Dear Dr. Washington,
Growing up on the Southside of Chicago, while I knew at an early age I wanted to become a physician, I did not see one that looked like ME. I had this sweet older male Black physician as my pediatrician who passed out lollipops and thought this precocious little Black girl was much too serious for such a young age.
No matter the alternatives placed before me, becoming a physician never changed in my mind, even as I entered college as a pre-medical student. This was the time, that I finally saw someone that looked like me doing what I wanted to do. It was Miranda Bailey on this new show called Grey’s Anatomy. I was in love and when I was not studying, I would watch this show. I even made my mom and little brother watch it with me. That show motivated me through the tears of organic chemistry and the frustrations of physics. I would succeed just like Miranda “Mandy” Bailey M.D. and become a force to be reckoned with in medicine.
Fast forward to a certain Diversity mentorship event, where I eagerly “placed” myself right in front of you, all too aware of the “General Surgery” under your name. We talked, and you shared your background and I shared my interests. What stood out was your slight Memphis drawl, so warm and comforting, it reminded me of my family and I thought “I have to keep in contact with her.” Then you informed me you were leaving soon, so I thought “well dang, guess the timing wasn’t right”. I moved on, (begrudgingly) so that my classmates would also get a chance to chat with you.
The next time I saw you was at the Surgery Interest Group meeting, where you shared exquisite pearls about your journey through medical school and residency. I hung back after the meeting and got your contact info, trying my best to build a natural rapport. We didn’t talk again until you were TEACHING our GI unit, and I could not hide from your questions on Zoom, even with my camera off! You demanded excellence from me for this unit and I refused to disappoint! I hadn’t been pushed like this since my summer school days with my grandma and that’s when I knew, from the obvious care and mentorship that you naturally poured into me, I’d found my real life “Dr. Bailey.”
There is no greater feeling than seeing someone that looks like you where you want to be. The confidence and excellence you exude is what I hope to one day attain. You live and give yourself so genuinely, reaching back for those coming behind you with love, support and encouragement. I continue to watch and learn from the impeccable, tenacious example you set as a Black woman in surgery, drawing inspiration on my tough days as a medical student. Until the fall of my first year of medical school, I had only a fictional character to look to as who I wanted to become as a physician. Then, I met Dr. Kimberly Washington, and having a mentor I can touch and give flowers to is so, so, soooo much better.
Thank you for all that you do, this precocious little Black girl from the Southside of Chicago, thinks the world of you!