CARBON HEALTH: First off, thank you for everything you do on a daily basis to ensure patients are getting the care they need during this global pandemic. It’s a difficult job and you are beyond appreciated.
BAYO CURRY-WINCHELL, MD, MS: The opportunity to provide care during the pandemic is very rewarding. Just knowing I have the ability to help diagnose, treat and provide mental support to my patients has been extremely satisfying and, at the same time, humbling. The pandemic has allowed me to provide care in ways (drive-thru testing and vaccinations) that have brought me closer to my community.
CH: What drew you to a career in medicine?
BCW: I had a very non-traditional journey into medicine. I started off as a psychology major working with special needs children. I found myself wanting to know more about the children I was working with and started learning more about a career as a physician assistant. Although being a physician assistant was a fulfilling career, I once again found myself wanting to further my education after three years. This led to medical school.
CH: Was there ever a moment when you doubted your path? What inspired you to keep going?
BCW: I did have a moment of doubt right after I resigned from my job as a physician assistant. I questioned if I had what it took to become a physician. Luckily, I had amazing support at home. My dad, a 97-year-old WWll, Korean, and Vietnam War veteran, and my husband (then boyfriend) provided me inspiration and support and gave me the confidence to take on the challenge.
CH: What was your first job after med school like? Any lessons or stories from this time that you take with you to this day?
BCW: My first job out of residency was with Saint Mary’s Urgent Care as a physician and as the medical director of the Urgent Care practice. When I took the job with Saint Mary’s, I had offers from all the local practices. I really took the time to look at all the different groups and tried to make a decision based on what I thought would be the best fit for me and where I could help people the most.
CH: What are some of the challenges you have faced as a woman in medicine?
BCW: It can be very challenging to be a female physician. Even little things like people refusing to call you “Doctor” can be frustrating hurdles when it comes to achieving equal footing. My goal is to continue to push forward, show the value women can bring to medicine, leadership, and business, and continue to push boundaries.
CH: What advice do you have for someone—especially young girls—interested in getting into medicine?
BCW: Please go for it; it’s an amazing and rewarding career. Work hard, think out of the box, and believe in yourself. For recent graduates, I recommend taking the time to evaluate potential employers and look at what they have to offer and what you can offer. Don’t rush it.
CH: Is there a particular woman who has been a source of inspiration for you throughout your career?
BCW: Rebecca Lee Crumpler. She was the first African American woman physician in the United States. Her story is inspirational and has been a motivating factor in my career. Unfortunately, only two percent of female physicians are black. We need more representation in the medical field, and I hope to see these numbers grow as time moves forward.
CH: How has the COVID-19 crisis changed the way you look at healthcare?
BCW: I knew there were changes that needed to be made in healthcare, but the pandemic has made these needs even more apparent. The physical and mental challenges patients are facing are growing every day, and the pressure on the medical community has been just as powerful. It is essential we all take time to focus on our physical and mental health during this period. This is something that has really stuck out to me. Providers and patients alike all need to be working together if we want to keep our healthcare system functioning.
CH: Do you have any inspiring stories about being a doctor during this pandemic?
BCW: I have organized and participated in several webinars on the topic of social determinants of health, BIPOC disparities, and vaccine hesitancy. I was recently inspired by a patient who stated she had listened to one of my webinars about the COVID vaccine. The information helped her decide to move forward with making a decision to receive the vaccine.
The medical community is trained to respond to medical emergencies and seeing the resiliency and commitment my co-workers have maintained during the pandemic is something that has really surprised me. One thing that continues to inspire me is just how dedicated and determined the medical community is, how hard they work, and how deeply they care to try and treat the sick.