Tamia Potter: First Black Female Neurosurgery Resident at Vanderbilt University

Dr. Tamia Potter, a 26-year-old medical female, recently made history by opening her letter on match day.

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Tamia Potter: First Black Female Neurosurgery Resident at Vanderbilt University

Dr. Tamia Potter, a 26-year-old medical female, recently made history by opening her letter on match day.

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In America, being a Black woman can be challenging, and you have to work ten times as hard as everyone else. Because of the reforms they strive for and the hard work they put in, Black women make history every day.

Dr. Tamia Potter, a 26-year-old medical female, recently made history by opening her letter on match day. Match day is when medical students find out which residency they will be admitted to. Attending medical school requires hard work and dedication. However, for a person of color, the requirements go beyond that. Match day is a major part of all of the hard work that goes into medical school. It is a system in which medical students are placed in a residency program to acquire a medical license and is usually held in the third week of March.

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More than 40,000 medical students across the nation learned about the residency programs that they will participate in after graduation. Being amongst one of those students, Potter gathered with her peers to hear the good news of her acceptance. Potter was anxious prior to the outcome, but she had no idea that she would be creating history. Potter soon opened her envelope to discover that she will be attending Vanderbilt Medical Center for her residency and a momentous moment followed.

Potter is the first Black female to accept a residency position in Vanderbilt’s Neurosurgery department in the school’s 148 years of existence. Potter was overjoyed that her dream was finally coming true while creating history. She said that “It was very exciting. I think what made me the happiest is that I was matched at a place that likes me back because I think that’s important.” 

Potter says that it is critical for medical students to be in an environment where they are loved and happy. 

“People always talk about going to med school and finding a residency program that is a good ‘Fit’ it’s very hard to do that. We have to think about where we will spend the next seven years of our life and make sure it’s a place where we are happy. I fell in love with Vanderbilt and I had a great time there so it was nice to open that letter and see that they feel the same way about me,” said Potter.

According to recent statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges, approximately 5.7% of doctors in the United States identify as Black or African American. According to a 2019 association report, there are only thirty-three Black female neurosurgeons nationwide.

Potter was determined to accomplish the future she desired. Potter applied to medical school after obtaining her bachelor’s degree and despite the difficulties, she persevered. She shared, “The hard part about getting into Med school is getting in and it is also the most competitive part,”

After completing her bachelor’s degree, Potter applied to the Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine. Case Western Reserve University is a competitive medical school and requires students to have excellent scores and a high GPA. Potter finished undergraduate school with a 3.71 GPA and a very high MCAT score. All medical candidates who wish to attend medical school are also required to take the MCAT. Potter devoted her time to preparing for the MCAT by using a question bank that contained thousands of practice questions. Students can prepare for the MCAT in a variety of ways including prep classes and tutoring. 

“I interviewed with a lot of medical schools mostly down south and Florida, but I chose Case Western Reserve University because someone told me that, if I wanted to be a neurosurgeon, I should go to Case,” said Potter.

Potter felt that the most difficult aspect of getting into medical school was the financial aspects of the program. Students are responsible for their airfare, hotels, and application fees. Some students benefit from the free assistance program, which enables medical students to receive financial aid, including the ability to apply to sixteen schools for free. 

“You have to pay for every single flight, you have to pay for your entire application fee. If you don’t qualify for the free assistance when it’s time to apply for secondary’s it’s even more expensive,” said Potter. 

When students apply to medical school, some schools ask them to submit a secondary application, which can cost between $100 and $150. The secondary application is a collection of writings required by each medical school. Other aspects, such as situational judgment tests, may be included in the secondary application depending on the institution. Potter was able to handle her expenses because she was working full-time while studying. Potter was working forty hours per week at a hospital and focusing on her education full-time. 

Working full-time while attending school full-time can be taxing on your mental and physical health, but a solid strategy can help relieve stress. Potter chose a job related to her schoolwork and chose to work the night shift so that her school schedule did not interfere with her work schedule. 

“Working the night shift at the hospital I did have some downtime so if everyone is taken care of, I complete all my vitals sign, and the night is quiet I could read and study for my classes. I always put my education first because I need to go to school and graduate to get into middle school so I would stay ahead of assignments and get them down early,” said Potter.

Potter is a diligent female who enjoys staying on her feet and moving forward. She also enjoys weightlifting in her spare time, even though she works three jobs. 

Potter thinks everyone has a unique path in life and that the next generation of Black lawyers, doctors, engineers, professors, scientists, and other professionals should not compare themselves to others. She said that “There are things we as black women face that other people don’t and the way we go about doing things is different because of that. If you notice that the path that you’re taking looks different from everybody else’s, don’t be alarmed because this means that you are different.”

Potter will graduate from medical school on May 21st and will begin her residency program as the first Black Female Neurosurgery Resident at Vanderbilt Medical Center. 

Written By: Karesha Graham

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