Thank you to the Division of Physician-Scientists for this feature on Dr. Carter!
What motivated you to become a physician-scientist?
Two foundational experiences in college launched my clinical research career trajectory. First, I was awarded a Stanford Chappell-Lougee undergraduate research opportunity grant
to spend a summer in the Sea Islands of South Carolinastudying traditional healing methods used by the Gullah people. A whole new world opened to me, both culturally and scientifically, and I learned about the power of research to satisfy my intellectual curiosity. Second, my mother was diagnosed with multiple myeloma during my junior year. Too many factors in her care to be a coincidence made me wonder whether she did not receive the standard of care because of the color of her skin. The painful experience of advocating for my mom and helping my parents navigate the medical system gave rise to my senior honors thesis, “Access to autologous stem cell transplants for patients with multiple myeloma in California: the role of race.” After controlling for potential confounding factors, I found that Black patients were 45% less likely to receive an autologous transplant than White patients,
and won the Stanford Firestone medal for excellence in undergraduate research for my work. I appreciated the opportunity to translate a painful personal experience into a research question and find an answer that could inform health policy and advocacy efforts to improve patient outcomes. My clinical research career, and deep and abiding commitment to health equity, were born through that experience.
What drew you to your field?
As a 4th year medical student, I was torn between internal medicine and OB/GYN—
so much so that I applied to both! Part of the conflict was that I’m a surgeon at heart
and love using my hands, but I also like managing complex medical problems and
having long-term relationships with my patients. Maternal-fetal medicine provides the
perfect blend of surgery, procedures, complex medical problems, and the opportunity
to develop close continuity relationships with patients and their families.
Tell us about your research.
My research interests include group prenatal care as a tool to improve pregnancy
outcomes, determining whether clinician empathy may mitigate the impact of bias
and racism in clinical care, and managing medical comorbidities during pregnancy to
reduce the risk of future cardiovascular disease. I could be criticized for having a
research program that is too broad, but every project I pursue is guided by my North
Star question: does answering this question have the potential to improve outcomes
for those among us who most need it? I only proceed with prospective studies if my
answer is, “yes.”
What has mentorship meant to you?
The best mentors in my life have seen me, not for who I am but, for who I have the
potential to be and expected me to rise to that level. I often tell students to choose
the people who are most willing to invest in them, rather than the mentor with the
project that excites them most. Projects will come and go, but the investment of time,
talent, and skills that excellent mentors pour into their mentees endure for the lifetime
of a career. I’m grateful for the people who took the time to invest in me and strive to
make good on those investments.
Three things about me
I serve many roles to many people, but my absolute favorite titles are,
“Mommy” to our three little girls and “wife” to Dr. Dedric Carter!
The piano was my first love and I still enjoy playing and performing whenever I
get the opportunity. I enjoy traveling and have been to 6/7 continents, including Antarctica—hope to get to 7/7 soon!