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Glendale Neonatologist Back In The Saddle For Rose Parade


Dr. John Mapp, a longtime neonatologist at Adventist Health Glendale, often reconnects with families and children he’s helped through over the years – in supermarkets, at restaurants and other public places. This January 1, after a year off due to COVID-19, he’ll once again see some familiar faces along the Rose Parade route as he spends his 26th New Year’s Day on horseback as part of a unit of Buffalo Soldiers riding in the parade.

Dr. Mapp entered the world of Civil War reenactment through friends, but a desire to understand his personal lineage led him to explore reenactments specific to the Buffalo Soldiers, six all-Black cavalry and infantry regiments established in 1866. Though he can find no familial connection, as an African-American man, he found their history fascinating and the calling to share their contributions too rich to ignore.

Since then, he and other members of the regiment have introduced thousands of children and adults to the unique history of Buffalo Soldiers through riding in the annual New Year’s Day parade as well as smaller events and parades throughout Southern California and even the opening ceremonies of the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.

After a one-year hiatus due to the 2021 parade’s cancelation, Dr. Mapp is eager to literally, and figuratively, get back on his horse and ride the five-mile route down Pasadena’s Colorado Boulevard. “We have a good relationship with the crowd,” Dr. Mapp says. “Where they put you in the parade is not by accident. We’re near the back, we bring a lot of energy and we represent diversity, which is important.”

Dr. Mapp finds similarities between his volunteer work and his day job treating the most vulnerable young patients at the Glendale hospital. “There’s a strong connection because it’s teaching,” he says. “As a neonatologist, we teach the staff, we teach the parents about their babies and guide them. So on the one hand I teach infant care and on the other hand I’m teaching history.”

Many of those families turn up in unexpected ways, Dr. Mapp says, including along the parade route. “I’ll hear from the crowd ‘Dr. Mapp, you took care of our baby’ and they’ll hold them up above their heads. There’s a family who has been meeting us at the end of the parade route for 18 years to feed the horses apples and oranges. These kinds of stories weave in and out of these two worlds and it’s great to see.”