An inside look at how she was inspired to overcome adversity, no matter what.
The journey to becoming a doctor is not an easy road. Navigating the countless bumps and turns along the way can be difficult, to say the least, says Dr. Diana L. Scott, obstetrician and gynecologist with Jefferson Health – New Jersey. For her, it was the work ethic and values instilled in her by her parents that helped her persevere.
Dr. Scott recalls a visit to a nursing home when she was just 7 years old. Her mother, Annabelle, was working there as a nurses’ aide at the time, while taking night courses to earn her degree. Dr. Scott wandered the home, and she watched in admiration as the staff interacted with the residents.
“They paid full attention to them. You could tell they truly cared for the residents, and there was this overwhelming sense of gratitude that shown through,” said Dr. Scott. “This sparked in me a desire to help others. I couldn’t articulate that as a child, but when I reflect on it, that was my initial inspiration.”
Dr. Scott wanted to be exactly like her mother. Annabelle was an avid caretaker and nurturer, and she was skilled in her field. When Dr. Scott told her father, Dale, of her aspiration to enter health care, he encouraged her to become a doctor for the capability of practicing medicine and surgery at the same time.
When Dale was young, he wanted to become a lawyer; but when he shared this with his teacher, he was told he could never do it because he was black.
“Can you imagine being told this from someone you trust, especially as a child?” Dr. Scott asked. “He was belittled. His dreams were crushed. He never wanted me to feel the same way.”
While Dale never practiced law, he proudly served in the U.S. Air Force for 10 years and worked for the federal government as a mailman for 30. He rarely took a day off or called out sick, which is something Dr. Scott will always remember.
“My parents are my heroes,” she continued. “They taught me how to function in the real world. They taught me that charity begins at home, and they taught me to treat everyone with basic human decency. Your children don’t always listen to you, but they do watch every move you make. Your behaviors mold them.”
Fortunately, Dr. Scott always had positive affirmations coming from her loved ones that gave her the endurance and confidence she needed to make, “I want to become a doctor,” into a reality.
It was near the end of her undergraduate career, Dr. Scott remembers, that she was told she couldn’t do it. She had visited a dean to help her apply for medical school. “For whatever reason – it may have been because it was late in the fall semester – she told me to become a waitress and try again next year. That was that. It brought me right back to my father’s story, and I went back to my dorm in tears.”
Dr. Scott did work as a waitress as a young adult, but it was not her goal at the time to go back to her part-time job; she was determined to pursue medicine. Fortunately, a different secretary on campus assisted her and wrote a wonderful letter of recommendation.
“How people make you feel is what you remember,” Dr. Scott said.
Shortly after this hurdle, Dr. Scott was accepted into Rutgers New Jersey Medical School (formerly The University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey), but it wasn’t smooth sailing from there. The overwhelming amount of studying is just what people see at face value, but being a med student also comes with a lot of sacrifices.
You miss holidays, birthday parties, and other major life events. Sometimes, as residents, we’d pull 36-hour shifts. It’s mentally and physically taxing, but I don’t regret one minute of it. –Dr. Scott
Dr. Scott always knew she wanted to go into women’s health or pediatrics; she wanted to nurture and care for people, but she didn’t want to see children seriously ill. Women’s health seemed like the perfect fit, with a relatively healthy patient population, a blend of medicine and surgery, and the opportunity to educate people.
She says the most fulfilling part of being an OB/GYN – even after 20 years of practicing – is exactly what you’d expect: delivering babies.
“It’s just so exciting and rewarding,” she said. “I’ve delivered thousands of babies in my career, but the sheer joy and love you get to share with the family will never get old.”
Whether your dream is to become a doctor, nurse, physician assistant, speech therapist, or anything else, always remember to never give up, no matter how rough the road gets, says Dr. Scott.
Unfortunately, you may watch other people be afforded more opportunities; do what you can to change that, she urges. It doesn’t make you “less than.”
“Put in all the time and effort you can and know that there are people and resources available to help,” said Dr. Scott. “More than anything else, know that nobody but you can determine your destiny.”