WOUB-HD to Broadcast ‘Black Women in Medicine’ Feb. 8< < Back to
On Thursday, February 8 at 9 p.m. WOUB-HD will broadcast Black Women in Medicine, an hour-long documentary that honors black women working in all facets of modern medicine. The documentary features interviews with the first black, female United States Surgeon General, Dr. Jocelyn Elders, as well as Dr. Claudia Thomas, the first black, female orthopedic surgeon. Former dean of the Ohio University Heritage College of Osteopathic Medicine (and the first black woman to become the dean of a medical school in the United States,) Dr. Barbara Ross-Lee, is also interviewed.
“I decided to go to OU-HCOM for my medical degree because I wanted to go to a medical school that first and foremost cared about the community that surrounded it,” said Dr. Merrian Brooks D.O., a 2011 HCOM graduate and current Philadelphia Children’s Hospital David N. Pincus Global Health Fellow currently working in Gaborone, Botswana. “When I read the mission of OU-HCOM, to serve the underserved Appalachian community that surrounded it, I felt very drawn to OU.”
Brooks is currently working as an in-hospital pediatrician with a focus on adolescent health, teaching courses on adolescent medicine for the University of Botswana, and conducting a research project concerning community mental health and young people who are HIV positive.
Dr. Sabrina Gunn D.O., a 2015 graduate of OU-HCOM, said that she was drawn to OU in a manner similar to Brooks’ path.
“During my interview, I felt a sense of belonging. The faculty and staff made me feel welcome and that meant so much to me,” said Gunn, who is currently a PGY-3 psychiatry resident working in Columbus. “I knew that if I felt that way during the interview process then surely I would be happy as a student.”
For Gunn, there was no specific moment in her life that led her to medicine, it was a realization that occurred over the course of a summer in her youth.
“When I was 12 years old I spent a summer as a TAV (teenage volunteer) at a hospital in my hometown,” said Gunn. “Inspired by other doctors, staff, and even patients l knew before the end of that summer that I wanted to become a doctor.”
Brooks said that the type of family she grew up in largely informed her decision to go to medical school.
“I do think that growing up in a Navy family played a huge part in every aspect of my life, one of the big things being that I am kind of a nomad. I hated moving around so much as a kid, but I love it now,” said Brooks. “I love going to new places, meeting new people. Getting to know different cultures. I think that’s birthed from being adaptable, and it’s made me very flexible and open to understanding other people. I think that growing up in different cities with different cultures fostered that in me, and it has made me very interested in health disparities.”
Brooks said that while pursuing her D.O. degree she was focused mainly on urban health disparities, a passion that has shifted to a focus on global health disparities as her career has progressed.
“The most exotic place my family ever lived was Guam, but we lived in many different cities all over the U.S., too – in California, Maryland, Virginia, I lived with my grandparents in Alabama for a little while too,” said Brooks. “I think that all those experiences in different settings made me feel like everyone deserves care – high quality care. When you get to know people in a community that is different from your own, you know they are good people and that they deserve good care.”
While some may have a lightning bolt moment in childhood wherein they realize they are destined to be a medical professional, Brooks said that throughout her adolescence and early adulthood she was determined to be a research scientist, one akin to Marie Curie or Mae Jemison.
“I wanted to be a scientist who was a woman and who made a huge impact, a huge difference, and would be remembered as such,” said Brooks. “But when I was in college, I was in a research laboratory, I realized that I didn’t really like the work because it didn’t have that human involvement factor, which is part of the reason I decided to go into medicine.”
Brooks said that her career has ultimately brought her back to research, and in such a way that it is a part of her daily patient care.
“Although parts of research are very difficult, the part of me that is very creatively inquisitive, always asking how to make things better, fits into research well. There are ways to incorporate research into day-to-day patient care, but it is more difficult than doing research in a lab,” said Brooks. “If you really want to make an impact on a community, you really need to go into research or community health, and I feel that I have found a healthy medium.”
Gunn expressed the same sort of contentment over her current occupation.
“Becoming a psychiatrist has absolutely blessed my soul. I love connecting with others and learning about other people’s journeys. The feeling of helping others achieve mental wellness is truly electrifying,” she said. “Moreover, as an African American psychiatrist I am able to help bring awareness to other African Americans in hopes of destroying the stigma that ‘black folk don’t need mental help.’ Witnessing positive changes in people’s lives and seeing their progress, knowing that I played even a small role in that, is an experience like no other.”