African American Studies


Summary by Eliza Anderson.

Marlene Taylor-Ponterotto is a vital member of both the Fordham and the Bronx communities who has worked diligently to promote racial justice and equity in New York City healthcare and in educational opportunities for marginalized students. Taylor graduated from Fordham College at Rose Hill in 1979 and was the only female student from her class to graduate with a Bachelors of Science in Biology. Taylor now resides in the Riverdale neighborhood of the Bronx and is an active member of the MOSAIC alumni association and a trailblazing advocate for her patients at Heritage Clinic in Central Harlem.

Taylor arrived at Fordham in 1975 with the support of the Higher Educational Opportunity Program (HEOP) as a pre-medical student studying Biology. She found her Fordham community through time spent in the African American Studies Department on the second floor of Dealy Hall and with the Society of African American Leadership, connecting with minority students and professors in a “nurturing and supportive” environment. She persisted within a university pre-med culture that was competitive and predominantly white, becoming president of the Association for Minority Pre-Health and Biology Students and building confidence in herself through her passion for addressing racial disparities in healthcare. Music was also a central, uplifting element of her Fordham experience, and she recalls Disco Hour as being a joyful and uplifting experience alongside other minority students.

Throughout her career as a PA, Taylor has worked hospitals all throughout NYC, specializing in HIV and STD work in addition to primary medical care, cardiology, and chronic illnesses. She was working in a detox unit at Beth Israel Medical Center at the start of the AIDS epidemic in the 1980s, and quickly began to see the ways that HIV positive patients were being left behind and stigmatized in similar ways to Black and minority patients. Her sister Jackie was HIV positive and developed complications in the early 90s, and Taylor still participates in ACT UP and GMHC events as a way to both support her patients and honor her sister. She has worked with the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Harlem United, the Christian Parish for Spiritual Renewal, and many other groundbreaking community organizations that work to address health disparities in access, testing, and care.

Fordham continues to play a major role in the life of Taylor and her family. She and her husband were married at Fordham Chapel, and she often brings her family to events put on by Dr. Naison and the Bronx African American History Project. Taylor is an active member of MOSAIC, Fordham’s alumni association for Black and Hispanic students which re-emerged in 2015 after a series of racist incidents plagued the Rose Hill campus. Working alongside the administration, MOSAIC has been essential in organizing Fordham alumni as vocal advocates for the protection and advancement of minority students.