Adena Physicians & Staff

Black History Month Caregiver Profile: Geoff Duncan

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Geoff recently joined the Adena Health family in 2022 after working 25 years as a shift commander captain at Ross Correctional Institution. 

As we celebrate Black History Month and embrace the importance and understanding of diversity, Geoff shares his experience as a man of color living and working in southern Ohio, the father of a biracial son, and a coach in the schools.

Starting with a strong foundation

Geoff credits his approach to many of the things in his life to his upbringing grounded in faith.

“I was raised right by two Godly parents who pushed me toward a higher education,” he said. “I was baptized in Jesus’ name and filled with the Holy Ghost. I knew the truth working in the prison system and I carry the truth with me today. I won’t stray from the strong foundation my parents instilled in me and I won’t stray from my core values.”

That’s not always easy when encountering the judgement of others based on the color of his skin, but he finds strength in that foundation and has attempted to provide that same strength to his son.

“Having a biracial son accepted by some, but not all, Black people, and accepted by some, but not all, white people made for its own challenges,” Geoff said. “He has had a difficult time, but the same foundation I had laid for me, I have taught him. Every day, I tell him, ‘Be the best person you can be. You have a purpose. Your blessings come from God and he, alone, has purpose for you, son.’ ”

No reason to judge

Professionally, Geoff sometimes found that his identity in the minds of some was tied more to his race than his ability.

“As a Black man working in the prison system, I was judged differently,” Geoff said. “When I made calls, the calls were double-checked because I was a black captain.”

He was often referred to as “the black captain” or “the coolest black captain,” he said, when all he wanted to be known as was “the captain” with no race attached to the title. Faced with the label, however, he used it as motivation to showcase his ability.

“The judgement gave me energy to be better and to prove I was the person for the job,” he said.

Preaching positivity

As a Black coach working with local youth, Geoff feels it is very important to stay away from negativity in those interactions. 

“If, as a coach, you can touch one young person, that makes a difference,” he said. “I want to push people up, not pull them down. I feel I am most blessed when I can help others.”

Again, in this area, it’s a lesson from his father that helps guide his approach.

“He told me never to have crab syndrome,” Geoff said. “Some people can be like crabs, all trying to rise to the top while fighting and pulling others down to get there. I was taught to never act better than others, to avoid pulling them down and wanting them to fail just for me to rise to the top. This lesson from my dad still resonates with me.”

Disappointment … and hope

“It is disappointing that the truth about Black history, which is American history, is not taught in the schools. Being a part of this history makes me proud. Many sacrificed for me to be where I am today.

“If you don’t live each day as a Black person, it is hard to explain the hurdles we face. It is different. I have learned, however, that love and doing all things out of love breaks down all racial, social, political and economic barriers that we all face as human beings.”