African American doctors inspire Wiley Elementary studentsBy Yasmine Regester / December 22, 2017
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More than a dozen female doctors visited Wiley Elementary school on Wednesday to encourage students to pursue a healthcare profession.
Sponsored by The Greensboro Medical Society, the group of healthcare providers hopes to increase recruitment of underrepresented minorities into the medical fields through exposure to doctors that look like them.
“We wanted to come and let these young ladies know that they can become anything they want to be. We’re saying, ‘we believe in you and we want to pull you along with us,” said Dr. Nannette S. Funderburk, Ph.D., a psychologist and the secretary of the Greensboro Medical Society.
Wiley’s female students from grades Pre-K to fifth grade got an opportunity to interact with doctors from a variety of specialties — internal medicine, psychologists, dentists, podiatrists, orthodontists, surgeons and more.
Funderburk explained that part of the inspiration for the event came from an incident that made national headlines when a flight attendant questioned a Black female doctor’s credentials in a medical emergency situation.
Wiley is a majority minority school with African American students comprising 84 percent of the student body, eight percent Hispanic, two percent Multiracial, four percent White, and one percent Asian. Wiley’s principal, Tavy Fields, noted that exposure to different professions at a young age helps them to envision a world bigger than just their own neighborhoods.
“It’s so important for them to see themselves through people who they can relate to. Sometimes they may feel that certain things are out of their realm of opportunity, but they just need the exposure to it to see that anything is possible,” said Fields.
Fields said Wiley’s educators encourage students to think about their future goals such as college, careers and jobs. In the past, Wiley has partnered with area colleges such as N.C. A&T State University to bring professionals and students pursuing other occupations such as engineering to the school.
“We’re focused on creating more interest in the STEM fields because it’s such a diverse area that doesn’t have a lot of minorities,” said Fields.
At the end of the program, one girl from each grade was chosen by the faculty to receive a “white coat,” which in the medical field is given to medical students in a ceremony to signify the beginning of their journey to become healthcare providers and the practice in the medical profession. The young ladies at Wiley were chosen based on their character in and outside the classroom. Every student that attended the Women Doctors Day program received a stethoscope and a pearl necklace.
“We enjoy our careers,” said Dr. Vanessa Haygood, a Greensboro obstetrician-gynecologist. “I was you a few years ago wondering what to do with my life.”
According to a 2014 Association of American Medical Colleges study, African Americans comprise only four percent of the physician workforce in the U.S. “Our goal is to provide a visual for young Black women,” noted cardiologist Tiffany Randolph, MD, who stated she wanted to become a doctor after meeting her mother’s gynecologist as a child.
“It’s important that our young women of color see women who look like them in professional careers. Its hard work, but it absolutely can be done,” she added.