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Anesthesiology resident Isaiah Coleman, M.D., prepares to do ultrasound of a patient's spine for epidural injection.

February 16, 2024

By Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science staff

This Black History Month we celebrate the vibrant contributions of African American and Black individuals to our communities. Throughout the month, we'll share stories of Mayo Clinic learners, faculty, and staff with African American or Black family backgrounds.

Read reflections from faculty, staff, and learners across Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.

Adam Milam, M.D., Ph.D.Adam Milam, M.D., Ph.D.

Adam Milam, M.D., Ph.D. is a Senior Associate Consultant in the Division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Anesthesiology at Mayo Clinic. As an Associate Professor of Anesthesiology at Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine and with a joint appointment in Quantitative Health Sciences, he's dedicated to excellence in patient care and medical education. Dr. Milam also serves as the Enterprise Medical Director at the Office of Health Equity and Inclusion, leading initiatives to promote diversity and inclusivity in healthcare.

To aspiring Black physicians and scientists, he encourages them, "Find sponsors and mentors that can help you navigate academic medicine! Developing and growing in academic medicine is challenging and often slow. Mentors can help avoid pitfalls and over-committing. I have five mentors, and I meet with them all monthly; I discuss any major decisions as well as barriers with my mentors. My mentors have been extremely helpful in helping me start my career at Mayo Clinic; they have also been sponsors, providing opportunities for me both internal and external to Mayo Clinic." "My second piece of advice," Dr. Milam continues, "would be to know that you are good enough. There is a lot of focus on underrepresented physicians and scientists as we work to diversify medicine. There are always conversations conflating diversity with mediocrity and this can contribute to imposter syndrome. Please know that you belong! Medicine desperately needs you! Medical professionals and scientists are not representative of our country, nor in the communities we serve. You are the FUTURE of medicine and will change the healthcare landscape in this country and across the globe. I will also add — there is light at the end of the seemingly endless tunnel. My days are not easy but I love my career and I know I am making an impact so hang in there."

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Sunny BoboriSunny Bobori

Sunny Bobori is a first-year M.D.-Ph.D. student at Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. Originally from Ikom, Nigeria, Sunny embarked on a journey to the U.S. with a dream of receiving top-tier medical education. Graduating with a B.S. in Biochemistry from Illinois College, Sunny then joined Mayo Clinic's post-baccalaureate research education program (PREP). There, as a PREP scholar under Clifford Folmes, Ph.D., Sunny delved into the study of metabolism's impact on cellular differentiation and regeneration. Now, having transitioned into the Mayo Clinic M.D.-Ph.D. program after completing two years in PREP, Sunny continues to pursue a passion for medical research and education.

"Some of the earliest influences pushing me to pursue this academic journey were from my childhood, Bobori reflects. "For example, my parents instilled in me a love for learning. I think they believed that formal education was the greatest equalizer between those with means and those without — that with a good education anyone can accomplish great things. So, as a young high school student in Nigeria, I decided that I would do everything I could to get the very best education. Around this same time, I learned about coronary arteries and how they feed the heart with blood. I became fascinated by the complexities of the human body. This fascination birthed in me a love for medical science, a love that would grow into a passion for saving lives by pushing the boundaries of medicine and bringing new therapies to the clinic."

"Speaking to my future goals, I am interested in cardiology. I also love regenerative medicine, a branch of medicine that is focused on healing patients and reversing chronic diseases. I envisage myself working as a physician-scientist to discover new, regenerative strategies for treating chronic cardiovascular diseases in patients around the world. Additionally, a personal goal of mine is to give back to my friends and family who have supported me all the way so far. I also want to pay it forward by mentoring and assisting young, talented individuals who are also passionate about impacting healthcare."

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Jay NixJay Nix

Jay Nix is a first-generation Black and Hispanic second-year medical student at Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine's Arizona campus.

"I grew up in the Killeen/Fort Hood area of Texas, living with my mom, dad, and brother," Nix shares. "As a child and adolescent, I was exposed to the fallout of substance abuse, poverty, and mental health disorders through both my community and my extended family. As I progressed in my education, I gained the tools and perspectives to label what I’d experienced as abnormal despite it being all I’d ever known. I began to see commonalities between communities of color through my experience — intergenerational trauma, maladaptive coping, and their subsequent cyclical relationship thereafter."

"The first actual patient I interviewed during medical school — an uninsured, Hispanic single mother of three seen for an unrelated chief complaint of a headache — vehemently denied the possibility of being depressed when asked generalized questions about mental health. Yet, when given a PHQ-9 depression screening, her score was 21/27, indicating severe illness, which was a total surprise to her. In her, I saw myself, my family, and my friends. Our stories are all different, but the mental health struggles that plague communities of color — and the adjacent unwillingness to discuss them — are universal and silent. The greatest challenge I face as a medical student from an African American background is having been blessed with the insight to understand this fact but not the infinite time and power it would require to tackle it fully."

"Normalizing conversations concerning mental health in this demographic is the first step in systematically influencing positive outcomes," Nix concludes.

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Isaiah Coleman, M.D.Isaiah Coleman, M.D.

Dr. Coleman is a resident in the Anesthesiology Residency at Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education in Jacksonville, Florida.

"A standout moment in my career," Dr. Coleman shares, "was serving as a resident delegate for The Florida Society of Anesthesiologists during Legislative Day at the State Capitol. I spoke with legislators about new policies affecting our patients, and I met with anesthesiologists in Florida who have been championing the physician-led, patient-centered model."

Dr. Coleman reflects, "To aspiring black physicians — we need you, you are valued, and stay encouraged!"

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About the Office for Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

At Mayo Clinic, the Office for Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion recognizes that the contributions of every individual is essential to success in patient care, education, and research. The office strives to maintain and further develop a learning environment in which individual differences are valued, allowing all staff and students to achieve their fullest potential.

To read and learn more about recognizing Black History Month at Mayo Clinic, visit the Office for Education Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion’s social media channels — FacebookLinkedIn, and Instagram.