I am, at heart, a genuine country girl.
I grew up making mud pies, riding on the back of trucks, and swimming in the local creek. Despite the horrific racial past that will forever scar the fabric of our state, Mississippi has always been, and I believe will always be, my home.
From Pike County I was transplanted to the rich soil of Tougaloo College. There under the hanging moss, I came to appreciate, even more, the heritage and history of African Americans. Though I have clearly always been aware that I am indeed a black woman and though never disillusion that this still means something in the South, I am blessed that to have been covered by the debt paid by those who walked this road long before me. I have never been called out of my name, forced to move to the back, nor told that I don’t belong. Never beaten, refused or chained.
I have, however, tasted the subversive bitterness of unconscious bias and seen the effects of the subtle erosion caused by institutionalized racism.
Of all the stories and experiences that flood my mind of my medical education and training, I still remember the first patient who called me “Ms” and not “Dr.” I remember the patient who needed to begin our visit declaring that she, in fact, liked colored people and had colored friends. I recall being the resident on a team with my attending and three students who were all white men and walking into a patient’s room that I had been actually rounding on daily, to have her respond with awe as the team walked in that morning and express her excitement to have 1, 2, 3, 4 doctors. She started counting past me.
Years later, I still see that room and more than the patient, I see my attending not correcting the statement. Sadder still is my shame that neither did I. But I also remember being welcomed to sit with the family of this amazing lady who I had cared for since I started residency. No one in the church looked like me and yet everyone shared my same love for her. I remember a patient with elevated troponins refusing her heart cath until she could talk to her doctor that she trusted. I have had so many incredible relationships with wonderful patients, none of which stifled by differences.