An OB-GYN on Her Journey as a Black Woman in Medicine
Black. Female. Physician. When you combine those words, you may be surprised to learn that black women make up slightly less than 3% of US physicians. It was not uncommon throughout my time training and studying to be a physician that I realized I was one of the few. My journey through medicine has been filled with those who doubted me. From outward negativity of not believing I would match into one of my top reproductive endocrinology fellowship choices to those questioning if I truly am a physician (yes I am old enough to be your doctor!). Not to mention the numerous times patients or even other doctors have called me “honey,” “sweetie,” or “dear,” basically all other names besides simply saying “doctor.”
As a Black woman in medicine, I also am faced with a very thin line of being able to properly advocate for myself as I navigate not being classified as the “angry or hostile” black woman if I am too vocal vs. being perceived as weak if I am too quiet. At times, it can feel like an uphill battle that I am constantly fighting to prove that I belong.
Why is it so important that we discuss diversity in medicine matter? Well, for one, patient care may be at stake. Studies have shown that minority physicians are more likely to provide care to underserved communities which are typically made up of Black, Hispanic and Asian minorities. Additionally, another study noted that black male patients who were assigned to a Black male physician were more likely to utilize preventative health services compared to patients assigned to non-Black physicians.
As Black History Month continues, I urge companies to not only share stories about the Black men and women who have shaped US history, but I challenge them to look at their own companies and the faces of their boards, their executive leadership and their employees and to ask themselves if they are doing all they can to foster a collaborative and diverse work environment. I truly believe that to learn and grow we need a diversity of voices contributing to the conversation.
While the journey has not always been easy, it has absolutely been worth it. I would not trade this career for anything, I feel so fortunate every day to work with individuals and couples as they navigate their journey through medicine. My hope is that I can help pave the way for other young black women seeking to find their footing in the field of medicine.
Temeka Zore, MD, is a reproductive endocrinologist and infertility specialist and board-certified obstetrician and gynecologist currently practicing at Spring Fertility in San Francisco. She enjoys taking care of a wide range of reproductive and fertility issues but has a special passion for fertility preservation and educating and empowering women regarding their reproductive health. Follow her on Instagram @temekazoremd.