Black History Month: Spotlight on Lorna Dove, MD
Born and raised in a small North Carolina town, Lorna Dove, MD, set her mind on becoming a doctor at an early age. After completing medical school at VP&S (Class of 1990), she gravitated to internal medicine and critical care during residency and completed a fellowship in gastroenterology.
Dove now manages patients with liver disease and is the medical director for the Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation at CUIMC. The following transcript has been edited for brevity and clarity.
What inspired you to become a doctor?
I don't know what inspired me to go into medicine. People ask that question a lot, but I don't really remember not thinking I was going to be a doctor. Since I was very young, in elementary school, that was what I thought I was going to do. There was no one telling me that I needed to become a doctor. But in retrospect, my oldest siblings tell me that's what my father had originally wanted to do, but he didn't have the resources.
I'm from a relatively big family of five siblings, and each of us has done our own thing. One of my siblings is a lawyer, one is an educator, one is in social work, but we all motivate each other to excel in whatever we're doing. That was the philosophy of my parents; they were all about working hard.
Was it hard to pursue that dream as an African American woman growing up in rural North Carolina?
When you look back at it, I think that there were probably more challenges than I recognized at the time. If you're in a small community, you don't necessarily know that someone in New York City has 15 billion more opportunities than you, because you just don't have that exposure. So, in some ways that unawareness helps you stay motivated, because you don't realize how far down you're starting.
I think that as a provider of color, or even as a medical student, as soon as you walk into the room you have a barrier. There are all sorts of social and cultural barriers that come when people are interacting with people of different cultures and races, the history of discrimination and segregation, and people's attitudes about what a doctor should look like. But I think that when you're a black person that just becomes a part of your life. I don't think that necessarily my experience in medicine is very different than a black person in any environment where they are a minority.
What do you like best about your job at Columbia?
Liver transplant gave me this opportunity to have a diversity of patients and take care of people who are really critically ill. And in transplant you get to follow people over time.
A liver transplant is like a marriage, it's a bond between the provider and the patient.