Sheryl Heron, MD, MPH, FACEP, was the first female African American physician to join Emory Department of Emergency Medicine in 1996, and in doing so became the first female African American attending physician in the Grady Emergency Care Center.
Her very first night shift on July 27 that year was also the night of the tragic Centennial Olympic Park bombing.
“I’ll never forget it. I was a new attending, and at first I had to convince others I was the faculty member in charge of what was then referred to as the ‘Blue Zone.’”
That experience is a reflection of the implicit bias Heron says many physicians of color face, and it is why she uses her platform to fiercely advocate for diversity, equity and inclusion in medicine.
“While I was not accepted to medical school on my first attempt, during that time I worked as clerical staff, pursued a master in Public Health, and learned to appreciate what impacts a person’s health from a wider lens. It has been rewarding to share my journey, and mentor people of color to pursue medicine.”
It’s also an imperative for Heron to grow as a leader by publishing papers, participating in conferences, and having conversations with other leaders.
“We must talk about the strategies needed to ensure we recruit, retain, and mentor physicians who reflect the diversity of the people they serve.”