We celebrated the completion of a four-generational journey from a previously segregated medical system in Florida to a Level III perinatal center in Illinois, and raised our glasses to the proud family who can now say, “There’s a doctor in the house.”
Doctor Jameela Media graduated from medical school on Saturday and will begin her residency at Loyola University Medical Center, her first choice, in June.
With her 92-year old great-grandmother Thelma and the rest of her family looking on, Dr. Media choked up a little as she recited the Hippocratic Oath, recognizing the significance of the moment.
“I’ll walk in the front door of that hospital as a doctor,” she said. “My great-grandmother and her family had to go in the back.”
When Granny Thelma was a child growing up in Florida, her family could not find a hospital to treat her baby brother.
“My dad was a sawmill worker,” she said. “We did not have access to the hospitals back then. There weren’t any for black people. So, when my brother got sick, my dad went to his boss.”
Eventually, the boss found a doctor to come to the family’s house but it was too late and the 11-month old baby died of pneumonia.
The Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed the segregation that led to such overt inequities in medical treatment, but we still have a long way to go. Today, according to the AAMC, just 5% of doctors identify as Black or African American.
Jameela, who also holds a Masters Degree in Public Health, would love to see those numbers improve. She has a passion for helping to reduce healthcare disparity for underserved populations and intends to work toward that following her OB-GYN residency.
Dr. Media wore a T-shirt that read “Black Girl White Coat” to her graduation party, a witty celebration of accomplishment and love. Her three sisters all wore “Don’t ovary-act, my sister is a doctor!” shirts in honor of Jameela’s chosen field, and her husband Rashaud wore a “Don’t ovary-act, my wife is a doctor” shirt. Jameela’s parents Jimmy and Trenette wore shirts that read “She believed she could so she did” on the front and “my daughter is a doctor” on the back.
I also spotted a small child who had been a flower girl at Jameela’s wedding wearing a shirt that said, “Follow your dreams!”
I like to think the optimism represented by all those T-shirts bubbled up from that party tent and out into the world around.
Congratulations to Dr. Media, who is changing lives by changing her prefix, and to her amazing family as well.