the solution to their problem. Since Mayo Clinic in Florida's patient population is mostly white, I have encountered people who are still stuck in their ways and couldn't see past the color of my skin or the style of my hair, but my grandmother always taught me to counter it with kindness.

As I began to become more involved in activities on Mayo's campus, the more I became aware of the lack of representation in certain positions of leadership. While we can always say there is room for improvement, I am glad to say it's becoming less and less shocking to see Black physicians, medical students, department chairs, nurse managers, operations administrators, department supervisors, etc.

I was even beginning to see a shift in midlevel management, as well. I have been gifted the opportunity to have had both white and Black mentors throughout my growth at Mayo Clinic. A shared message among them was to continue to pay it forward and bring along those who also desired to do and be better. This motivated me to continue to work toward a solution to expanding that representation among leadership.

As a member of the African Descendants Mayo Employee Resource Group and now serving as co-chair, I have been able to contribute in a small way to the great work Mayo Clinic is doing. This includes community outreach, Reading Pals, mentorship, and food and clothing drives. Being able to sit on panels and speak openly about our history, culture and the injustices going on in our country, and how they directly shape the experiences of the Black and brown staff at Mayo, is an honor.

In the words of Frederick Douglas, "I prefer to be true to myself, even at the hazard of incurring the ridicule of others, rather than to be false, and to incur my own abhorrence."

In other words, do not become the thing you hate. Dare to be the voice in the crowd that provokes positive forward movement. Stand tall on the platforms put before you, base your words on the foundations of your past experiences and your actions on those of your ancestors.


Tags: Employee Stories, LaNorris Triplett, Voices of Mayo

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