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Dr. Rosalyn P. Scott





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1950


Medical School

New York University School of Medicine


Geography

LOCATION
Texas
LOCATION
California


Career Path

Surgery: Thoracic
Education: Teaching
Dr. Rosalyn P. Scott



Milestones

YEAR
1977
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Rosalyn P. Scott was the first African American woman to be trained in thoracic surgery.
YEAR
1980
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Rosalyn P. Scott was the first Mary A. Fraley Fellow at the Texas Heart Institute.
YEAR
1986
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Rosalyn P. Scott was a founding member of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons.
YEAR
1995
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Rosalyn P. Scott was the first African American woman to be granted membership in the Society of University Surgeons.
YEAR
1999
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Rosalyn P. Scott was a founding member of the Association of Black Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeons.


Inspiration

I grew up in a family of health professionals—my father was a dentist and my uncle was a surgeon. Most of my parents' friends were either dentists or physicians. When I was a little girl I used to spend Saturday mornings in my father's office. I especially enjoyed sterilizing his instruments and putting them back in the special grooved holders in the cabinets in his examining rooms. I also typed patient information in the charts of new patients and helped him organize the patients' x-rays. I never wanted to be anything other than a doctor, except for the few months that I fancied myself a ballerina. My father said it would be a waste of my intelligence to be a dancer. Parenthetically, I did not have the sleek body of a dancer. My father was probably being kind and not saying that I did not have a dancer's physique!



Biography

Rosalyn P. Sterling Scott, M.D., is the first African American woman to be trained in thoracic surgery, the first African American woman to be granted membership in the Society of University Surgeons, and the first Mary A. Fraley Cardiovascular Surgical Research Fellow at the Texas Heart Institute in Houston. Determined to raise the aspirations of students intimidated by discrimination in surgery, she is also a former president of Women in Thoracic Surgery and a founding member of both the Association of Black Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeons and the Society of Black Academic Surgeons.

Born in Newark, New Jersey, in 1950, Rosalyn P. Sterling was raised in a medical family. Her father was a dentist, and her uncle was a surgeon. Her first scientific training came on Saturday mornings when she helped in her father's dental office. She recalled, "I especially enjoyed sterilizing his instruments and putting them back in the special grooved holders in the cabinets of his examining rooms."

After receiving her undergraduate degree in chemistry at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute in New York state, in 1970, she attended the New York University School of Medicine and received her doctor of medicine degree in 1974. Remaining in New York for postgraduate training, Dr. Scott completed surgical internships and residencies at St. Vincent's Hospital and Medical Center and St. Clare's Hospital and Health Center.

In 1977, as a resident at Boston University Medical Center, she was the first African American woman in the United States to train in thoracic surgery. From Boston she returned to New York to complete general and cardiac surgery residencies at St. Clare's Hospital and Health Center and New York Medical College. In 1980 Dr. Scott was named the first recipient of the Mary A. Fraley cardiovascular fellowship at the Texas Heart Institute. Dr. Scott remained in Houston as an assistant professor of surgery for the University of Texas Medical School until 1983 when she was appointed assistant professor of surgery at University of California, Los Angeles and the Charles R. Drew University of Medicine and Science.

Since coming to Drew in 1983, Dr. Scott has served as associate director of the general surgery residency program, vice chair for research and academic affairs in the department of surgery, and director of the Drew Surgical Research Group. Along with her hospital appointment at the King/Drew Medical Center, Dr. Scott is also on the surgical staff of the Brotman Medical Center and the Harbor-UCLA Medical Center. She focuses her research on occupational stress in surgery residents and health disparities in cardiovascular and lung cancer care, and worked to "bring to the major medical journals information that would otherwise not be investigated by the majority of male surgeons." She is also an adjunct professor in the School of Health Administration and Policy at Arizona State University.

Currently an associate professor of surgery at Drew, Dr. Scott still sees plenty of room for improvement in the culture of medicine. As a former president of Women in Thoracic Surgery and a founding member of both the Association of Black Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeons and the Society of Black Academic Surgeons, Dr. Scott hopes she has been of some help in raising the aspirations of medical students and residents. She helps illustrate success unhampered by gender and racial discrimination yet still concludes that women in surgery, "especially in academic surgery, are still not accepted, no matter what their ethnicity."



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

Being a minority woman in academic surgery has had many obstacles, seen and unseen. I was the first woman trained at Boston University in thoracic surgery. Females in surgery, especially in academic surgery, are still not accepted, no matter what their ethnicity. Nevertheless, I have always felt that my greatest obstacles have been the internal ones¿the moments when I get discouraged, the times that I do not read all the journals that I should, or go to sleep rather than complete the manuscript or grant that I am writing. The worst thing to do is to develop a "chip on your shoulder." There is nothing less appealing to those who want to help you, and more satisfying to those that do not want you to do well. Outwardly, one must maintain equanimity and inner peace at all times. There is no question that I have had to prove myself over and over when others have not had to work as hard. I also know that I can achieve my goals with continued hard work, perseverance, prayer, and God's grace.

How do I make a difference?

My commitment to the development of minority and women surgeons has resulted in medical students and residents raising their aspirations and seeing the possibility of success in endeavors and career paths they thought impossible because of imposed barriers of gender and ethnicity. Additionally, through my organizational and committee assignments, I have been able to ensure that policy and practice reflect the needs and accurately represent the health status of both majority and minority populations. Many of my research efforts, as related to occupational stress in surgery residents and health disparities, bring information to the major medical journals that would otherwise not be investigated by majority male surgeons.

Who was my mentor?

One of the disadvantages of being among the first female surgeons and the first minority female surgeons to seek an academic career in thoracic surgery is that there are few individuals who seek you out or even respond to your overtures for mentorship. The early years were especially challenging. As a mid-career academic, I have "earned" mentorship from a number of prominent surgeons. Unfortunately, none of these individuals have been in my institution. The important lesson to be learned is that there are individuals who will advise and help you, but you may have to be enterprising in seeking advice and maintaining contact with individuals a distance from your institution, city, or state.

How has my career evolved over time?

Over time I have worked to build a well-rounded academic portfolio by participating in research, teaching and administration while maintaining clinical expertise. I have sought and been given committee assignments and leadership positions in several major national professional organizations. My goal is to increase my leadership role in an academic environment. In order to strengthen my leadership skills, I completed a master of science in health administration at the University of Colorado College of Business, have been an Alley-Sheridan Fellow, and participated in the Understanding the New World of Health Care Executive Program, jointly sponsored by Harvard Medical School, Harvard School of Public Health, and the John F. Kennedy School of Government. I hope to attend Executive Leadership in Academic Medicine (ELAM), sponsored by MCP-Hahnemann University this year. ELAM is a year long program to develop women leaders in academic medicine. Finally, I am in the process of being promoted to full professor and am being considered for major leadership positions in my department.


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