Duke surgeon works to make the medical field more diverse
DURHAM, NC (WNCN) — Dr. Trinitia Cannon is working to diversify the medical field. His journey to becoming a surgeon was strewn with pitfalls. She wants to break down these barriers for young people of color who dream of working in medicine.
In the operating room at Duke, Cannon performs complex surgeries on patients with cancers of the head and neck, but the links that actually go beyond the OR.
“I think my patients really trust me and that means a lot,” she said.
Cannon can understand when patients are struggling or facing challenges that seem impossible.
“I was born to two alcoholic parents,” she said. “My father died at 47 of pancreatic cancer.”
When she became pregnant at 15, she was told to give up on her dreams for the future.
“People were basically telling me at the time that I had ruined my life. I would be nothing,” she recalls.
Despite what she heard from others, she did not give up. She got a job at McDonald’s and paid for a babysitter so she could graduate from high school.
She relied on public assistance when her son was young.
“It helped feed my family at the time, provided me with rent, housing and a roof over my head,” she said, adding that she felt the sting of the judgment, even as she worked for a medical career.
“People who looked at you when you walked into the welfare office. I looked at you like you were a second-class citizen,” she recalled. “When I applied to nursing school, I was turned down. I was told I didn’t have a big enough support system.
She said it was “just one more person putting one more obstacle in my way and another way for me to show them they were wrong”.
Cannon attended community college and applied to nursing school again. This time she has. She worked as a nurse while continuing to pursue her dream of medical school, but throughout her studies she faced challenges many students did not.
“Most medical students do a lot of volunteer work. They really do a lot in the community, they write articles, they post and I was a mom,” she said.
Without the same connections or opportunities as many medical students, she had to fight back.
Now she is living her dream of working as a surgeon at Duke.
“I love what I do every lonely day,” she said.
She has also become an advocate for diversity in medicine in hopes that other young people of color won’t face the same barriers she faced early in her medical career.
“As a young black kid growing up in a small town, I had never seen a doctor who looked like me,” she said.
When it comes to providing all patients with the care they need, she said diversity can really save lives, but start as early as possible to break down barriers and increase opportunities. .
As this generation of children dreams of their future, they hope that their success can serve as an example.
“Yes, I’m black. Yes, I’m female,” she said. “Yes, I’m a surgeon, and it’s doable.”