Tamia Potter, an HBCU alumni and medical student, recently accomplished an incredible feat when Vanderbilt University granted her a residency seat in neurosurgery. According to Cleveland.com, her acceptance of the position makes her the first Black female neurosurgery resident in the elite university’s 148-year history.
Potter, a medical student at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, was among the over 40,000 medical students who learned where they would be doing their residency on Match Day on Friday. Potter’s residency position was unprecedented.
“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.
According to the American Association of Black Neurosurgeons, there are now 33 Black women specialized in neurosurgery. Potter, the first member in her family to attend medical school, is on track to surpass that figure.
“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 earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University before enrolling at the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. After high school, she said she worked as a certified nursing assistant, and in addition to working at a dementia unit in a nursing home, she said she also worked night shifts at other hospitals to help pay for her college degree.
She told Cleveland.com that she chose neurosurgery because she was fascinated by the human brain and the various diseases that might affect the nervous system; she knew she wanted to learn how to address those problems.
“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.
Several professions have mentored the medical student along the way. She also wants to do the same for other young Black doctors and believes that the lack of minorities studying medicine is due to a lack of direction, 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.”