What was my biggest obstacle?
I think I was very lucky. I had, I had a family that was very supportive. I had a community that was very supportive. And I grew up in a community that was almost all minority. And I think that we didn't see the possibility of race standing in our way, or ethnicity or language standing in our way as we were growing up. So we were not afraid to aspire to do whatever we wanted to do, and to pursue that. So I think I was very lucky.
I attended religious schools, and I think they provided me with a good foundation as well, and, they were small schools. And they were always, each school that I attended was very supportive in helping me to pursue whatever the next step was.
I had doubts. I had people who would say to me, "No, I don't think you should go into medical school, it's too hard," or whatever, and I never knew why they would say that, you know to a person, instead of being encouraging. But you run into people like that. And it's important that you not let someone's own impression, or their limitations, or their perceived limitations of you, to stand in the way of what you think you ought to be doing.
I think I was very, very blessed, and very fortunate to be able to do what I'm doing, and not have some of the obstacles that many others do have.
How do I make a difference?
I think it's really important for young people of color to see people of their own racial or ethnic background in positions like mine not only on the political front, but also as a health care provider so that they will know that: yes, it's possible for them. Because sometimes in their day-to-day environment it may not seem that way. So I think it's really encouraging for them to see us and to interact with us up here.
Who was my mentor?
I think the main people who were influences in my life were my grandmother, my mother, and my father and they were all involved in serving their community in one way or another. My grandmother was an educator; my mother was a social worker; my father was an attorney, a community attorney. And I think they influenced me more than anyone else. Just being involved with their community, and being very giving people, probably has something to do with why I ended up here.
How has my career evolved over time?
I did a family practice residency, and immediately the day after I finished my residency, I went home to the Virgin Islands. And within a few weeks I was working as an emergency room physician in the town of Frederiksted in St. Croix, and a year later or so, opened up my own private practice. And when I did that, I was just filling in for someone. Because we weren't allowed to work emergency room and also do private practice. So I was filling in for someone who was leaving for two weeks, and they never came back. And so I ended up in the private practice of medicine.
But I didn't originally plan to be a family physician. My interest was in adolescent medicine came about when I was at Resurrection City the Poor People's Campaign here in Washington in the summer of 1968 when I should have been studying for my boards, but I went to volunteer there. And I spent an entire day with a young woman who had come up from either Alabama or Mississippi without any family, and she had a sexually-transmitted disease; and I was the only female in the medical van at the time, and so I was assigned to take care of her and take her through the whole diagnostic evaluation and the treatment which was a bit tough for her to go through and, through that experience, I decided I wanted to work with adolescents.