A panel of alumni recently visited Bowdoin to speak to students, many of them aspiring healthcare workers, about the importance of diversity in medicine.
The panelists all come from backgrounds traditionally under-represented in healthcare, and they described both the personal challenges they’ve faced in their careers and how their backgrounds have also positively impacted their work.
Bowdoin Trustee Greg Kerr ’79 moderated the panel, which included Shanique Brown Kilgallon ’04 (who skyped in), Ben Chan ’05, Margaret Griffith ’07, Terrence Pleasant ’09 and Sasaha Cruz ’12. Kerr has an MD and an MBA and is an associate professor of anesthesiology at Weill Medical College of Cornell. He is also the medical director of critical care services for New York Presbyterian Hospital.
The panelists are in different stages of their careers and specialize in a variety of fields. Kilgallon is a pediatric anesthesiologist in Philadelphia; Chan is an instructor at Tufts University School of Dental Medicine; Griffin is in the Ob/Gyn Residency Program at Mt. Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center; Cruz is studying at Rangel College of Pharmacy at Texas A&M University; and Pleasant is a student at Georgetown School of Medicine.
The panelists reinforced the need to have medical care providers who reflect the population they serve, especially in areas with great diversity. When providers can relate to their patients, they build effective relationships, Kilgallon said.
Chan echoed Kilgallon when he said that trust is something you have to work at as a medical provider. “Trust shouldn’t just be given to you,” he said.
Cruz mentioned that she uses a cultural lens when she is seeking treatment solutions that best fit her patients and their lifestyles.
Each of the graduates spoke about the difficulties that have come up due to their personal backgrounds, including confronting stereotypes that are still prevalent in the healthcare field related to race and gender. Yet, these obstacles, some noted, in turn have helped them be mindful of avoiding preconceived notions when they are with patients.
Griffith ’07 spoke about the role of internal biases that arise during patient interactions and the need to be cognizant of your own. “How do you recognize your own bias?” she asked, before adding that “by recognizing that [bias] you improve your care.”
Brief bios of the panelists:
Shanique Brown Kilgallon ’04, MD, New York University of Medicine
Pediatric Anesthesiologist, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
Throughout her career, Kilgallon said she has been inspired by her mentor, Greg Kerr ’79. She developed an interest in anesthesia and pediatrics while in medical school and now works at the best-ranked children’s hospital in the country.
Ben Chan ’05, DMD, MS, Tufts University School Of Dental Medicine
Orthodontist/Manager, William Chan & Associates; and Clinical Instructor and Co-Principal Investigator, Tufts University School of Dental Medicine
After completing a bio-mechanical honors thesis at Bowdoin, Chan realized that a PhD path did not highlight his strengths. He instead explored other careers in biology. He said he was drawn to dental care and orthodontics because of his interest in working with adolescent populations and his knowledge of biomechanics. Chan has combined his dental practice with research (he has master’s degree in biomechanics), including research with stem cells.
Margaret Griffith ’07, Tufts University, Maine Medical Center Maine Track Program
Ob/Gyn Residency Program, Mt Sinai Beth Israel Medical Center
Originally a classics major at Bowdoin College, Griffith developed a passion for medicine through the Outing Club. Her wilderness training catalyzed an interest in medicine and inspired her to pursue pancreatic cancer research at John’s Hopkins University. She completed a medical degree through the Maine Track Program, which is a partnership between Tufts University and Maine Medical Center in Portland.
Terrence Pleasant ’09, Georgetown University School of Medicine
Pleasant said he was inspired to join the medical field after the loss of his grandmother. He began his career path by shadowing the chief of surgery at Howard University. Following this, he spent several summers at the National Institutes of Health researching learning and memory in primates. Pleasant is completing his third year at Georgetown School of Medicine where he said he values the opportunity to combine his interest in science while serving his home community of Washington DC. Because DC has so many residents without health insurance or adequate care, Pleasant said that the most rewarding part of his job is seeing how much his patients appreciate the care that they do receive.
Sasha Cruz ’12, Rangel College of Pharmacy, Texas A&M University
Cruz said she came from a high school from which many of her classmates didn’t graduate. After struggling through the rigorous curriculum at Bowdoin for the first two years, Cruz transformed her mindset and adopted the motto: “Don’t be defined by your background.” She eventually decided to pursue clinical pharmacy in order to be a pharmacist while retaining some direct involvement with patients by cooperating with physicians.
The panel was organized by Career Planning, the Office of Health Advising, and the Office of Admissions.