Leading Is Serving

I was born in a rural town in South Carolina. When I was 4 years old, my mother, at the age of 43, died from heart failure. My oldest brother and his wife reared two of my siblings and me. They brought meaning to the phrase “it takes a village.”

That defining moment was the impetus for me to pursue a career in health care. I wanted to help save the lives of others’ loved ones.

When I was in high school, an administrator called me into his office. He told me I had a perfect GPA and could be the first black valedictorian in the history of my high school. He also told me our community was rooting for me. It was the first time I felt a sense of responsibility for a cause larger than myself. I emerged from his office enlightened and even more determined. We did it.

Upon graduation, I attended the University of Florida. I didn’t feel a strong community for minorities who wanted to pursue careers in health care; I decided to lean in. Along with a few close friends, we chartered a minority pre-health organization. Recently, I was reunited with the chapter president, who shared with me that it had won chapter of the year—over 25 years later. I’m a firm believer that your legacy is what you do for others.

After college, life happened. I had my oldest son and shortly thereafter lost a sister in a murder-suicide. I enrolled in pharmacy school at the Medical University of South Carolina as one of the few students with a child. I earned a PharmD and an MBA as a single mom. My community made it possible.

I got married two weeks before my pharmacy school graduation. Our second son, who was born with a heart defect, had open heart surgery at the age of three. I remember how powerless my husband and I felt and how we trusted our son’s care to the doctors and pharmacists. It was another defining moment that amplified my passion for the field of health care.

While I was building my family, my career was also accelerating. Leading is serving, and there is nothing an empowered team that feels a sense of community can’t achieve. I am thankful for the connected leaders who invested in me—who challenged me. My commitment is to reciprocate, to share my leadership lessons, to make purposeful and passionate use of my platform, to shatter ceilings, and to open doors.

I honor my mother’s legacy through my family, community involvement, philanthropy, and work. Like my experience some decades ago, I purposely connect with others to help them emerge more enlightened, inspired, and determined.