- Associated Press - Sunday, March 1, 2020

BILOXI, Miss. (AP) - Only 4% of practicing physicians in the United States were black in 2018, according to a study, and one Coast family is responsible for four of them.

Dr. Phillip Barnes and his wife Susan have five children, and three of them are doctors.

Phillip and his sons, Kiono and Rolando, practice in Biloxi.

Phillip and Rolando are both physicians, while dentistry called to Kiono and their sister Valarie, who practices in Ohio.

It might look like Phillip wanted his children to follow in his footsteps, but he said that wasn’t the case.

“I led the way… but I never pushed my children into whatever field they chose. My sons and daughter were just interested enough and intrigued enough to pursue medicine,” he said.

Their passion for helping others and their commitment to the communities they live in were the driving forces behind their decisions.


Phillip is originally from New York, but settled on the Coast once he started his medical career.

“I fell in love with the area, and thought it would be a great place to work and raise my family,” he said.

The community quickly embraced the Barnes family, and that support plays a big role in why they still practice on the Coast today.

For Rolando, who graduated from D’Iberville High School, staying here has made being a doctor even more worthwhile.

“Treating people that we know and our relatives makes it better. It’s really a cool thing to practice in the community that you grew up in and improve healthcare in that community,” Rolando said.

For Kiono, a Biloxi High grad, practicing at home is a double-edged sword at times.

“Some people support you, but then others think that you’re on some type of high horse. But if you really know us, you’d know that we’re just people. We’re just trying to help our community.”


The Barnes family believes in love, family and community. Phillip said that’s all he wants for his family and each person they treat.

“We want to encourage all citizens to be productive, happy and healthy in their lives.”

He said that’s what pushed him toward the medical field.

“I knew that I wanted to be a doctor since I was a little boy. The thought of it gave me the fulfillment of serving my community and helping others, and I went for it.”

Kiono really honed in on those values as a child as well.

“Hard works makes you feel good. I personally wanted to know what makes the body work, but I didn’t want four-in-the-morning phone calls like my dad still gets,” he said with laughter.

“I didn’t want that on-call situation, so I chose the dentist route.”

Rolando’s journey to medicine was a little different. He didn’t know what he wanted to do after college.

“If you would’ve asked me what I wanted to be in my early teens, I would’ve told you that I was going to the NBA,” Rolando said.

“That clearly didn’t happen. But I went off to college, I had good grades and I was already a biology major, so the choice was either med school or research. I chose med school and the rest was history.”


Because of their love for people and their community, the doctors in the Barnes family don’t necessarily classify themselves as “black doctors.”

They view themselves as doctors, who are black, here to serve everyone.

“We’re just here to treat people. Whether you have darker skin, lighter skin, darker hair, lighter hair, darker eyes, lighter eyes, we’re all people.” Kiono said.

But the family does understand the importance of representation in professional fields.

“My role is to let them (the next generation) know that anything is possible.. What you see you can believe a lot of times,” Rolando said.

“There are a lot of other role models that we see first like NBA players and rappers, and a lot of kids believe that they can be that, but they need other kinds of role models too, like the engineers, the doctors, the politicians.”

Phillip said representation was key in his journey to medicine back in the ’70s.

“I was in med school during a time of social upheaval in country, and that instilled in me a certain degree of momentum and responsibility,” he said.

“I had amazing mentors in medicine and they were great inspirations to me. Those who came before us left a powerful legacy that we will hopefully be able to properly maintain.”

The doctors say they don’t want their legacies to be solely based on their profession. They want to be remembered as people who carried out “God’s plan,” by spreading love and helping others.

“We want to be a good example, share love, have fun, and share friendship in our community,” Phillip said.

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