HBCU Alumna Becomes First Black Woman to Be Admitted to Vanderbilt’s Selective Neurosurgery Residency Program

by Xara Aziz
Credit: Tamia Potter
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A 26-year-old aspiring doctor has become the first Black woman resident in Vanderbilt University’s neurosurgery residency program’s nearly 100-year history.

Tamia Potter accepted the position at the university’s medical center in Nashville, Tennessee, where she will train to become a surgeon over the next several years.

Potter received the news last Friday, Mar. 17, a day historically known as National Match Day, when the nation’s top medical students find out where they will do their residency training.

In a CNN interview, Potter said she was in shock to find that she was matched with the school, adding that she was “very relieved” and “excited” to be entering into the next phase of her academic and professional journey.

“Everything that I’m doing, everything that I’m learning, everything that I experience is for the betterment of someone else,” Potter said.

Statistics show only 5.7% of physicians in the United States identify as Black or African American, according to the Association of American Medical College. The organization further found that in 2018, only 33 Black women held spots in the neurosurgical field in the United States.

Vanderbilt, one of the nation’s most prestigious medical schools, admitted its first neurosurgery resident in 1932. It would be 91 years later when a Black woman would be admitted into the program, according to Dr. Reid Thompson, a professor and chair of the university’s Department of Neurological Surgery.

In a statement, Thompson told CNN that he and his colleagues were impressed by Potter’s “brilliance and passion for neurosurgery” when she visited the school last summer.

Potter is a 2018 graduate from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU), where she attained summa cum laude status and a bachelor’s degree in chemistry. The US News & World Report’s 2022-23 ranking lists the school as the highest-ranked public historically Black college or university in the country.

Attending an HBCU, she said, has made it possible for her to “attain every single thing,” adding that attending an HBCU makes it possible for you to “make your dreams come true.”

Pottter concluded that she is aware some may question her abilities because of her race. “When you walk into the room, everybody thinks you’re a nurse, or they may think you’re a janitor,” but “a lot of people feel like when you go to an HBCU, you are sacrificing quality, and that is something that people should not believe.”

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