Mayo Clinic neuro-oncologist is shaping the next generation of physicians
Mayo Clinic cares for patients from all backgrounds who turn to us for hope and healing. Yet systemic racism, discrimination and unconscious bias have had an outsized effect on groups that have been underserved in health care.
In July 2020, Mayo Clinic announced a $100 million commitment to eliminate racism and advance equity and inclusivity over the next decade.
This Black History Month, Mayo Clinic Magazine is highlighting the work of physicians who are working to improve diversity and health equity at Mayo Clinic and beyond.
This article originally appeared on the Mayo Clinic News Network website. Learn more at newsnetwork.mayoclinic.org.
As a neuro-oncologist at Mayo Clinic, Alyx B. Porter, M.D., is part of an interdisciplinary team that treats the most complex and serious cancers of the brain and nervous system.
She says she is only one of three Black women practicing neuro-oncology in the United States.
"If you look at the latest census data for African Americans, we're at around 13% of the U.S. population, but only 5% of the physician workforce. Hispanic or Latino populations measuring around 18 to 20% — yet only 8% of the workforce. And so there are certain groups that are underrepresented compared to what the demographic looks like," Dr. Porter says.
Research has shown that underrepresentation in race and ethnicity among the physician workforce leads to health disparities and less-than-optimal patient health outcomes. Mayo Clinic is focused on closing that gap.
"Mayo Clinic is devoted to eradicating racism and promoting health equity. In 2020, they earmarked $100 million as a commitment against racism. And so I see the investment time and time again, and ensuring that we're part of the change that we all wish to see," Dr. Porter says.
Inspiring future physicians
Dr. Porter leads a nonprofit organization she founded called ElevateMeD, with her husband, Gregory L. Umphrey, M.D.
ElevateMed's vision is to inspire and support future generations of physicians from historically underrepresented backgrounds, with scholarships, mentorship, leadership development and financial wellness education.
"It is personal. This was a gap that we both had in our medical school and early career matriculation. And so really, we’ve aimed to fill that gap with what we wish we'd had," she says.
Ewoma Ogbaudu is an ElevateMed scholarship recipient. He attends the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine. His goal of becoming a doctor stems from his own upbringing in an underserved community.
“That really sparked something in me to say there's so much more that I can do to impact people from communities like where I'm from and really make a difference in their health and their health outcomes," says Ogbaudu.
Making a difference. It's a commitment inspired by the greatest leaders of our past, present and future.
"I'm hoping that we'll start to see health disparities eradicated and we'll stop seeing differences in survival just based on your race and ethnicity,” Dr. Porter says. “That's the big dream, that's the big goal. But we have so much work to do before we get there."