UNC doctor uses personal journey to work for change in medicine

Black History Month

CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (WNCN) – At UNC Hospital, Dr. Jasmine Johnson cares for expectant moms, but it was her own unexpected journey to motherhood that led her to work for change.

Every day, Johnson works at the job she always dreamed of.

“I wanted to be a doctor since as long as I can remember,” she said.

Her father was a doctor, and she has fond memories from childhood.

“I would go with him to the hospital on the weekend, and just seeing how he interacted with patients and how the staff talked about how much he changed other people’s lives, I felt like that was something I could see myself doing,” she recalled.

Everything went as planned – for a while.

“During my third year of college, I found myself unexpectedly pregnant with my son, Nate,” she said. “That’s when I started to second guess myself.”

It’s when others started to second guess her.

“That was really the first time where people really told me to my face, ‘You should do other things.’ I really felt what it was like to be a part of a vulnerable population. I was a single Black mother. I was still getting a college education, but I felt a lot of judgment on me throughout my entire pregnancy,” Johnson said.

Things were different when she saw her doctor.

“I had this amazing OB-GYN who was a Black woman who spoke life to the things I wanted to do,” she explained.

Her doctor and other mentors helped Johnson realize she didn’t have to give up her dream or give in to the people who doubted her.

“My biggest comeback to that was just to keep going,” she recalled. “I didn’t have anything I can really say, but you know what: I’m going to sit for the entrance exam or the MCAT. You know what, I’m going to apply to those medical schools, I’m going to go to those interviews with my newborn baby and breastfeed during the breaks.”

All her hard work led her to UNC where she now works as OB-GYN and a maternal fetal medicine fellow.

“When I became a physician, it helped me to have the confidence to speak out about things I saw in medicine as well. One of the things I have focused my research on is Black maternal health and calling out racism and its impact in healthcare,” she explained. “Black women, they are dying in childbirth and pregnancy-related causes 2.5 to 3 times more frequently than women of other races.”

She doesn’t just study the issues, she addresses them with legislators, but her work is only one of her passions.

She is also a wife, a mom, and a mentor.

She devotes her time to teaching other young people not to let anyone’s doubt get in the way of their dreams.

“The most recent statistic is that 2 percent of physicians are Black women, which is crazy in the year 2021,” she noted. “I owe it to the people who supported me to reach back and support others. I definitely feel like I stand on the shoulders of giants and want to be that for someone else.”

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