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February 8th, 2011
08:13 AM ET

Human Factor: In sickness, doctor finds calling

In the Human Factor, Dr. Sanjay Gupta introduces you to survivors who have overcome the odds. Confronting a life obstacle - injury, illness or other hardship –- they tapped their inner strength and found resilience they didn’t know they possessed. Dr. Lynne Holden's life changed in a split second after giving birth to her daughter.  A very rare heart weakness nearly killed her.  Here is her story in her own words.

From the time I saw "Marcus Welby, M.D." on television at the age of 6, I knew I wanted to be a doctor. When I was 8 years old, the only gift I wanted for Christmas was a book called "Gray's Anatomy." I could not sleep the night before in anticipation of that one gift.

After I opened that big package, my father told me I would have to know everything in that book if I became a physician. That was the beginning of my journey to become a doctor. I keep a copy of Gray’s Anatomy. This has been my visualization tool-the constant symbol of my dream.

It was not until the age of 13 that I met an African American female physician in Harlem, New York, named Dr. Muriel Petioni, the “Mother of Medicine in Harlem.”  Now at the age of 97, she is still inspiring the younger generation to pursue the health professions. I have been profoundly influenced by so many mentors throughout my career.

I completed my undergraduate studies at Howard University in Washington, D.C., and my medical studies at Temple School of Medicine in my hometown of Philadelphia. I then pursued my residency training in emergency medicine at Jacobi Medical Center in the Bronx. For 15 years, my career as a clinician has been nurtured at Montefiore Medical Center in the Bronx under the mentorship of Dr. E John Gallagher. Montefiore is the second-busiest Emergency Department in the United States. As an associate clinical professor, my academic career has blossomed at the Einstein College of Medicine.

In 1997, I learned what is was like to be a patient. One week after the birth of my daughter, I began to experience shortness of breath that progressed quickly over a few days. I knew something was desperately wrong, but I did not want to leave the house to seek help. I did not ever think that I would see my newborn daughter again.

I sought help at the Emergency Department at Montefiore Medical Center where I was diagnosed with peripartum cardiomyopathy. Peripartum cardiomyopathy is a rare and often fatal disorder that disproportionately affects African American females from the last months of pregnancy up to five months postpartum.

With my future uncertain, my husband challenged me to find a way to help other young people to achieve their dream of pursuing a health career. I was given many medications to aide in my recuperation, which lasted over nine months. My survival was miraculous! I was able to return to the profession that has been so meaningful to me.

Nine years later, I met a young lady on a crowded subway ride from the Bronx to Brooklyn. She spotted the book I was reading called "Gifted Hands," by Benjamin Carson, M.D. She told me that she was a single mother juggling two jobs, but her youngest son wanted to be a brain surgeon after reading the same book in his sixth-grade class. She felt helpless because she did not know how to help him to achieve his dream. I instantly thought of the three practicing neurosurgeons that I knew who could serve as mentors. I remembered my husband’s challenge. That was my epiphany!

The nonprofit organization, Mentoring in Medicine, Inc. was born. According to the American Association of Medical Colleges, African American, Latino/a and Native Americans make up 25% of the population, but they account for only 12% of U.S. medical school graduates. I called upon some colleagues and poured many hours into creating programs to inspire and educate students about biological sciences, health careers and healthy living. Mentoring in Medicine has designed programs for students from elementary school through graduation from health professional school.

Through this process, I have discovered my calling. My spiritual walk has been strengthened with support from the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem. I am continually humbled by the recognition received, such as the prestigious 2009 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Community Health Leaders Award and the 2010 Lifetime TV Remarkable Woman Award, for pursuing what I have been called to do.

Montefiore Medical Center has a strong commitment to the surrounding community and has served as a wonderful incubator for the college level Mentoring in Medicine programs. With the support of the leadership at Montefiore, we have been successful in creating meaningful programs with impressive results. Mentoring in Medicine has attracted a variety of very busy health care professional volunteers—nearly 650.

In this economic climate, the hardest part has been raising funds to support the replication of our successful projects. But with the support of The National Library of Medicine of the National Institutes of Health and the Friends of the National Library of Medicine, we have been able to work with public high schools such as Frederick Douglass Academy I in Harlem to provide science enrichment and an introduction to health careers.

I am a strong believer in the power of visualization! It was the pastor and scholar William Arthur Ward who stated, “If you can imagine it, you can achieve it; if you can dream it, you can become it.” Mentoring in Medicine, Inc. ™ helps students through academic enrichment, leadership development, community service and mentoring to create a strategic plan for successful attainment of their dream.

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soundoff (34 Responses)
  1. Buckhippo

    Personally, as a physician myself, I don't think affirmative action has any place in graduate education. For college, fine. They need to then prove if they can get into medical school by their own merit. I know people who got in because of their race (had shockingly low MCAT scores and GPA) and they were not strong medical students and often had to repeat classes. Some failed out. People need to stop seeing race and trying to benefit off of the race card in graduate education and only then we can truly move past racism. If you can't prove that you deserve to get into grad school after getting a free pass into college, then you probably don't deserve it. And let's not forget the large amount of Asian immigrants who excel at education even though its not even their first language. So, stop playing the race card and just do what everyone student should do: study.

    February 8, 2011 at 10:38 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Mike

      You act as though admission to a college automatically levels the playing field. It doesn't. First generation students from low-income communities come into college with generally inferior academic skills than their more privileged classmates. Poor public schools often don't prepare their students as well as the private schools doctors send their children to. This manifests as lower GPAs and MCAT on average. Secondly, you neglect the fact that underrepresented physicians overwhelmingly choose to work in medically underserved communities more so than their White peers. This hold true even when factors like parental education and income are taken into account. Lastly, you somehow come to the conclusion that all these dark-skinned doctors are somehow unqualified. What is the USMLE for if not to weed out incompetent candidates?

      We can move past racism when the quality of your education doesn't depend on where you grew up and how much money mommy and daddy make.

      February 8, 2011 at 11:49 | Report abuse |
    • CFS Facts

      Thank you, BuckHippo! I have permanent limitations because of just such a doctor. Waved through the system because he was a minority, even though he was clearly below standard. My lawyer's reaction to him was "he's either lying through his teeth or he's too stupid to be a doctor ... or BOTH!" I'm all for equality of opportunity, but not when innocent patients are victimized by the resulting incompetence.

      February 8, 2011 at 12:13 | Report abuse |
    • Jen

      Where does this article even mention affirmative action? It sounds like you just have a problem with different people trying to join the "old boys club."

      February 8, 2011 at 12:49 | Report abuse |
    • WUWT

      Buckhippo, I agree with most of what you say, but I still hear racism. Probably because of the reference to Affirmative Action when the article had no mention of it. That makes me trust you less.

      Mike, I'm a minority, and at some point that shouldn't matter. I work in an underserved urban area. These people need good docs. They probably need better docs than areas that are not underserved. At what point do we stop giving excuses to people who don't perform? I know plenty of good and bad physicians from all backgrounds. Poor prep for college shouldn't mean lower standards for the rest of his/her life. Perhaps colleges could/should have courses designed to help these students compete, learn more, get better grades and be better at their careers. Oh, and the elementary and high schools need an overhaul, too.

      BTW, what does who serves where have to do with your argument or with BuckHippo's? Help me out here.

      February 8, 2011 at 17:46 | Report abuse |
    • charles s

      Buckhippo, how do you know their MCAT scores and GPA? The last time that I looked at a Doctor's diploma, it did not have them printed on them. Do you hand out a business card with your scores printed on them?

      I had a doctor; a white doctor, who should not touch a patient. He became angry at me and inflicted pain upon me. I should have reported him to the medical society but I was too shaken by the experience to do anything. That will never happen again. If a doctor ever treated me that way again, I would sue him. Good doctors and bad doctors come in all different colors. Finding a good one is hard to do.

      February 8, 2011 at 18:50 | Report abuse |
    • DesertRat

      Where does this article talk about affirmative action?

      February 9, 2011 at 10:22 | Report abuse |
    • Mary Brown

      Personally, as a physician yourself, I don't think that an ignoramus who can't summarize an article without shooting off his biggoted mouth, has any place in the medical field. Before a firing squad, fine. But all bigots need to first prove if they can read properly, on their own merit. I know people who are on this post....(one who goes by the very appropriate name Buckhippo) who most likely got in because other bigots were the gatekeepers keeping people of color out (even though Buckhippo & his cohorts probably never had to show proof of their GPA's & MCAT scores). They were strong bigots and are still repeating their bigotry centuries later. People need to stop seeing race and trying to benefit off of the race card once they assume they've got it made, and then we can truly move past racism. If you can't prove that you have a grain of human compassion in that white body and black heart after getting a free pass based on your skin color, just stop taking the green dollars from the black people that you so vehemently despise. And let's not forget the large number of Asian immigrants who excel at education even though its not even their first language, that you also try to treat as second class citizens whenever it suits you. So, stop playing the race card and just do what every human being should do: treat others as you yourself would like to be treated. And that Buckhippo, is going to take some S-E-R-I-O-U-S study on your part! Chances of your success in that field....slim to none!

      February 10, 2011 at 09:30 | Report abuse |
    • verite

      How hypocritcal of you, Buckhippo. What makes you think that these programs are helping "underserving" minorities. You seem to think that only Asians (who cannot speak English) deserve like you to be doctors. There is no such thing as hard workign when the playing field is to your advantage and those of Asian, Indian background. YOu want only the change at greater things for yourselves. Perhaps if education was equal in this country and not so based oriented and inferior for most because you PRIVILEDGE BRATS ONLY WANT IT ALL...
      FORTUNATELY THIS TOO WILL CHANGE. HAVE A GOOD LIFE HYPOCRITICAL AND SELFISH PHYSIICIAN.

      February 13, 2011 at 20:50 | Report abuse |
    • Katherine Ellington

      Meritocracy does not produce diversity and the profession of medicine does not address effectively disparities because those at the table don't adequately reflect the changing in demographics across America. To be clear, according to the AAMC more than 80% of medical students today come from the top tier income quartiles of socio-economic and regardless of wealth, yet system that trains physicians is financed with public funds. It is a privilege to practice medicine. More doors need to open and it's time for a change. Thanks to Dr. Holden for holding on to her dream and for holding the door open for others.

      February 16, 2011 at 08:10 | Report abuse |
  2. sam smith

    there are all kinds of different jobs in the medical field, not just being a dr. and going to medical school is not required.
    I have a friend that is a medical technologist ; this person is in the lab looking at blood values, etc.

    February 8, 2011 at 13:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Donna

    I could not tell from this article-has she given up practicing medicine?

    February 8, 2011 at 15:01 | Report abuse | Reply
    • GA

      No she still practices and has the mentoring program for college children. Great program where the children get the exposure to medicine in one of the busiest hospital.

      February 11, 2011 at 10:41 | Report abuse |
    • valerie

      dr holden is still practing medicine, because i worked with her i n the e.r. she is a attending \in the e.r. so you need to get your facts , before you put foot in mouth

      February 14, 2011 at 12:08 | Report abuse |
  4. doctor's wife

    I am shocked at all the racist comments on both sides. This woman is exemplary in her efforts to help others. She spends her time encouraging others to challenge themselves and obtain a higher education. There was no mention of lowering standards for people of different races. There are good and bad doctors of every race. Race doesn't have anything to do with being skilled or effective. I am inspired by her desire to help others.

    February 9, 2011 at 10:48 | Report abuse | Reply
    • carole

      Thank you for such a good post here. I often wonder why people assume it is ok be so harsh, and display such ignorance. Your comment was pleaseant to read and a breath of fresh air among many comments that just stink. Here is a wonderful story about the true spirit of human nature and I applaud this Dr. and the organization she founded.

      February 9, 2011 at 13:28 | Report abuse |
    • CincyCat29

      Interesting. The author does not mention the race of the woman on the train with the 6th grade son, but most people here have assumed she was black.

      Also, nowhere in the article does it state that the Mentoring in Medicine program is strictly for black children. It is plainly described as an organization that exists to provide mentors for elementary through college by "helps students through academic enrichment, leadership development, community service and mentoring to create a strategic plan for successful attainment of their dream."

      It didn't say "BLACK students".

      The organization has over 650 volunteers. It doesn't say "BLACK volunteers".

      It so happens that this Doctor lives and practices in an area with a predominantly black population, and the author wrote ONE sentence with (true) statistics about how many people of color (not just "black" people) are in medicine versus white people, but other than that, there is absolutely ZERO mention of race at all!

      I'm more and more convinced that people will "see" what they are looking for. Whether or not it is there.

      Oh, and I'm bi-racial. There. Does that make me a "racist", too?

      February 11, 2011 at 12:19 | Report abuse |
    • CincyCat29

      I meant for my comment to be stand-alone, but this form put it as a reply.

      I actually AGREE with the original post on this thread.

      Sorry for any confusion.

      February 11, 2011 at 12:20 | Report abuse |
  5. Aclaire

    All, I recommended this subject and story and I know the lovely Dr. Lynne Holden, who is still practicing medicine. This is about giving excellent students from diverse backgrounds the opportunities through guided encouragement and knowledge - through mentoring - to realize their dreams to become physicians: to enter medicine in order to help others. It's really quite simple. You can check out medicalmentor.org for more info.

    February 9, 2011 at 10:55 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. LJC

    there is no mention of affirmative action or lower standards anywhere in this article. This piece was done to get the word out about a great Physician and the great opportunity that is out there for minority students. It is appalling that this piece has brought up and out such negative tones in so many of you.

    there is a difference in the educational system between the have and the have not population, and that goes for any race of people. There is even a difference in educational standards from state to state. That therefore should be taken in consideration when these students apply to medical school. A standardize test should not be the determining factor in what makes a good physician or not. A good physician is one that understands the culture, language and psychology of the people it is serving. Studies have shown time and time again that when patients have physicians that look like them they tend follow physicians orders and therefore are healthy.

    All Dr. Holden is doing is trying to prepare and give those students an opportunity to decide if this is career for them. If so them gives the resources, support and network they will need to succeed in that process. I commend Dr. Holden for her efforts and vision to see the whole picture.

    Be one teach one is all I can say.

    February 10, 2011 at 08:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Susheian

    As a pre-medical student who has personally benefited from Dr. Holden's program, Mentoring in Medicine,I must say that she has served as a beacon of hope and inspiration to hard working students like me, who have a dream! Her program has given me mentorship, support and practical experience in the medical field that the pre-medical program at my school has failed to provide. Thank you Dr. Holden for it is because of you why I am on my way to becoming a great Emergency Physician.

    February 10, 2011 at 21:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. GA

    Susheian, glad to hear of your positive experience and good luck with your studies. Way to go Dr. Holden. We need more productive and positive people in the world like yourself. Take a page from her book Buckhippo, and God be with you.

    February 11, 2011 at 10:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  9. CincyCat29

    Trying again... I didn't mean for this comment to be a "Reply", but for it to be its own statement.

    Interesting. The author does not mention the race of the woman on the train with the 6th grade son, but most people here have assumed she was black.

    Also, nowhere in the article does it state that the Mentoring in Medicine program is strictly for black children. It is plainly described as an organization that exists to provide mentors for elementary through college by "helps students through academic enrichment, leadership development, community service and mentoring to create a strategic plan for successful attainment of their dream."

    It didn't say "BLACK students".

    The organization has over 650 volunteers. It doesn't say "BLACK volunteers".

    It so happens that this Doctor lives and practices in an area with a predominantly black population, and the author wrote ONE sentence with (true) statistics about how many people of color (not just "black" people) are in medicine versus white people, but other than that, there is absolutely ZERO mention of race at all!

    I'm more and more convinced that people will "see" what they are looking for. Whether or not it is there.

    Oh, and I'm bi-racial. There. Does that make me a "racist", too?

    February 11, 2011 at 12:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. sbnyc

    emergency med? pic a real specialty...

    February 11, 2011 at 14:46 | Report abuse | Reply
    • KTRN

      how about spelling correctly?

      February 12, 2011 at 12:43 | Report abuse |
  11. Dr Bill Toth

    Being a Physician is a GREAT and noble profession and a less than great business. Live With Intention, DrBillToth.com/blog

    February 12, 2011 at 06:42 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. Carlton

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    February 12, 2011 at 10:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  13. KAJD

    This was a great, uplifting article to read...we need more positive stuff in the news! Dr. Holden is an inspiration!

    February 12, 2011 at 11:25 | Report abuse | Reply
    • verite

      Yes she is. If more people were as caring we would have less kids hanging on the streets with no dreams, no inspiration. most people still believe certain things are only for them because of their daddy and their daddy's connection. you know the phrase, "my dad was a doctor, my uncle, etc." The hidden message is not how the dad or the uncle was mentored... no... it is only for the old club (asians, indians, and certainly whites).

      February 13, 2011 at 20:56 | Report abuse |
  14. A

    Like Susheian, I also know Dr. Holden and I have benefited from Mentoring in Medicine (MIM) as well. I am not the first to attend college in my family but I am the first to pursue a career in medicine. I have fantastic grades, glowing letters of recommendation and MIM has helped me navigate the demanding and challenging process of becoming a medical student. Because of Dr. Holden I was able to prepare well in advance for every challenge I encountered. MIM is now like a second family to me, and Dr. Holden, a mother. There are also students in this program from all ethnic and racial backgrounds. MIM is not just for minorities - it is for everyone with a dream of a career in a health profession!

    February 12, 2011 at 16:26 | Report abuse | Reply
  15. joan

    Many thanks to Dr. Lynne Holden for mentoring for so many. We truly need more in all fields of education. God Bless you, Dr. Lynne.

    February 13, 2011 at 09:56 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. SLT-A65

    Високо ценим всеки един от информационната прочетете тук. Аз със сигурност ще се разпространи фраза за вашия сайт с хората. Наздраве.

    November 16, 2011 at 16:18 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. Proviron 25 mg

    well worth the read. I found thechart.blogs.cnn.com very informative as I have been researching a lot lately on practical matters such as you talk about…

    December 1, 2011 at 14:52 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. winstrol

    Hay algunos puntos interesantes en el tiempo en este artículo, pero no sé si veo a todos ellos el centro al corazón. Hay una cierta validez, pero voy a tener opinión suspenso hasta que me veo en él más. Buen artículo, gracias y queremos más! Añadido thechart.blogs.cnn.com a FeedBurner, así

    December 5, 2011 at 12:15 | Report abuse | Reply

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