|A portrait of the surgeon Dr. Patricia L. Turner|
Dr. Turner, MD nee Patricia Lynne Turner was born in Maryland. Since her childhood, Dr. Turner knew that medicine was her thing. She had the confidence, the determination and the maturity to decide in an early age the career she would pursue. She told us in our interview: "In my earliest recollection of knowing about career options, in elementary school when I was about 6 year-old I wanted to be a surgeon". We asked her if she had mentors to look up to when she was a child: "I didn’t have specific inspirations from physicians. I didn’t have doctors in my family. However, I could say that my mother, as a science teacher was definitely an influence to pursue a career where we find math and other scientific related domains".
During our conversation, we wanted to know why Dr. Turner chose surgery over other specialities and what attracted her in this speciality. She expressed that she always was drawn to surgery since her childhood and this mindset never changed since then. “I wanted to be a surgeon since I was a child. I was always attracted to this speciality. I never had doubts and I never wanted to do anything beside surgery. It wasn’t appealing for me to be involved in other fields of medicine especially in those who have to deal with chronic care. I like the immediate gratification that this field provides when you solve the problem. As a surgeon, you help improve the quality of life of the patients”.
Dr. Turner is a general surgeon and assistant professor of surgery at the University of Maryland, School of Medicine. She is an associate program director for the General Surgery Residency Program at the University of Maryland Medical Centre. She serves as chair of the Surgical Caucus of the American Medical Association Young Physicians Section and is a member of the Editorial Board of Surgical News. Her academic interests include teaching and training paradigms for medical students and residents in open and laparoscopic surgery.
Dr. Turner received her medical degree at Bowman Gray School of Medicine, Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina and completed her surgical residency at Howard University Hospital. Throughout the time of her residency, she was a senior staff fellow at the National Institutes of Health, National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, Laboratory of Kidney and Electrolyte Metabolism. Dr. Turner’s fellowship training was in minimally invasive and laparoscopic surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center & Weill-Cornell University School of Medicine in New York.
Dr. Turner's clinical practice focuses on minimally invasive/laparoscopic, gastrointestinal and endocrine surgery. She has a diverse research background, including studying nitric oxide and the kidneys. In organized medicine, Dr. Turner has held the role of the resident on the general surgery RRC and was the resident member on the AMA Council on Scientific Affairs. Seeing that Dr. Turner has a considerable experience in her field, we asked her what was her best operation and why. “This is a tough question to answer”, she said. “I guess, I would say that every operation have a different scenario which is exciting. It happens that I have to deal with trauma patients, life and death situations. I enjoy to use new techniques (such as laparoscopy when we first tried it) which have not been used before. I like that kind of challenge and opportunity. There are specific patients which resonate with you”.
It is important to note that 76% of Baltimore’s African-American males (among 16 to 24 year-old young adults) drop out before graduation according to a 2001 study at the John Hopkins University. Given that Dr. Turner works in the state of Maryland, we wanted to know what kind of advise she has for those young people who want to succeed in any fields including medicine despite the hurdles. “Well, I think there is no reason that those individuals cannot pursue studies in medicine, law, engineering or anything else they wish to do. The statistics do not define the destiny of an individual. The numbers may seem discouraging but I think the best deterrent is to focus on academical excellence. In this respect, Dr. Turner thinks that excellency is the key to break the glass ceiling for minorities. “Superior grades are certainly the foundation for all of us”, she expressed. She added: “When you are among the best, there is always a place for you. Once the young people identified the area where they want to pursue their careers, they should find a mentor who succeeded in the field they chose. For medicine, with excellent grades and research experience or community services these factors will be great credentials to distinguished themselves. I can also say that one of the best ways to not be deterred by negative people that you can find in every level is to surround yourself with positive people who believe in you ”.
During the interview we asked Dr. Turner what is the best way (for students who want to pursue their studies in medicine) to seek the tutelage of prosectors or any other mentors in the medical field. She responded: “It depends on the level of the student. If you are in high school you can find a mentor who will guide you to be admitted in college. There are organizations which have set mentoring programs such as the American College of Surgeons. They take students from high schools and colleges to surgery meetings. The AMA have mentors who are guiding the future physicians with teachings and trainings. They have also a community service projects where they go to high schools or junior highs. I think many of the medical organizations intervene by providing mentorships”.
It is important to mention that the noteworthy Black Enterprise magazine (May 2008 issue) named Dr. Turner among the United States’ leading physicians. The "America's Leading Doctors" list of this magazine includes 140 top-rated African-American physicians and surgeons throughout the U.S. who are advancing medicine. Physicians selected for the list are judged to be leaders in their respective fields, to be superior in service and reputation, and have been confirmed as being certified in accordance with the American Board of Medical Specialities. The 2008 list placed special emphasis on those who have been involved in medical breakthroughs across specialities. The list's editors consulted leading medical associations, health care organizations, the nation's top medical schools, and other top-ranked physicians to compile this year's. We asked Dr. Turner what the Black Enterprise magazine’s recognition meant to her : « It is a great honour to be appreciated among my peers. It is a vessel to outdo myself even more ».
During our discussion, we wanted to know what advice Dr. Turner have for young people (regardless of their origins) who aspire to make their place in the medical world and who wish to become a successful surgeon: “Surgery is one of the most competitive fields in medicine so, I reiterate that excellence is a must in medical school for everybody. It is important also to develop a research expertise, experiences in volunteerism, community services and clinical practice. They have of course to excel in all those spheres. Strong letters of recommendation are imperative to be admitted in medical faculties. Regarding more specifically the surgery field, the physicians need to develop special technical skills. They need to create an excellent rapport with the patients to provide excellent care. They have to be great communicators. To finish they have to be life long learners to update themselves with all the novelties of their field”. In addition to all this, Dr. Turner thinks that physicians can also distinguish themselves by pursuing an academical career with a contribution in the scientific literature.
It is interesting to note that Dr. Turner is quite active in the American College of Surgeons, serving as a member of the Committee on Informatics, the Committee on Young Surgeons, the Committee on Patient Education, and the Task Force on Practice Based Learning and Improvement. It is also important to mention that Dr. Turner has been involved in other fields such as politics. She was an AMA member for 17 years, a member of the YPS for almost 5 years, and a governing council member for about two years. We asked her if she wishes to pursue in the future a political career. She expressed during our interview: “At this point of my life, I do not have necessarily political aspirations. However, I always keep my options open. I was fortunate enough in the past to work as a parliamentarian. I was a Speaker of the American Medical Association, Young Physicians Section. There are opportunities with the AMA to be a speaker for the entire House of Delegates of the AMA”.
At the end of the interview, we asked Dr. Turner what advice can she give to females professionals who have to manage their careers and their personal lives. “It is important to ally yourself with people who will be supportive: a partner, your family, your friends and so on. A strong support system is imperative. You have to be very efficient with your time especially for females who have responsibilities at home and at work. They have to be able to wear different hats successfully”.
To sum up, Dr. Turner contributes in the medical field in a significant manner. Based on her body of experience, we are anticipating her next contribution in the scientific field. Interview conducted by Patricia Turnier (founder of www.megadiversities.com) the 27th of April 2010.