‘I used to say that I always have to prove to people who I am and why I’m in the room, but I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t have to prove anything to anyone.’
“I decided at the age of 6 that I wanted to be a doctor because there were only two black doctors that everybody knew on Long Island. In my junior year of medical school, despite honors classes and being on the dean’s list, the pre-med advisor said, ‘You should probably rethink going into medicine and focus on becoming an African American professor.’
“Little did I know that they encouraged a large amount of Black and Hispanic students not to go into the field of medicine. I ended up working at Nassau County Medical Center for a year and then I did research at Winthrop Hospital that was published.
“Going to college was definitely not easy. People are always going to say ‘no,’ but if it’s something that you really want, you’ll figure out a way to do it. Even now, I still have people who don’t believe a black female can have their own office and can even be a doctor. I will go to a conference, and somebody will be like, ‘Oh, you’re a secretary?’
I think part of the reason why we have been successful is because many people want to see somebody who can relate to them, but also looks like them and can understand what they’re saying.
“I live in the same community where I grew up, in the same district where I am now the school physician. I had always wanted to own my own practice, so I started MS Family Medicine Health Care two years after finishing my residency, and then basically built it from the ground up. The first office that we opened was in Rosedale, and the people in the community were really grateful to have a doctor’s office there. Now we have more than 15,000 patients between that and a Garden City office.
“I think part of the reason why we have been successful is because many people want to see somebody who can relate to them, but also looks like them and can understand what they’re saying. Black people don’t say ‘diabetes;’ we say ‘sugar.’ We don’t say ‘hypertension;’ we say, ‘my pressure’s high.’ It’s about knowing the nuances of how things are described and understanding that this is just how people were taught.
“I used to say that I always have to prove to people who I am and why I’m in the room, but I’ve gotten to the point where I don’t have to prove anything to anyone. I’m doing what I want, how I want it. It’s up to you whether or not you accept the fact that I’m here, but I know that you need to respect the fact that I am here.”
Interviewed by Iris Wiener
The person profiled here has been a guest on Newsday Live.