What was my biggest obstacle?
I've had numerous obstacles along the way, but I tend not to think of them as obstacles, but as just temporary challenges that I had to get through. There were different things along the way; for example in college, organic chemistry was the first time I really had to apply myself so that I could make a competitive final grade. In medical school it was probably the physiology, and of course, studying for board exams. In practice the challenge has been finding a way to keep my practice doors open economically and still deliver high quality care.
How do I make a difference?
I hope I make a difference one person at a time. By making a patient feel better, by being able to tell a mother that her baby is going to be okay. Whether her baby is four or forty-four the look on the mother's face is the same. I also hope that I am making a difference in my community by providing a clinic where patients can come and receive health care with dignity. I also hope that I am making a difference in the healthcare system through my involvement in organized medicine. I became involved in the AMA and the Medical Association of the State of Alabama (MASA) in order to better deliver care to my patients in Bayou La Batre, to be able to address issues that went beyond the prescription pad. For example, the funding of Medicare and Medicaid, the inability for elderly patients to purchase their medications, and through organized medicine and the political process I have helped address some of those issues.
Who was my mentor?
My grandmother who died when I was age nine. She was very strong willed and very compassionate. Long before I was born, she helped start a Catholic church for blacks in our community. Mass was said in her living room until she got someone to donate property and got the bishop to declare it a Mission and the church was built using an old Army barracks. Also, my grandmother lived on U.S. Highway 98 and during the Depression she would leave sandwiches and lemonade outside for the hobos (blacks and whites) who passed by. They always knew that they could stop there and get something cool to drink and something to eat. Those values she passed on to my mother and ultimately to my brother and to me. Several years ago, after my mother died of lung cancer, I realized that she was truly my mentor. She kept my grandmothers values alive in us. She was very intelligent, very bright, witty and extremely social and outgoing, very much a team and consensus builder, and was very opinionated. Many of those traits I inherited from my mother. And just like most of us we don't realize many of these things until after our parents are gone.
How has my career evolved over time?
After graduating high school I went to college at Xavier University and straight to medical school. I was in the second class of Morehouse School of Medicine, and there I learned about community medicine, primary care, and the importance of being politically active. Dr. Louis Sullivan, Former Secretary of Health and Human Services, was our dean and hematology professor. Dr. David Satcher, former surgeon general, was my community medicine professor. The basic foundations that were developed at Morehouse have served me well through the years and I am still building on them. Because Morehouse was a two-year school at that time, I transferred to the University of Alabama at Birmingham where I received my M.D. degree and learned to master the clinical skills that were needed throughout my career. After completing a residency in family practice, I worked at a community health center for two years and then opened my practice in nearby Bayou La Batre, where I have been practicing ever since. As I was starting my clinic, I attended Tulane to ultimately receive an M.B.A. which has helped me deliver cost efficient care to my patients as well as find alternative ways of obtaining Medicare and Medicaid reimbursement.
I have been involved in community activities since high school, and organized medicine such as the American Medical Association and the State medical associations, since medical school. By being involved, working hard and trying to do a good job, I have been elected to positions of leadership. I have remained involved to help improve healthcare in our community. Career-wise I still have a lot to do. We still have a lot of problems with our health care system, the high number of uninsured and underinsured, the need for improved access to healthcare services as well as a need for improved personal responsibility of our own health, good education, clean air, clean water and good work place environments.