Florida Woman Becomes Vanderbilt’s First Black Female Neurosurgery Resident

Tamia Potter says she’s proof that attending an HBCU can make your dreams come true.

Tamia Potter

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Last week, Tamia Potter became the first Black woman to accept a spot in Vanderbilt University’s neurosurgery residency program in its 91-year history.

The 26-year-old Florida native graduated summa cum laude in 2018 with a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from Florida Agricultural and Mechanical University (FAMU) in Tallahassee, before attending Case Western Reserve University Medical School in Cleveland. She plans to make the move to Nashville this summer.

Potter told CNN that she was “incredulous, very relieved, and excited” when she first saw she had matched with Vanderbilt.

“Everything that I’m doing, everything that I’m learning, everything that I experience is for the betterment of someone else,” she told the outlet.

According to a 2019 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges, there were only 33 Black women in the neurosurgical field in the United States in 2018.

“I really think it is important for there to be visibility of people like me, because you know, a lot of people may not have a conventional route to medicine or to neurosurgery in general, some people may take years off, some people may fail the first time and they have to try multiple times to get to this point,” Potter told WKRN. “So it’s important to realize that your journey is your own, and that you have helped along the way, and I want to be that person to help.”

Dr. Reid Thompson, a professor and chair of the university’s Department of Neurological Surgery, told Southern Living in a statement that “we are thrilled” to have Dr Potter in the program, which dates back to 1932.

“We met Dr. Tamia Potter in the summer of 2022 when she spent a month on the Vanderbilt neurosurgery service as a visiting student from Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine,” Thompson said. “We were immediately impressed by her brilliance and passion for neurosurgery.”

Speaking with CNN, Potter said that being a FAMU alumna proves that it’s possible to attend an Historically Black College and University (HBCU) and “attain every single thing that you want to and make your dreams come true.” 

“A lot of people feel like when you go to an HBCU, you are sacrificing quality, and that is something that people should not believe,” she added.

Congratulations, Tamia!

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