The nation’s first black female transplant surgeon comes to town Tuesday with the goal of boosting organ donation and the dreams of those who hope to become doctors one day.
Dr. Velma Scantlebury was set to speak to the faculty at the new Texas Christian University and University of North Texas Health Science Center School of Medicine Tuesday morning. Later, she’ll sign copies of her book, "Beyond Every Wall."
Scantlebury grew up on the island of Barbados. By the age of 15, she knew she wanted to become a doctor.
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"For me, I didn't have a plan B," she said.
Her family moved to the United States for her to get a better education. She later met a female surgeon and knew her place would in the operating room. She found her passion transplanting kidneys.
In 1989, she became the first transplant surgeon of color in the United States. In her 30-year career, she has performed more than 2,000 kidney transplants. She is also a fierce advocate for increasing organ donors and decreasing the waiting time to get a kidney.
"It really doesn’t matter who the donor or recipient is in terms of giving or getting that kidney, it’s really about compatibility and not necessarily what ethnicity or race or sex that person is. On the inside, we’re all the same," she said.
Scantlebury’s historic accomplishments have come through determination, passion and people who paths that got her closer to her goals. She writes about it in her book.
"For me a lot of my journey, there seemed like there was always obstacles. Whether it was walls or hurdles or issues that I encountered," Scantlebury recalled. "I think my determination to succeed, I should say my stubbornness, but also I had the passion to become a doctor, and I wasn’t going to let anyone deter me from that passion."
That's the kind of motivation she shares with students and young adults hoping to someday be doctors themselves.
"Know that you can succeed and that life is not going to be easy. There may be failure. There may be obstacles. Use those things to strengthen you, as building blocks to get you to the next level," she advised. "Having that determination, having that passion, finding mentors."
And, when the waters get choppy and failure comes, "don't have a pity party for yourself. Dust it off. Get up. Gain your strength and move on," she said.
TCU will host a meet and greet book signing Tuesday at 4 p.m. at the Dee J. Kelly Alumni and Visitor’s Center. A speech follows at 5 p.m. Both are free and open to the public.