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Healthcare Interview Series -Dr. Bethany Strong (Trauma Surgeon)

To continue our interview series highlighting minority professionals in the healthcare field, we have Dr. Bethany Strong.

Dr. Bethany Strong completed her medical education at Harvard Medical School in 2012 followed by a General Surgery residency at Brigham and Women’s Hospital finishing in 2019.

During her surgical residency research years, she additionally completed a Preventive Medicine residency at the University of Maryland, Baltimore where she focused on injury and violence prevention through work at the Maryland Department of Health, Baltimore City Office of the Chief Medical Examiner, and advocacy on Capitol Hill. She is currently a second-year trauma surgery fellow and clinical instructor at the University of Maryland Medical Center.

Summarized Interview Transcript

Could you discuss your background and what encouraged you to pursue medicine?

Dr. Strong's reply:

"I'm originally from Oklahoma. My dad is a preacher and my mom is a teacher. My dad was also a chaplain at the VA, so I spent a lot of time there growing up there after school. It was a good environment and I also enjoyed science, so it drew me into medicine."

Could you discuss your journey to medical school, including any obstacles you overcame?

Dr. Strong's reply:

"I made sure I had a group of friends around me who were doing similar things, and understood what I was going through. In terms of the journey to medical school, coursework is the first thing. Make sure you get those prerequisites done. If you're outside of the sciences, but still pre med, make sure you are on top of any coursework and that you get to know the science faculty. One of the toughest challenges was the MCAT and getting through it. I took a review course with the Princeton review."

Can you discuss your undergraduate experiences?

Dr. Strong's reply:

“When I went to medical school, I knew that I was interested in disparities in health, and how I would craft that into a medical career. Make sure you have a good GPA, MCAT score, you participate in volunteering, and some type of research. I think your knowledge of those is what really stands out. For example, if you did a research project, know everything about it, not just what's in the abstract.”

"Do things that you are passionate about, and don't just check off the boxes.

Did you ever encounter imposter syndrome? Can you elaborate on your transition from an HBCU to a PWI.

Dr. Strong's reply:

"Harvard was relatively diverse, compared to some other institutions. Moving from Atlanta to Boston was more of a social transition. In terms of the classroom, I felt pretty comfortable. I felt like Spelman prepared me very well, in terms of the classes that we took. Imposter syndrome can continue throughout many processes. Sometimes you look around, and some people have so much confidence, and you wonder “wow, why don't I feel so sure about this?” We were raised to be humble, and while we're smart and intelligent there are still some things we need to learn.”

Dr. Strong, why did you choose to practice medicine in Baltimore?

Dr. Strong's reply:

“My mentor actually found a preventive health residency here in Baltimore. I did injury and violence prevention. Baltimore is, unfortunately, a relatively violent city. So there is a lot work that needs to be done with community violence prevention. Therefore, it fit very well with my personal interests and my family being here.”

What do you believe the medical field is lacking?

Dr. Strong's reply:

“It's hard to generalize the entire medical field, it might be more institutional. What I feel in general that can be lacking, is a more humanistic approach. We as physicians can traumatize patients, by diminishing their experiences. For example by saying “Oh you're really lucky” when this is actually the worst thing that has happened to them. We need to get the medical field to treat the acute illness, but how to get people to thrive after illness."

What impact do you believe you have as an African American Physician within your current specialty?

Dr. Strong's reply:

“I feel like people listen to me, and what I have to say about trauma informed care. I think I am definitely needed, and I can be an inspiration and be a voice to people who are above me, and also a comfort for the patients when they see me."

Seeing that Covid-19 is still prominent when you're away from work. How do you spend your time?

Dr. Strong's reply:

"It's a little boring, there's so much less to do. I've been getting a lot of door dash. My sister, niece, and brother and sister-in- law are here as well. I also like to take day trips, and be creative with my time.”

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Dr. Strong's reply:

“To stay focused, and keep your head down. There are a lot of distractions in this process, and if you get caught up in them you will lose your main goal.”

Summer Internship Opportunities mentioned

  • MARC U-Star

Summer biomedical research program allowing students the opportunity to gain research experience at the NIH.

Summer program dedicated to underrepresented minorities obtaining training and mentorship in research.

Amaya and Jordan: We appreciate you taking time out of your schedule to discuss your background and journey to becoming a physician with us. It is very motivating to see someone like us within the field we aspire to be a part of.

Once again, thank you for all you do as a frontline worker and we wish you the best in your future endeavors.


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