Tamia Potter, an HBCU alumna and medical student, recently achieved a remarkable feat after Vanderbilt University offered her a residency position in neurosurgery. Her acceptance of the position makes her the first Black female neurosurgery resident in the prestigious university’s 148-year history, Cleveland.com reported.
Potter, who is studying medicine at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, was part of over 40,000 medical students who got to know where they’ll be having their residency during Match Day on Friday. The residency spot Potter landed was historic.
“My first job was as a certified nursing assistant at 17 years old in 2014. Today, on March 17th, 2023 I was blessed to be selected as the first African American female neurosurgery resident to train at @VUMC_Neurosurg,” Potter shared on Twitter.
Per the American Society of Black Neurosurgeons, the number of Black women specializing in neurosurgery currently stands at 33. Potter, who is the first person in her family to attend medical school, is set to add up to that number.
“I am over the moon,” Potter told the news outlet. “I literally can’t even believe it. Yes, I always knew that I wanted to be a neurosurgeon, but I didn’t think that this is what I would accomplish.”
Potter studied chemistry at Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University before enrolling at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. She said she worked as a certified nursing assistant after high school, and besides landing a job at the dementia unit in a nursing home, Potter said she also took up night shift jobs at some hospitals to help finance her college education.
She told Cleveland.com that she decided to study neurosurgery after she became intrigued by the human brain and the several problems that can affect the nervous system; she knew she wanted to study how to solve those issues.
“Every day I’m just doing what I love, and then you look up and you realize what you’ve done — or other people tell you what you’ve done because you’re kind of in the middle of it just trying to do it all!” Potter said.
The medical student has been mentored by a few professionals along the way. She also wants to do the same for other young Black doctors and feels the reason why there aren’t enough minorities studying medicine is because there is limited guidance, knowledge, and support.
“Nobody told me how much this would cost,” Potter said. “Nobody in my family understood what I was doing. If someone shipped you across the country to medical school and said figure it out, most people are going to want to go back home.”
She also stressed why it is indispensable to have diversity in healthcare. “There’s been multiple times where I’ve been in the hospital where if someone would have had a doctor that looked like them, the treatment would have been completely different, and it just would have been a different outcome,” Potter said. “Just having someone who looks like you — people don’t realize how important it is in medicine in making people feel safe.”