Vital Times 2020 - 75

Why Sponsorship and Mentorship
is Important...Perspectives from
a Black Female Anesthesia Resident

I

had the pleasure of attending a Historically Black
University (HBCU) for medical school. During
those four years, I was constantly surrounded
by African-American physicians in roles that I hoped
to one day achieve. This was new for me, considering
that I attended a predominately white high school and
undergraduate university.

feel like everything I do is a reflection of every black
woman in medicine. Every mistake I make is amplified.
Every disagreement with a colleague is just another
opportunity to reinforce the " angry black woman "
stereotype. I feel myself fading into the background
as I attempt to not stand out for both good and bad
reasons.

For the first time in my life, I was in the majority, and
not the minority, during medical school. I was no
longer one of the few representations of my race and
ethnicity at my institution. I finally understood what it
meant to be comfortable in my own (black) skin. I felt
empowered to seek positions of leadership without
constantly contemplating my role as a " token. " When
I look back at my experience, I cannot help but think
that my time at my HBCU medical school lulled me
into an unrealistic idea of what the world of medicine
looks like.

I don't know what a career in academic medicine
looks like for me, but I think that's where sponsorship
and mentorship can help. I understand that a mentor
does not have to look like me, but I should be able to
foster a relationship with a role model that can be a
strong advocate as I progress throughout my career.
Furthermore, I am learning about the importance of
sponsorship as I explore what my next steps are after
I complete my residency. As a result, I cannot help
but feel that the opportunities provided to me within
the next couple of years will play a critical role in the
career pathway that I decide to pursue. I am hopeful
that, as we work to recruit and retain more physicians
of color within our specialty, we strive to promote
inclusivity and belonging through sponsorship and
mentorship.

As I began my post-graduate training in California,
I did not have the opportunity to work with a black
physician during my first eight months of residency.
Even more astounding, I was not assigned with a
black female anesthesiologist until the middle of my
CA-2 year. I once again found few people who looked
like me in leadership roles, which made it difficult
to visualize myself aspiring to such goals. Similar to
college and years prior, I began to feel singular as the
only African-American female (without a mixed racial/
ethnic background) in my entire residency program. I

Annual Publication 2020

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Vital Times 2020

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