- Harvard College, BA in Biology
- Columbia University, MPH in sociomedical sciences
- John's Hopkins School of Medicine, MD
- Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, PhD
I arrived at the Governor’s School in August of 1992, like most of my classmates, with butterflies in my stomach. There was definitely some trepidation about leaving home for the first time. Yet mixed with that was an incredible excitement about all the possibilities for learning and growth that would now be open to me. In those two years those possibilities became realities and I left the Governor’s School in June of 1994 leaps and bounds ahead of where I would have ever been otherwise.
After graduation I went on to Harvard College, where I completed a BA in Biology. My research focus in college had been in the basic biomedical sciences (through internships at the National Institutes of Health afforded to me based on my research experience at GSSM). Before graduating, however, I was exposed to public health research through an internship at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and have continued on that research path since. I went on to work at a health policy consulting firm for two years after graduating from Harvard and then began dedicated training in in social behavioral research and public health while completing an MPH in sociomedical sciences (i.e. a combination of sociology, health psychology, social behavioral science and public health) at Columbia University.
While at Columbia, I came to a crossroads about where to focus my career. I had always wanted to be a physician. That was perhaps one of the biggest reasons I chose the Governor’s School. I wanted the best education in the biological sciences possible to prepare me for my undergraduate education and later, medical school. However, as I became more aware of the systemic origins of poor health, I grew concerned about whether my goal to become a physician would deter me from the goals I had to improve health at a population level. As a physician, I would be able help my patients improve their health, but what impact would I have on an entire community or population? In the end, I decided to become physician researcher so that I could do both. In my final year at Columbia I applied to medical school and was accepted into the Medical Scientist Training Program at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHUSOM) and Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health (JHSPH) where I earned a medical degree and a Ph.D. in social behavioral science and public health. I went on to complete pediatric residency training at Boston Children’s Hospital and Boston Medical Center and a post-graduate research fellowship in Racial Health Disparities at Harvard Medical School. Following residency, I returned to Johns Hopkins School of Medicine to complete subspecialty training in Adolescent Medicine. After completing my training I then joined the faculty as an Assistant Professor in Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine at JHUSOM with a joint appointment in the Department of Health Behavior and Society at JHSPH.
I grew up in a working class African American community in rural South Carolina where the health impact of poverty, lack of educational opportunity, political impotence, racial discrimination, and poor access to health care were readily evident. I have focused my career, through my research and medical practice on improving the health and life potential of vulnerable and marginalized youth who face similar threats to their health and are burdened by racial and socioeconomic health disparities.
I somehow knew this was always going to be my focus. My parents and family had instilled in me a value system which made compassion for others and public service an imperative and growing up in that environment sensitized me to the needs of minority and other vulnerable youth that often go unmet. I am perhaps most thankful to the Governor’s School because the foundation in science and research I achieved there made the work that I do, for these youth, their families and their communities, a possibility.