Perseverance Through Severe Dysfunction by Reggie D. Ford

November is Men’s Health Awareness Month and I cannot think of a better advocate for Men’s health, especially mental health, than Reggie Ford.

Reggie’s bio reads like a Who’s Who of young professionals. Undergraduate and Graduate degrees from Vanderbilt. Recognized as one of Nashville’s Black 40 Under 40 as well as Nashville Business Journal’s 40 Under 40. Nominated for Forbes 30 Under 30. Featured in the Top 100 People in Finance magazine. Entrepreneur. Philanthropist. Activist. The list goes on (truly, it does).

It might surprise you, then, to read Reggie’s memoir, Perseverance Through Severe Dysfunction: Breaking the Curse of Intergenerational Trauma as a Black Man in America.

P.T.S.D. a story of his childhood and early adult years in Nashville; a heartbreaking look at Reggie’s own experience with poverty, intergenerational mental health issues, and systemic racism and injustice. Yet, this story is one of optimism and compassion. A story intended to show that mental health has a real and demonstrable effect on not just Black Americans, but all people, and can be overcome.

Any attempt I might make to summarize Perseverance Through Severe Dysfunction would fall woefully short. There is no one who can tell Reggie’s story like Reggie.

Oftentimes when working in advocacy and justice, there are stand-alone statistics and unbelievably sad stories. Both are true and necessary. But it is difficult to connect with statistics and can be hard to imagine overcoming mountains of obstacles. Bridging the gap from pain and hardship, to compassion and healing is what Perseverance Through Severe Trauma is all about!

This is precisely why I love Reggie’s book. He tells his story with compassion, grace, and kindness; for himself, his family, and his community. Readers can relate to many of Reggie’s stories. You can imagine what it was like for young Reggie to move away from his friends in East Nashville to South Nashville. You can relate to the excitement of a new baby sister. Or the sadness of parents splitting up. And who doesn’t have lessons learned from a grandparent (Big Momma)! Those universal experiences help readers of different backgrounds connect with Reggie as he then details more difficult traumas like racism and poverty. It’s a deeply personal and reflective account that invites readers in, without judgment or pretense.

As we continue through Men’s Health Awareness Month, Tennessee TeleDerm will be sharing some mental health tips from Reggie himself! Stay tuned! A don’t miss out… pick up a copy of Perseverance Through Severe Dysfunction: Breaking the Curse of Intergenerational Trauma as a Black Man in America.

Expanding Access to Care with Wade Munday

TTD: Please share with readers a bit of your background. What led you to your involvement in healthcare advocacy?

My involvement in healthcare began with a mission trip. When I was in college, I traveled to Ethiopia to live and play for a summer. It was the first time I had ever flown on an airplane, and it was the summer after 9/11. During that time, I was fortunate to receive a unique education. At the end of my time there, a friend approached me. Worku was responsible for protecting our building, and I had spent hours talking with him and even more time playing soccer with him. The latter activity was quite difficult, however. As a child, a boiling pot of water had been tipped over and burned his foot, melting the skin so that his soft, pliable infant foot was connected to his shin by scar tissue. As an adult, he walked on his heel with constant pain and obvious discomfort. Yet, he found joy and happiness on the soccer pitch. 

When Worku approached me, he had a simple request: 75 US dollars so that he could afford a surgical procedure that would finally fix his foot. My grandfather had given me some money for the summer and I still had most of it. I was happy to help my friend.

TTD: Explain how lack of access to care affects Tennesseans.

There are millions of stories about families forced to make the decision between healthcare and food, clothing, or shelter. Tennessee leads the nation in medical bankruptcies. On top of that, more than 20 counties in Tennessee don’t even have a hospital.

How are we supposed to live happy and healthy lives when quality, affordable healthcare is so far out of reach? To answer that question, I think there are three essential points to consider:

  1. Government has a place. Most people want an efficient government – agencies making the best use of our tax dollars. Extraordinary sums of public dollars are spent at government safety net hospitals, community health centers, and other entities delivering care. They should be run effectively and transparently, and they should be at the forefront of utilizing new technologies that can improve patient outcomes and reduce recidivism.
  2. The private sector has a place. Most Americans have relied upon their employers to subsidize their health insurance premiums since World War II. Before that, our healthcare system operated like many low-income countries today. Patients pay out of pocket for everything and often go without even the most basic care. Not only do companies provide financial support to pay for healthcare in America, but many for-profit healthcare companies in the U.S. are designing innovative approaches to healthcare. The best companies run lean operations and have a plan for scale and sustainability that can disrupt the health sector.
  3. We have to look out for one another. Because I come from a place of privilege, I was able to help my friend Worku. Many Americans are not battling with medical debt or insurance companies, which is exactly why we must care for those Americans who are.

So how do we then go about looking out for others when it comes to healthcare? 

Neither the government nor the private sector will stop being important actors in delivering and paying for America’s healthcare system. What I propose is that all Americans become healthcare voters. Make healthcare a priority when it comes to who you elect to office, especially at the state and federal level. It’s important that we vote for candidates who want to build a stronger healthcare system now, in both the private and public sector. It’s important that we prioritize this political conversation before it comes to our household, because it’s already come to someone else’s.

  1. Be informed about a candidate’s specific plan to fix our country’s healthcare system (if they have one). And then apply your critical thinking skills to it. The biggest issue for the next election is Medicaid Expansion? You can read about it here. Why is it good or bad? What can it do to improve the lives of other Tennesseans?
  2. Hold candidates accountable. Demand that they speak to the issues affecting people’s lives. They should be holding town halls and releasing their own proposals to address problems if they don’t agree with a specific plan. Too often, politicians focus on divisive issues. They should be in the business of building up our civil society, not tearing it down.
  3. Inform your friends about how you plan to vote. Start an email and text chain and list the reasons why you’re a healthcare voter and who you believe is going to be an advocate for better healthcare in Tennessee. It doesn’t need to be combative. You’re entitled to your opinion and if it’s a well informed one, then no one should be upset about that.

We all have a place in healthcare, even if we’re not doctors. Understanding our place in the electoral process, that we are the ones who determine our future, is the best way to ensure that Tennesseans remain healthy and happy.

Andrew Maraniss and Inaugural Ballers

Maraniss’s new book is the story of the first-ever Women’s Olympic Basketball team. From humble beginnings, this group of women put US Women’s Basketball on the map. The book is packed with well-researched details, anecdotes and photos. A delight for older kids and adults!

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TTD:  Please share with readers a bit of your background; your career in writing and the decision/evolution to combine sports and justice.  

AM: Sports and writing have been big interests of mine as long as I can remember. My parents say that I learned how to read by reading the back of baseball cards. When I was 13, I started my own sports magazine when we lived in Washington, D.C. It only lasted one issue and involved a lot of magic markers, but I enjoyed writing about my favorite teams and interviewing people. In high school (in Texas), I played baseball and was the sports editor of the school newspaper. One day I saw a poster on the wall advertising a full-tuition scholarship to Vanderbilt for high school sportswriters. I was lucky enough to win it, and that’s what brought me to Nashville. My sophomore year at Vanderbilt, I wrote a paper about Perry Wallace for a Black History class. He had been the “Jackie Robinson of the SEC” as the first Black basketball player in the league. It was getting to know Perry and writing about him for that paper that first really turned me on to the idea of writing about social justice through sports. I came back to Perry 17 years later with the idea to write a biography about him. That book, Strong Inside, was the thing that really catapulted me into becoming an author and making this my niche. 

TTD:  Your latest book, Inaugural Ballers, follows the first women’s Olympic basketball team at the summer Olympics in 1976.  Fifty years past Title IX, how would you summarize the progress made and work left to do?

AM: Your question gets at the most important thing for people to remember during this year of anniversary celebrations: there is still a lot more to do. That said, so much has changed. Before Title IX, schools from elementary through kindergarten could get away with supporting boys’ sports fully and completely ignoring athletics for girls and women. Not only were there no college scholarships for women athletes or televised games or endorsement deals or much media coverage to speak of, in many cases girls and women had to fight to even gain access to a school gymnasium, had to raise their own money for uniforms, and were demeaned as “unladylike” for even having an interest in competing. The women who competed on the 1976 Olympic basketball team came up during an era when there was no promise that playing basketball would lead to any reward – no scholarship, no professional league, no glory. But I think it’s important to resist the temptation to say there was something more noble or pure about that time. The women back then deserved more and wouldn’t have turned down greater opportunities. And women athletes today, who do find more rewards for their efforts, work just as hard as women did back then. And they still don’t benefit from true equity in sports. 

TTD:  Did you come across any new anecdotes about Pat Summitt during your research?  We’re in Tennessee, after all : )

AM: I loved reading about Pat Head Summitt as I was working on this book. As a Vanderbilt alum and fan, I had always admired her legendary coaching record, but I always thought of her as belonging to someone else’s team. But in learning more about her life story and how she battled back from a serious knee injury to play on the Olympic team, I gained even more respect for her. I was surprised to learn some stories that humanized her – how she felt “too country” as a college student at UT-Martin, how she liked to drive fast cars and play cards, how she drank a little too much beer during a tournament in Mexico – and also stories that foreshadowed her coaching career. She was a co-captain of the ’76 Olympic team and was one of those classic “coach on the floor” types. Everyone on the team respected her and considered her as much of a coach as a player. She mentored the younger players and kept everyone in line. There are several other Tennessee connections in the book, too. Sue Gunter, the assistant coach, had studied at Peabody College in Nashville and coached at MTSU. I also write about the history of women’s basketball, including the team from Nashville Business College, which was considered one of the best teams in the country before the days of NCAA women’s basketball. 

TTD:  You’ve written 5 books. What overarching themes do they share in common (if any)?

AM: My first book, Strong Inside, is about basketball and racism. My second book, Games of Deception, is about basketball, antisemitism, and fascism. My third book, Singled Out, is about baseball and homophobia. Inaugural Ballers is about basketball and sexism. So the common thread is using sports as a vehicle to talk about important social issues and to use history as a gateway to discussions of issues that are still so important today. At its best, sports are supposed to provide a level playing field, where people can succeed purely based on their own merits and skills without things like income, race, religion, gender, or sexuality making a difference. But as we see throughout history, that’s often not the case. My books expose some of that hypocrisy and lift up characters that haven’t received their due. 

TTD:  Who inspires you to keep doing what you’re doing?

AM: Young people. I’m inspired by own kids, who are 11 and 9, because I want them to grow up in a country that is far more empathetic and far less hateful than the one we live in today. I’m also inspired by the kids I see when I visit schools around the country. Especially the ones who love playing or watching sports but don’t typically read a lot of books. And then I’m inspired by the characters I write about, too. Perry Wallace in particular had a greater influence on me than anyone outside of my own family. With so many threats to truth, democracy and the planet, everyone has a responsibility to do their part. Some people run for office, some get involved with a nonprofit, some speak up to family, friends and neighbors when they never would have done that before. My way of trying to do good is by writing books that cause people to think about injustice and become inspired to act. 

TTD:  From your vantage point, how can readers advocate for change 

through sport?

AM: That’s a really interesting question. Your readers can advocate in so many ways outside of sports, especially through voting and being involved in their communities. In terms of advocating for change through sports, I think some of the ways the average person can do that are:

  • Support athletes who use their platforms to advocate for social change. 
  • Support women’s athletics, especially by attending games. 
  • Let teams know when they’re failing on issues – still using Native American mascots, firing LGBTQ coaches, paying women less than men, tolerating hostile workplaces, exploiting Black college athletes while not providing a real education and with low graduation rates, supporting hateful political candidates, extorting city governments. In all these ways, sports are political. So use your voice to influence the politics. 
  • Finally, I think we’re going to start seeing a lot more coverage of the impact of climate change on sports and the impact that the world of sports has on climate. This is an area where we need to demand more of the powerful actors in our society. I think the sports world will be a place where a lot of important advocacy increasingly takes place.  

Ann Satkoski on Gabby Giffords Won’t Back Down

The film tells the extraordinary story of former congresswoman Gabby Giffords recovery following an assassination attempt in 2011 and her new life as one of the most effective activists in the gun violence prevention movement.

Ann Satkoski, friend and film producer, gives an insider’s view of this incredible new documentary, after the preview.

Interview with Ann Satkoski

TTD:  Please share with readers a bit of your background; your career in TV & film and how you became involved in Gabby Giffords Wont Back Down.

AS: I’ve been in the entertainment business for almost 2 decades and I’m currently an executive producer at Lisa Erspamer Entertainment. 

We create and produce content across film, television, digital and branded platforms. I spent nearly a decade at Harpo Productions, working on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and for the OWN Network, and went on to co-executive produce the Emmy-winning syndicated talk show” Pickler & Ben”.  Working on documentary films is also a passion of ours – we produced the 2018 Grammy-nominated film “Whitney” and worked on Mary J. Blige’s documentary, “My Life”, for Amazon. We’re always on the lookout for our next project and so when my boss and mentor, former Oprah Show executive producer Lisa Erspamer, told me about the opportunity to work on a film about Gabby Giffords, I couldn’t have been more thrilled.

TTD:  How did this documentary get made? Who felt the urgency/saw the need to get her story out?  Who pushed for it?

AS:  In 2013, Lisa met Gabby Giffords after the Sandy Hook tragedy. Lisa was deeply moved by how Gabby connected to and consoled the grieving families in spite of not always being able to say what she is thinking, due to her aphasia, which she sustained as a result of her gunshot wound. After that encounter, Lisa told a close friend of Gabby’s that a doc needed to be made about her story someday – and she didn’t stop until it happened.  She worked closely with Gabby’s team and advisors, who we eventually introduced to the directors and the rest is history!

TTD:  The beauty of documentaries, is that the we see facts wrapped in a story. In this case, Gabby Giffords’ life, the shooting, and her recovery. Give us your professional takeaways from this experience, as an insider in the process.

AS:   During the promotion of this film, I’ve been able to see the Giffords team and Gabby in action and I am in constant awe of their energy and tenacity – they never stop.  Gabby doesn’t miss a film screening, a Q&A – if there is any opportunity to reach people and get her message out there, she doesn’t miss it.  It’s beyond inspiring to be around a group of people who are truly affecting change.

TTD: How has this documentary personally affected you?

AS:  As a mother of small children, this film has ignited an even greater sense of urgency to do anything I can to protect my kids from gun violence. I’ve been calling my senators and educating myself more than ever before.  I’m taking action instead of just watching the news and feeling sad.  It’s empowering and I highly recommend it!

TTD:  As part of our advocacy series, we ask that you offer a couple of simple and sustainable steps readers can take to advocate for gun safety.  

AS: is in incredible resource — I recommend following them on social media too as they are always putting out easily digestible and actionable content.  Sadly, guns are now the leading cause of death for American kids. Beyond mass shootings, suicide rates are skyrocketing – breaks down what they know works to prevent gun violence (raising the minimum age for civilians to purchase fire arms until their brains are fully developed, violence invention programs, responsible firearm storage, etc) and how you can support them in their mission to implement what will make a difference.

Reducing Gun Violence in Tennessee      

Advocate for change by improving safety, reducing risk. 

It’s an all too familiar story.  Mass shooting.  Gun suicide.  Domestic violence.  Children, parents, and communities, ripped apart in seconds. Often times, preventable. Children & teens living in a home with an unsecured gun.  Gun stolen from an unlocked car.  Absence of red flag laws. Online warning signs. Alcohol & drugs.  Stray bullet. 

Gun Violence Stats for Tennessee:

  1.  Firearms are the leading cause of death among children and teens in Tennessee.
  2. Tennessee has the11th-highest rate of gun deaths in the US
  3. Tennessee has more guns stolen from cars than any other state in the US.
  4. Gun suicide accounts for 57% of total gun deaths.

Action steps:

  • Lock and securely store firearms in your house or car. First, remove ammunition. Then, apply a lock and securely store the weapon. Store ammunition separately. This keeps guns out of the hands of curious children, teens, criminals, and anyone who may be in the midst of a suicidal crisis.  For more information, visit the BeSMART for kids webpage at
  • Ask friends and family about secure firearm storage in their homes.  Talk with teens.  Sample texts and conversations can be found at
  • Learn more about preventable gun deaths in your state by visiting 
  • Follow Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense or Students Demand Action for Gun Sense on Facebook and Instagram.  Share helpful information on your social accounts.  
  • Support Moms Demand and Students Demand by texting LOVE to 644-33.
  • Vote for Gun Sense candidates at the local, state, and federal level.  Visit for Tennessee candidates running with this distinction.