I didn’t always want to be a surgeon. My original plan was to pursue a career in journalism — to be an editor at a fashion magazine — but instead I fell in love with biology during my sophomore year of high school. My father was a paramedic and the director of emergency medical services in my hometown. He provided my first exposure to health care by letting me tag along to the local hospital and the EMT certification classes he taught. My aunt, who I adored, passed away from renal cell carcinoma in her 40s. Watching my dad in action and losing my aunt made me realize I wanted to help people, so I pursued a career in medicine.
It wasn’t until my surgical residency at the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC) that I met a surgeon who looked like me. I’m only the third black female to train in MUSC’s residency program — and I graduated in 2017. There are 372 chairs of departments of surgery in the United States, and just last month the first black female chair was named when KMarie King, MD, MS, MBA, was chosen to lead Albany (N.Y.) Med.
The pipeline for underrepresented providers needs to be developed. I didn’t go into academic surgery solely to become a top clinical researcher — I want to advance equity in health care, for patients and providers. I want to be a face in surgery for underrepresented physicians, so they have someone to connect with for mentoring and guidance.
I want to advance equity in health care, for patients and providers.
I did not have the experience of training under a Black female surgeon, but looked up to my fellow co-residents who were blazing a trail for me. As we work to move the needle forward in advancing diversity in medicine, having more underrepresented faculty in positions to provide much needed mentorship to the next generation is key.