So yesterday was my LAST day in the lab of meanie moo and I learned something (else) VERY important (I seem to be in a season of learning/relearning things). I was a fish out of water from the moment I first stepped into a lab in 1988, so how I managed to make this my primary profession for the last I don't know how many years, is so far beyond me, I can't see it! I realized as I practically ran from the lab that if I could do it all over again, I wouldn't have spent so much time working in a "cactus" field, LOL!!! I'm not sure what I would have done, but be around "people, people" would have been a FAR bigger priority. I LOVE research but I also realized that I REALLY LOVED the work I did around "people, people" as I did in public health in a rural health clinic for example. Unfortunately, the issue for me was that I only wanted to be in a patient oriented field as a Doc, so I never really considered anything else clinical a good "meantime" gig. In retrospect, I probably really wouldn't change anything, but thinking I would EVER fit in well among science "types" was a pipe dream waiting to explode.
So before I left my old lab, I talked at great length with the post-Doc who trained me, a sista' with a PhD from Howard heading to Law school next year. Granted she wasn't supposed to do that, but she felt sorry for me being basically abandoned in the lab, LOL!! And what I concluded after talking with her is that there are very solid reasons why there aren't many American Blacks interested in Science careers. I talked about one a few weeks ago, the presence of foreigners willing to work for free/peanuts. But the other is the lack of anything that even resembles mentoring. Every other group of people whom you see congregated in the Sciences, African, Indians, ect. almost always have someone else present in science departments who share their culture, thus giving them a “go to" person before they get settled in well. And yeah, America’s a melting pot, yada, yada, yada, but people always self-segregate. Just like the Black post-doc reached out to me, when NO other post doc in my dept did, I digress........., I’m so not complaining about that because quite frankly I’m used to it. The point is that having someone you share something in common with makes things a hellva' lot easier which is why it’s NO surprise to me that the majority of Black PhD’s in science earned those degrees at HBCU’s. Equally unsurprising, are the extremely small numbers of American Blacks who earn PhD's and remain connected in some way to the lab. In fact, I'm the ONLY person in a lifetime of knowing and meeting Black folks with science PhD's and MD/PhD's who stayed connected in some way with lab work, and I'm the ONLY one I know with any interest at all in continuing to do scientific research. THE ONLY ONE!!! And I suspect if I didn't have the mentors I have, I probably would have thrown in the towel research wise a LONG time ago too!
Anyhoo, this isn't supposed to be a bitchin’ post which it appears to be morphing into, I guess I just realized that in retrospect, I haven’t gotten as much out of a research career as I thought I would have by now and the reasons have very little to do with effort on my part. Plus, the fact is that the thing I’m enjoying most about teaching/tutoring is that I get to regularly interact with diverse groups of people, which doesn't help my attitude toward a strictly research career either. Now let me be REAL clear hear, teaching ain't hardly “it” for me because it simply isn't intellectually stimulating enough by itself, but I've always planned to have it be a part of my career as a Physician.
I guess I said all that to say that I’m now laser focused on getting into a clinical environment volunteer wise for sure, though it would be nice to also have a research position that involved a substantial amount of “clinical” duty as well. And given my long term goals, that shouldn't be all that surprising. So I’m planning to sign up to be a volunteer at the NIH clinical center until I get back there as a pre-doctoral fellow, double ASAP!!!!