Hello, my name is Tamara. I was born in inner city Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and raised in Northern Virginia. My single mother raised me and my sister to the best of her abilities. Her constant lessons on giving back despite being in need sparked my life-long passion for serving others and inspired me to help better my community. My initial motivation to become a health professional stemmed from witnessing the impact that my sister’s repeated battles with childhood illnesses had on our family. From a young age, I had to take on many of the household responsibilities which made me a mature and independent youth. Her sickness, along with my grandmother’s death from lung and breast cancer, showed me how low-income women often lack the appropriate knowledge to make informed decisions about their health. As a future physician, I aim to ensure that patients from disparate ethnic and socioeconomic backgrounds feel informed and empowered over their health and wellness.
My grandfather, who instilled me with the idea of using education as a way out of poverty, was my motivation for attending Duke University and studying biomedical engineering. However, midway through undergrad, I realized that I would not be able to fulfill my goal of becoming a physician. My GPA was too low and I had little knowledge of how to actually become a physician. Halfway through I switched major to Economics and African American Studies and ultimately received my Bachelor’s degree in 2004.
Realizing that I had failed at achieving my childhood goal was a difficult pill to swallow. Within six months of graduating, I realized the mistake I had made in giving up on my dreams and have spent the past twelve years pursuing a career in medicine. For a few years, I worked as an EMT in a local hospital which helped me gain insight into the field of healthcare. Then I worked in Academic Planning and Assessment at George Washington University. I also pursued a Master’s degree in Public Health Microbiology and Emerging Infectious Diseases at The Milken Institute School of Public Health at GW. I knew that I wanted to be a physician but I did not know the right steps to take in order to get there. Basically, I was an aimless wanderer searching to finding my true place in healthcare.
While pursuing a career in medicine I fueled my spirit of service through volunteering in low resource, high need communities. I currently serve on the City of Alexandria Public Health Advisory Commission where I represent the underserved and underrepresented through advocacy and policy. Through this, I have stepped outside of my comfort zone to help diverse communities in different ways.
The past twelve years were filled with self-doubt but I finally got on the right path to being a physician by becoming a student of the GEMS program. Getting accepted into GEMS was a life-changing experience. Dean Taylor and Dean Cheng are a great inspiration. They invest in building people and pushing them toward success. They devote time and energy to my own personal development and that of my peers. Dean Taylor has an uncanny ability to assess your strengths and weaknesses and gradually turn your weakness into your strength. Participating in the GEMS program has allowed me to interact with colleagues who challenge me both personally and professionally. I have seen incredible growth within myself in the areas of empathy and forgiveness because I believe that in order to be a health professional, it is important to forgive yourself for your mistakes. To those interested in pursuing a medical career, just know to never give up on your goals because someone in the world is counting on a person like you. The reward far outweighs any doubt that you may have. The work that we do as minority physicians, along with serving our patients, is bigger than us as individuals.