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Dr. Sadye Beatryce Curry





Year of Birth / Death

b. 1941


Medical School

Howard University College of Medicine


Geography

LOCATION
District of Columbia


Career Path

Internal medicine: Gastroenterology
Education: Teaching
Dr. Sadye Beatryce Curry



Milestones

YEAR
1969
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Sayde Curry was the first African American woman postgraduate trainee at Duke University Medical Center.
YEAR
1972
ACHIEVEMENT
Dr. Sayde Curry was the first African American woman to become a gastroenterologist in the United States, and the only African American to train in the gastroenterology fellowship program at Duke University.


Inspiration

The older of my two brothers is a physician, a cardiologist. We had been told that my father stated at the time of my brother's birth that he was going to be a doctor. My brother decided at any early age that he indeed, wanted to be a doctor. Although he was several years older than I, and there were two siblings between us, he was frequently teaching me various things, including how to catch a football while running and looking back over my shoulder. As my brother proceeded through medical school, my interest in medicine continued to grow. I had an intense desire to help the sick.

I can recall stating that I wanted to be a doctor when I was in elementary school. I have always enjoyed the sciences, and I was fascinated by the activities of hospitals. My father, I believe, would have been a physician had he been afforded the opportunity.



Biography

Dr. Sadye Beatryce Curry is the first African American woman in the United States to become a gastroenterologist. "...at the time of my training," she says, "it was considered to be a 'man's profession' much more so than it is today. There were male physicians who expected the 'girls' to be out sick once a month. It was probably that type of asinine thought lingering in my mind that allowed me to work at Howard University for the last twenty-eight years while taking just one day of sick leave."

Born in Reidsville, North Carolina, Curry is the youngest of four children born to Limmer Palmer and Charlie Will Curry, Jr. She attended public schools in Reidsville, and after high school graduation in 1959 went to Johnson C. Smith University, a small Presbyterian school in Charlotte, North Carolina. She earned a B.S. degree there in 1963, with a major in biology and a minor in chemistry. Following graduation she was employed briefly as a research technician in the Department of Pediatrics at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina.

To pursue her dream of a career as a physician, however, she enrolled in the Howard University College of Medicine in 1963, and graduated with the centennial class of 1967. She completed an internship in internal medicine at Duke University Medical Center and affiliated hospitals, followed by a residency in internal medicine at the Veterans Administration Medical Center, Washington, D.C.

At the suggestion of her mentor, Dr. Michael McLeod, Curry considered subspecialty training in gastroenterology and returned to Duke University as a fellow in gastroenterology and an instructor in medicine. She participated in research related to bile acid metabolism and liver transport mechanisms. During her training, she was a presenter at the prestigious Southern Society of Clinical Investigation in 1972. She also served as a medical consultant at Durham's Lincoln Hospital, a predominantly African American hospital. Dr. Curry was the first African American to train in the Duke gastroenterology fellowship program. She was also the first African American woman postgraduate trainee at Duke University Medical Center.

Completing her training at Duke University, Dr. Curry joined the faculty of Howard University in 1972, as an assistant professor of medicine. In 1973 she became assistant chief of medicine at Howard University Medical Service at Columbia General Hospital, and from 1974 to 1977 she served as assistant chief of medicine in charge of undergraduate medical education at Howard. She was promoted to associate professor of medicine in 1978.

In 1975, Dr. Curry received the Howard University College of Medicine Student Council Faculty Award for Teaching Excellence. She received the Kaiser-Permanente Faculty Award for Excellence in Teaching in 1978, and in 1990 the Howard University College of Medicine Student American Medical Women's Association selected her for their Woman of the Year Award. Dr. Curry has served on a number of national committees, including the National Institutes of Arthritis, Metabolic and Digestive Diseases Training Grants Committee in Gastroenterology, and the Food and Drug Administration's Drug Advisory Committee.

Dr. Curry has chaired or co-chaired the Gastroenterology section of the National Medical Association for well over a decade, and recently became the first woman to be elected chair of the Internal Medicine Section, National Medical Association. She is a founding member and has served as president of the Leonidas Berry Society for Digestive Diseases, a national organization of minority gastroenterologists, basic scientists, and general surgeons.



Question and Answer

What was my biggest obstacle?

Medicine is a very demanding career. And, of course, at the time of my training, it was considered to be a "man's profession" much more so than it is today. There were male physicians who expected the "girls" to be out sick once a month. It was probably that type of asinine though lingering in my mind that allowed me to work at Howard University for the last twenty-eight years while taking just one day of sick leave. I, of course, also had to be blessed with good health. While training at Duke, there was an occasional physician who would not allow me to see his patients. And, there were some black patients who thought that the white doctors had to be better than the black doctors. The racism surpassed the sexism. One can not go through life without facing obstacles of various types. We have to remain focused, barrel over the obstacles, see the light at the end of the tunnel, and by the Grace of God, keep moving.

How do I make a difference?

I am proud to have had the opportunity to teach medical students, interns, and residents the fun and the beauty and the art of medicine. I hope that I served as a good role model for women in medicine. I am very proud of the fact that I demonstrated one standard of care for all patients, whatever their status in life. I am proud of the fact that I deemed it essential to teach patients about their medical condition, encourage them to ask questions, and to read. I am proud of the knowledge I have been able to impart to physicians around the country through lectures on gastrointestinal diseases.

Who was my mentor?

While attending medical school at Howard University, I was constantly awed by a "master" physician and teacher, Dr. Walter Lester Henry, Chairman, Department of Medicine at Howard. During my internship at Duke University, one of my attending physicians was Dr. Michael McLeod, a prominent gastroenterologist and a doctor's doctor. It was through his encouragement that I developed an interest in my specialty of gastroenterology. I was also fortunate to have the guidance of Dr. Malcolm Tyor, Chief, Division of Gastroenterology at Duke.



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