Black physician makes history at Vanderbilt on Match Day

Dr. Tamia Potter is the first Black woman doctor to be offered a prestigious residency in neurosurgery since Vanderbilt University's founding in 1873.

An Ohio medical student and HBCU grad has become the first Black woman neurosurgery resident at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee. 

March 17 was Match Day for more than 40,000 medical students across the country who learned of their residency matches. Dr. Tamia Potter, a graduate of Florida A&M University (FAMU) and a medical student at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine (CWRU) in Ohio, learned she made history as the first Black female doctor to be offered a prestigious residency in neurosurgery since Vanderbilt opened in 1873, reports. Two years after its founding, 148 years ago, the school conferred its first degrees, according to its website.

Vanderbilt University
Vanderbilt University in Nashville, Tennessee, was founded in 1873. Dr. Tamia Potter will be the medical school’s first Black female neurosurgery resident. (Credit: AdobeStock)

Potter wrote on social media that she became a certified nursing assistant, her first job, in 2014, when she was 17. “Today on March 17th, 2023 I was blessed to be selected as the first African American female neurosurgery resident to train at @VUMC_Neurosurg,” Potter posted on Twitter.

Her mentorship by Dr. Chelsea Mooreland helped Potter secure a spot in Vanderbilt’s neurological surgery residency program, according to Dr. Ashley Denmark, the founder and CEO of Project Diversify Medicine.

Project Diversify Medicine shared Potter’s exciting news on Instagram and one user commented, “Let us cover her in prayer and strap up if needed b/c as we celebrate the success of the 1st, we know support will be needed to get her all the way through.”

The IG account for Woke Doctors also celebrated Potter with a video post of her emotional reaction on Match Day. One commenter said it is an “amazing accomplishment” but also noted “…it’s 2023 and she is the FIRST Black Female Neurosurgeon Resident in 148 years?!? Let that sink in..”

According to the American Society of Black Neurosurgeons, only 33 Black women practice neurosurgery in the U.S., reports.

Potter is the first in her family to go to medical school. She reportedly held down two jobs to help pay for her education at CWRU and at FAMU, where she majored in chemistry.

“I am over the moon,” Potter told about her residency position with Vanderbilt. She said that though she knew she wanted to be a neurosurgeon, “I didn’t think that this is what I would accomplish.”

Potter told that there are several possible reasons why Black people are less likely to pursue medicine, including a lack of guidance, financial resources and support. 

“Nobody told me how much this would cost,” Potter said. “Nobody in my family understood what I was doing. If someone shipped you across the country to medical school and said figure it out, most people are going to want to go back home.”

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