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Dr. Susan Potts Sloan

Year of Birth / Death


Medical School

University of Minnesota Medical School



Career Path

Internal medicine
Dr. Susan Potts Sloan


Dr. Susan Sloan co-founded the Intertribal Alliance of Medical Students in Minneapolis and served as its first president.


As a 'people person' with a love for science, I found the field of medicine to be both intellectually challenging and personally gratifying. Interacting with patients in every area of their lives (mental, physical, and spiritual) is a privilege allowed to few and one I cherish. Each of us hope to make a difference in the lives of those we serve. Sometimes we can cure, often we can improve, always we can offer a caring attitude and a willingness to listen.


Dr. Susan Sloan was discouraged from pursuing a medical education by her high school guidance counselors. Twenty-two years after leaving university and becoming a teacher, and with a family of five young children, she enrolled in medical school to complete the training she had wanted to pursue for so long. In 2002, Dr. Sloan became associate director of an internal medicine program at East Tennessee State University and an advocate for community groups providing medical care to underserved women.

Susan Potts Sloan was the first in her family to attend college. When she was 16 years old, she told guidance counselors that she wanted to train as a physician but they discouraged her from pursuing a medical education. In 1972 she completed her undergraduate training at Middle Tennessee State University in Murfressboro and took a teaching certificate, and from 1977 and spent the next few years trying alternate careers and raising a family. She also studied speech, theatre and education at Tennessee State. From 1979 to 1994 she served as Associate Director at Children First, and helped develop and implement childbirth classes in the Middle Tennessee area.

While she was pregnant with her fifth child, Sloan decided to go back to school and to aim for the medical education she had always wanted. Although she had been professionally successful and found motherhood very rewarding, she felt she could only get the personal and professional satisfaction she sought by training as a physician. In 1994, the day her youngest child went to kindergarten for the first time, Susan Sloan began medical school at the University of Minnesota. Although she had planned to move from Tennessee to Minneapolis with the whole family, at the last minute her husband was unable to go with her, so she took the four youngest children and hoped that within a few months they would all be reunited. Although it was another three years before that happened, Sloan and her family were able to cope with the transition thanks to the support of her husband and the mentorship of faculty at the University of Minnesota. As Dr. Sloan recalls, "the prayers of my family and friends back in Tennessee and the continued support of my husband and children kept me going. Together, we made it through a grueling four years intact."

Dr. Sloan graduated in 1998 and completed a residency in internal medicine at Berkshire Medical Center in Pittsfield, Massachusetts in 2001. She was appointed assistant professor of medicine at the University of Massachusetts and then coordinator of resident ambulatory education at Berkshire Medical Center. In 2002, Dr. Sloan returned to Tennessee to take up the position of associate director of an internal medicine program at East Tennessee State University.

Dr. Sloan has served on numerous committees and advisory boards, including the Alliance for Native American Rights, and was president of the Association of Native American Medical Students from 1996 to 1997. In 1996, she co-founded the Intertribal Alliance of Medical Students in Minneapolis, and served as its first president. Dr. Sloan has also devoted her time outside of professional responsibilities to community groups working for improved medical care for underserved women. From 2000, she has served as medical director of Health, Education, Resource, Outreach and Advocacy (HEROA) and she is also the founder of Preterm Connection, a none-profit organization for pregnant women at risk for pre-term labor.

Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

The greatest obstacle was getting to a point in my life that I did not depend on the advice of others to tell me what I could/should or could not/should not do with my life. Once that was accomplished, finding the support to make my dream a reality was nowhere near as difficult as I had imagined. My first question should not have been what should I do with my life, but how do I go about accomplishing what I intend to do with my life.

As the first in my family to have the privilege of attending college, I was dependent upon the advice of guidance counselors. Having been discouraged at the age of 16 from pursuing a medical education, I took quite a circuitous route to becoming a physician. I attempted to find an alternate profession that would satisfy my desire to interact with people in a meaningful way. Although I succeeded in several ventures, none provided the personal or professional satisfaction I desired. While pregnant with our fifth child, I went back to school to obtain the necessary premedical education required for admission to medical school and to prepare for the MCAT.

On the day our youngest child entered kindergarten, I attended my first day of medical school. being fortunate to be accepted to the University of Minnesota Medical School I did not hesitate in moving from Tennessee to Minneapolis for my training. At the last moment, however, my wonderful, supportive husband was unable to move with me. Thinking it would only be 2-3 months until he would join us, I moved 1000 miles away with the younger 4 children in tow. Unfortunately, for unavaoidable reasons, it turned out to be three years before he could join us. Being so far away from home with four children and not knowing a soul in a large city was quite intimidating. Fortunately, the support of Dr. Gerald Hill and the staff members of the Center of Excellence at the University of Minnesota Medical School was strong. The prayers of my family and friends back in Tennessee and the continued support of my husband and children kept me going. Together, we made it through a grueling four years intact.

How do you make a difference?

Every day each of us makes a difference in the lives of others; some in a positive fashion, others in a negative manner. None of our interactions with one another is inert. As physicians, we are uniquely allowed into the lives of others on both individual and community levels. For those of us in an academic setting, we also have the opportunity to teach young physicians to be culturally, as well as medically, competent. We teach the art, as well as the science, of medicine by the very way we practice medicine ourselves. As the medical director of Project HEROA (health, education, research, outreach and advocacy), I have enjoyed the opportunity to provide medical care for women who would otherwise have not been able to afford pap smears, mammograms, etc., and thus, saving lives. Participation in the Pre-Admission Workshops for minority students wishing to obtain entrance into medical school has allowed me to support others who may have otherwise been deterred from becoming physicians. Speaking at the National Assembly of Minority Medical Educators regarding the areas of recruiting and retaining minority students in medical school was instrumental in making medical schools aware of the need for cultural and academic support—needed and often neglected. Hopefully, this will increase the number of qualified minority medical students actually graduating from medical school and returning to their communities to encourage others to pursue their dreams as well as providing excellent medical care. Volunteering to speak at local public schools, half-way houses, and other community forums enables me to educate the public regarding various health-related topics. And as a Board member of the Elizabeth Freeman Center—providing counseling and shelter for abused women and their families.

Who was your mentor?

The most critical mentors in my life were my parents who taught me from an early age that there was little I could not do if I was willing to go the distance. Their unconditional love and support, as well as that of my husband and children, provided the foundation on which my entire life is built.

My first mentor at the University of Minnesota Medical School was Dr. Gerald Hill, an Indian physician of excellence who has devoted much of his professional career to enabling others to achieve their goals. Other mentors at the University of Minnesota include Dr. Don Robertson, one of the medical school deans who encouraged me on an almost daily basis through all four years of medical school. Finally, Dr. Nicole Lurie, an accomplished attending physician on staff at the University of Minnesota was my personal and professional mentor. She was tireless in her devotion to both patients and students and demonstrated the ideal role model for any physician, male or female. Her ability to balance family and professional life was inspiring. From her I learned, among other things, that you may have it all, but not all at the same time and that is o.k.

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