CWRU School of Medicine Student, Tamia Potter, Is Making History and She Has the Yearbook Testimonies to Prove It

Potter Will Be Vanderbilt University Medical Center’s First Black Female Neurosurgery Resident 

This article is a part of our CTSC Special Feature series. 

According to the National Institutes of Health, less than 4% of all neurosurgeons in the United States are Black or African American. When accounting for both race and sex, as of September 3, 2020, there were 33 neurosurgeons in the United States who identified as both Black or African American and female. Tamia Potter, Case Western Reserve University, medical student and soon-to-be history maker at Vanderbilt University Medical Center as the first Black female neurosurgery resident in the school’s 148 year history, is moving the needle on that figure. 

Potter was destined to achieve her goal of becoming a neurosurgeon–she has yearbook testimonies from peers to prove it. The daughter of a mom who is a nurse and father in the military, Potter’s mother’s pedigree as a nurse educator afforded her early experiences to play with anatomy models and explore her interest in the human body.

Tamia Potter in blue scrubs

Despite having a strong support system, Potter explained, “As a first time medical student, my family didn’t realize what is required to go to medical school–from costs to commitment.” Potter worked two-to-three jobs to cover boards, rotations, and ensure that basic necessities were taken care of. 

As if the financial toll was not enough, Potter shared, “There’s a hidden curriculum that people don’t talk about. You wouldn’t know to ask certain questions. There is a right and wrong way of doing things.” 

Potter’s research experience was primarily on skull base tumors, neurosurgical trauma, and pediatrics. She is most interested in exploring different ways to treat post-operative pain from craniotomies–finding drugs that are not in the opioid drug class to minimize adverse outcomes. 

When asked about disparities in neurosurgery, Potter said that the same disparities we see in medicine, generally, are prevalent in neurosurgery. “Presentations for various diseases and conditions look different on Black and Brown people. There are cultural and mental aspects that need to be addressed. Many clinicians mistake neurological disorders in people of color as psychiatric or psychological issues that are not rooted in physiology,” Potter declared.

Tamia Potter pictured with emeritus deans Drs. Robert L. Haynie (CWRU SOM 1978) and Edweana Robinson (CWRU SOM 1981)
Potter celebrating her match with emeritus deans of Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine, Drs. Robert L. Haynie (CWRU SOM 1978) and Edweana Robinson (CWRU SOM 1981).

Potter is most looking forward to studying exactly what she wants to–neurosurgery–in residency. She’d like to thank all of her mentors and people who have helped her get to this point with immense gratitude extended to Drs. Pablo Recinos, Varun Kshettry, Krystal Tomei, and Tiffany Hodges.