“One of the most powerful ways to encourage our next generations into the field of medicine, black, brown or otherwise, is to provide mentors for them to not only look up to, but also to be in contact with them so they can ask their questions,” Yarborough says, pointing out that some hospitals and clinics offer Medical Explorer programs, which allow students to mingle with and meet medical professionals.
Further reading: Everyone wins when physicians put patients first
“One of the reasons I wanted to be a part of this is to get the chance to communicate with girls in some of the areas where I came from,” Gordon says, adding that after the book’s publishing, she’s had the chance to to speak with younger girls about the possibilities of becoming a physician..
“A lot of them don’t even think it’s a possibility to become a doctor,” she continued. “They would tell me things like ‘My mom says I should be more realistic, that I should be a nurse.’ These girls don’t see anybody who looks like them in these positions, and they don’t have anybody encouraging them. You can’t be what you can’t see. The glass ceiling was in their homes.”
A lot of girls say their career aspiration is to become a nurse because they don’t believe that becoming a doctor is an attainable goal, Yarborough says.
In sharing her journey, Gordon says Emery really encouraged her to open up about her challenges and how she overcame them. “It’s about how you deal with failure, how you teach them resiliency,” Gordon says.
By the time Gordon was in eighth grade, she knew she liked science so she was thinking of becoming a teacher. But after volunteering at Rush Medical School and working in a research laboratory at the University of Illinois-Chicago, Gordon met physicians and scientists who expanded her horizons and helped her navigate the journey to medical school, involving her in their research and even naming her on their papers and projects.
“Allowing students at the high school and college level to shadow you and to serve as mentors makes a difference,” Gordon says. “It’s important to be willing to write letters of recommendation and not just generic ones. Those are the things we can do.”
“It’s important for my colleagues to pay attention to young people who may aspire to medical careers or who may not yet realize that they aspire to them, that we remain positive and encouraging,” Yarborough says.