The best ways we can all support Black female colleagues is by speaking up when we know and see there are unjust practices in place. If everyone were to set the tone that it is unacceptable to continue certain practices that diminish the value or are toxic towards integral teammates, then I think it would deter individuals from that behavior.
Welcome back to Voices from #BlackWomenInMedicine! Black female doctors represent only 2% of physicians.1 It is our hope that by sharing stories, perspectives and wisdom from this 2%, we will inspire change so that underrepresented minorities are presented with ample opportunities to follow in their footsteps of making medicine their career. We also hope this blog series brings an invigorated appreciation for Black female physicians who have made it their lives’ work to improve the health of others, regardless of race. #PathTwitter has a unique and strong presence on the web, and we hope you will take the opportunity to share this blog post and amplify these voices while reflecting on how you can bring equality to medicine. To learn more about our mission to support Black women in medicine, we encourage you to read our first blog post in the series.
Meet Dr. Sanyk Mcculler (@forenzimed), PGY-1 at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. Dr. Mcculler attended Mercer University and Meharry Medical College. She is a member of CAP, ASCP, and Student National Medical Association (SNMA), the oldest and largest student-run organization focused on the needs and concerns of underrepresented medical students.
Q. What led you to pathology and forensic pathology?
A. Pathology is a specialty that is so fundamental to patient care but is often in the background of the medical education experience. Luckily for me, I was curious enough to explore this field and found that it was a perfect fit for me! I have always had an interest in forensic pathology because of my fascination with True Crime. Coming into medical school, forensic pathology was definitely one of my top five specialties. However, I did not know much about pathology as a career and it slowly got pushed on the back burner. As I went into my third-year rotations, my primary rotations didn’t feel like things I would want to do for the rest of my life. I tried to keep an open mind and after talking with some pathology residents at a residency fair I felt like I would be remiss if I didn’t fully look into pathology and everything it had to offer. Once I found some really amazing mentors, rotated through pathology electives and really gathered an idea of the field, I fell in love. There are so many sides and possibilities in this field. I feel like it fulfills my passion for medicine, has a great work-life balance and has so many cool technological advancements that will push medicine into the future.
Q. When you think of "equality in medicine", what do you see? What does that term mean to you?
A. I think that equality begins with diversity in doctors’ races, genders and backgrounds as well as fair factors like pay and opportunity. Equality in medicine has so many frontiers to overcome. I truly believe pipelines should be made to inspire newer generations of underrepresented minorities to explore medicine and specialties like pathology that don’t get much public exposure. I also think that recruiting and leadership should re-examine how they can cultivate a safe place in which everyone feels respected enough to speak and express concerns about unfair treatments.
Q. How can colleagues in medicine support one another, specifically their Black female colleagues?
A. The best ways we can all support Black female colleagues is by speaking up when we know and see there are unjust practices in place. If everyone were to set the tone that it is unacceptable to continue certain practices that diminish the value or are toxic towards integral teammates, then I think it would deter individuals from that behavior.
Q. There is the famous quote "You can't be what you can't see" by Marian Wright Edelman. How do we get more Black women in medicine when young Black students don't see themselves reflected in medicine?
A. I really believe there are so many layers to this statement. Representation truly matters! I think a lot of this begins at the primary school level. Are we, as a society, ensuring that children have the opportunity to maximize their education? Also, what is in place to get them to the point where college and medical school don’t become a financial burden so they can actually explore their interests? I have always tried to be active in the community at all levels of education so that I can be available for any child or teen interested in pursuing medicine. The Black physicians who took their time to mentor me from high school to college really inspired me and gave me some of the best pieces of advice that I carry with me to this day. While I was applying to medical school, one mentor advised me to attend a school that has people who are supportive of my goals. “Find a safe place with helpful people,” he said. This was crucial to succeeding in medical school because the curriculum is innately stressful. It is even more stressful if your environment invalidates your feelings or dreams. For instance, great mentors are the people who will try to find opportunities to help you reach your goal instead of making you aim lower. There are times when you need people to be realistic with you, but being realistic should incorporate exploring all the methods to get to your end goal first. I think mentorship is the best way to show young Black women that anything is possible!
We would like to extend our sincerest gratitude to Dr. Sanyk Mcculler for sharing her insight. To other Black women in medicine, we’d like to share your story in our Voices from #BlackWomenInMedicine series. Just email Kristin at email@example.com or message us on Twitter at @instapathbio.
Built on the vision of better patient outcomes, Instapath was founded in 2017 by engineers and scientists to enable patients to immediately know their cancer diagnosis. Our team made it our mission to develop fast and easy digital pathology technology so diagnosis can be made in minutes instead of days. To learn more about Instapath and our technology, visit https://instapathbio.com/or contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.