BMN Blog

APR 07
My Inspiration

When I was four years old, Dr. Jacqueline Stewart, a pediatrician, inspired me to want to be a doctor. Born as a preemie, I battled asthma and bronchitis in my early years. My mother would take me to appointment after appointment with various symptoms. Coughing, wheezing, congestion, and chest pain plagued my little body.

At that young age, I didn’t understand much. I knew I was sick, and I wanted to get better. Dr. Stewart’s office became my haven. I would arrive at her office in distress. Her staff would whisk me to the back, do their evaluation and call her to the room. She would arrive, often humming which was calming to me (I hum sometimes with my patients now). She would talk to my mom, listen to my little lungs, and leave the room. A nurse would come in and give me what I now know is a nebulizer treatment, but at the time I thought was magical smoke medicine. Pretty soon, the wheezing and chest tightness would go away, my cough would ease, and relief would set in. Dr. Stewart would walk back into the room to make sure I had improved. Then, after she cured me, she would do something that probably left an even bigger mark on me. She would give me candy. I thought, “how cool. You get to make people feel better and give them candy. I want to do that when I grow up.” It stuck. I never gave up on my dream.

As a teenager growing up in Birmingham, I noticed many health disparities in my own family and community. I knew that bad health outcomes such as premature birth (my sister and I were preemies and we lost another sister, Lolita who was also a preemie), infant and maternal mortality, among other conditions, were disproportionately affecting my family, church members, and neighbors. Although I did not understand these disparities as deeply as I do now, I knew that something was not right and that I would pledge myself to do something about it. Prescription for Better Living aims to address this via community outreach and education.

There were many roadblocks along the way. One of the biggest challenges that I encountered was a knowledge gap. I knew that I wanted to go to medical school, but I didn’t know how to get there. Fortunately, I was blessed to be accepted to Morehouse College. The Office of Health Professions at Morehouse was led by the late Dean Thomas Blocker. Dean Blocker mentored hundreds of men of color and was almost single-handedly responsible for hundreds of black men getting into medical and dental school. He had the road map and we followed.

Prescription for Better Living is the crystallization of my dream. Just as I believe that I minister to my patients with my care every day, Prescription for Better Living is another component of that ministry. Prescription for Better Living was created to perpetuate what Dr. Stewart and Dean Blocker did for me. Through our work, we will inspire individuals who have a dream but cannot realize the possibilities. We will help them see that what seems impossible is very possible, and what appears to be intangible is at their fingertips. I live my personal and professional life with gratitude for those who inspired, encouraged, and motivated me. This is me paying it forward.  

Hernando Carter, MD practices internal medicine with the University of Alabama at Birmingham.

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