Alumna, now a physician, making history

Tamia Potter and Kwadwo Sarpong, a first-year neurosurgery resident at VUMC, outside the hospital.
Photo courtesy: Tamia Potter

Vanderbilt University’s neurosurgery residency program will welcome its first Black female resident in over a century.

Tamia Potter, an alumna of Florida A&M University, is making history in Nashville as the first Black woman to take a position in neurosurgery at the university’s medical center.

The 26-year-old learned the news on March 17, also known as National Match Day among medical students, when thousands of graduating medical school students discover where they will undertake their residency training for the following few years.

Monique Proverb, who is in her second year as a biology pre med major at FAMU, is excited for Potters new position.

“Representation is extremely important; she is going to accomplish big things at Vanderbilt,” she said.

“Being in the medical field is difficult, but making history while doing it is amazing.  Hopefully we hear stories like hers in order to get more FAMU students interested in the profession. I’m excited to see what she accomplishes,” Proverb added.

According to the most recent statistics from the Association of American Medical Colleges, only around 5.7% of doctors in the United States identify as Black or African American. According to the association’s 2019 report, there were just 33 Black women in the neurosurgical sector in the United States in 2018.

Potter is the first Black woman to join Vanderbilt in 91 years, according to Dr. Reid Thompson, professor and head of the university’s Department of Neurological Surgery.

Potter earned a bachelor’s degree in chemistry from FAMU in 2018. She earned a full scholarship to attend medical school at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland.

In US News & World Report’s 2022-23 rating, FAMU was the highest-ranked public Historically Black College or University.

Potter told CNN that  being a FAMU alumna demonstrates that it is possible to attend an HBCU and “attain every single thing that you want to and make your dreams come true.”

“A lot of people feel like when you go to an HBCU, you are sacrificing quality, and that is something that people should not believe,” Potter added.

Chase Moore, a senior at FAMU studying health science, saw Potter’s response on social media and couldn’t be prouder of the FAMU graduate.

”I’m so proud of her, it’s amazing to see what alums accomplish after graduation, all of her hard work and persistence has paid off,” Moore said. “She should be proud and celebrating right now.”

According to CNN’s interview with Potter, the first time she met a Black woman neurosurgeon was during her time in medical school. The representation was important because it pushed her to believe in herself. She said that she aspires to do the same for the students that will follow after her.

To watch Tamia Potter reaction to the news , go to