As we approach the end of Black History Month, PAGNY is proud to feature a rising physician leader, Dr. Selwena R. Brewster. Dr. Brewster holds both an MD and MBA, and provides her medical and operational expertise to NYC Health + Hospitals/Kings County as the Associate Chief Medical Officer.
We sat down with Dr. Brewster to learn more about her perspective as a Black medical provider. Here’s what she had to say:
PAGNY: Why is Black representation in medical professionals important?
Dr. Brewster: There’re so many reasons why Black representation in the medical profession is important. It is imperative that we have a seat at the table in order to be advocates for the inequities that Black patients face.
PAGNY: Which Black historical figures inspire you and your work the most?
Dr. Brewster: First, I would have to say my mother. She is a registered [nurse], now retired, who grew within the hospital administration of NYC Health + Hospitals. She is the first person who exposed me to the rewards of working within an organization such as ours. She had the warmest bedside manner combined with the most tenacious and innovative administrative traits.
Secondly, Dr. Rebecca Lee Crumpler, who is the first Black woman in the United States to receive her MD. She earned that distinction at the New England Female Medical College in Boston, Massachusetts, where she was the institution’s only Black graduate. She faced many obstacles, yet she pushed on. I am a dual trained physician in Emergency and Internal Medicine with an Executive MBA in hospital administration. The obstacles I face today do not come close to what my mother nor Dr. Crumpler faced. They are trailblazers and I use their legacy as my driving force to push on.
PAGNY: What advice would you give to the next generation of Black medical providers?
Dr. Brewster: In the medical field, only 5% of physicians are Black. This leaves a large gap in health care for Black people. The advice that I would give the next generation of Black medical providers who wish to pursue a career in medicine is to push on. I would simply advise, if you dream it, you can do it. The medical profession is one of the most gratifying careers.
One of the satisfying aspects of being a Black medical provider is being able to have a lens that some might not have. This lens allows Black medical providers to proactively identify health care inequities that unfortunately our medical profession still holds. Increased diversity in medicine with more Black doctors means more lives are saved — and the racial health gap shrinks.
PAGNY: Why PAGNY? Why did you choose to work at PAGNY and Kings County Hospital?
Everyone who knows me knows I’m truly a fan of PAGNY and what this multi-disciplinary group represents. The infrastructure was built to allow physicians like myself to grow within. As a physician, I am in alignment with PAGNY’s mission, which is to provide accountable, responsible quality care with the highest degree of sensitivity, to the needs of our multicultural population throughout the New York Community!
We are inspired by Dr. Brewster and her family’s history of service to the historically-underserved communities of color in New York City. Her commitment to tackling health care inequities reflects our own. We are proud to support young leaders like Dr. Brewster and are eager to witness the institutional change they will come to make.