Pregnancy in a Pandemic: An OB/GYN Answers Your Questions Joy Baker, M.D., FACOG

Disclaimer: Information about the SARS-COV2 that causes COVID-19 is evolving on a daily basis. My opinions expressed here as solely my own, and are based on the medical consensus TODAY, and may change based on emerging evidence.

Question 1- Can coronavirus affect pregnant women?
• SARS-COV2, the virus that causes the disease COVID-19 can affect anyone, including pregnant and postpartum women. We are still learning many things about SARS-COV2, so information about how this virus affects the pregnant or postpartum woman, and not to mention newborns, is pretty limited. The consensus in the Medical Community is that pregnant women should assume that they are just as susceptible to SARS-COV2 as any one else in the population, and, with the normal changes in pregnancy like decreased air reserve in the lungs and risk of blood clots, pregnant women may be at increased risk for worse outcomes than the general population if they develop COVID-19.

Question 2- Is immunity low during pregnancy?
• The short answer to this question is “NO!” Many years ago, the immune system during pregnancy was considered to be very similar to the immune system of a person after an organ transplant—where the fetus was viewed as the “foreign organ.” The biggest concern after and organ transplant is that the person’s body “rejecting” the transplanted organ. Because a baby is part of two different people, it was assumed that the mother’s immune system must be “suppressed” to avoid “rejecting” her baby. Today, we know better. Emerging research has proven that the immune system in pregnancy is actually quite complex. The fetus’ developing immune system, and the placenta also play a big role in how a woman’s body responds to viruses and bacteria. Depending on which trimester of pregnancy a woman is in, her immune system may respond differently to bacteria or a virus like SARS-COV2. The Medical community is learning more daily about the pregnant woman’s response to SARS-COV2. In some communities, hospitals are universally testing all pregnant women who come in. Many of these communities are finding that 20-40% of pregnant women are positive for the SARS-COV2 virus, but more than 80% of the moms who test positive have only mild symptoms, or no symptoms at all. This likely speaks to the very complex, efficient functioning of the pregnant woman’s immunity along with the fetal-placental immune complex. We are now learning that the pregnant woman’s immune system is working synergistically with the immunity produced by the placenta and the baby to form a sort of “super immunity”—so researchers conclude that it is much more likely that the immune system during pregnancy is changed and ENHANCED, versus “suppressed.” 1 (Am J Reprod Immunol. 2010 Jun; 63(6):425-433)

Question 3- What are the safe ways to boost the immune system while pregnant?
• Immune boosters are agents that can help boost our immune’s response to infection. Often, these are agents may be foods, vitamin or mineral supplements, herbs, or even exercise. I always recommend that my patients eat a very balanced diet with REAL food—especially plenty of fruits and vegetables, which are chock-full of vitamins and minerals that help boost immunity, and improve health overall. Moderate exercise is something I also encourage. For best results, mamas should get 30 minutes of moderate exercise most days per week, at the level that they are used to. For example, if a woman was a weight-lifter or a yogi before she became pregnant, she can certainly continue doing what her body is used to doing. Alternatively, if a woman decides to start a fitness journey during her pregnancy, I recommend she start with low impact exercise like stretching, walking, or swimming. Of course, every pregnant woman should consult her Obstetrician prior to starting a fitness journey. Other “immune boosters” may be helpful as well. I’m personally a big fan of essential oils, and use essential oil blends with clove, orange, cinnamon bark, eucalyptus, and rosemary in a diffuser. Many naturopathic immune-boosters can be used during pregnancy, however, each woman’s pregnancy and health condition is unique, so I always ask my patients to bring any supplements they are considering to their appointment so we can look at them together.

Question 4- How to protect your baby from coronavirus in pregnancy
• During an International Pandemic, almost every pregnant woman’s first thought is ‘How will this affect my baby?” The good news is that it does not appear that “vertical,” or mother-to-baby transmission occurs with this particular virus. In fact, many viruses that have been studied in pregnancy have a hard time breaking through the maternal-placental-fetal immunity “super team” I speak of above. There are some viruses that have been found to pass from mother to baby, and while we are learning more and more about SARS-COV2 each day, so far, there have been no case reports of babies being BORN with the virus. With that said, it is important to note that newborns ARE susceptible to this virus, and some newborns have contracted it from their mothers shortly after birth. Many hospitals are doing the best that they can to protect newborns from becoming infected by trying to practice “mother-baby social distancing”:
o Keeping babies of infected mothers in the nursery if there is space available, or placing the bassinet at least 6 feet away from the mother—preferably with a physical barrier between them such as a curtain.
o Strictly limiting visitors to the maternity and newborn care units. Many hospitals have limited visitors to 1 designated support person (the same person supports during the entire hospital stay), and in some extreme, rare, cases, hospitals have implemented a “no visitor” policy on their maternity ward.
There is much debate about visitor and infant separation protocols throughout the medical community. Personally, while I understand the importance of protecting newborns with fragile immunity, I also think it is very important for birthing people to have support. I am allowing one designated visitor.

Question 5- What type of food increase pregnant women immunity?
Here are some examples of foods that help boost the immune system and promote health:


Berries, especially Elderberries have Antioxidants
Button Mushrooms have Selenium & B vitamins
Watermelon had glutathione
Wheat germ contains zinc, antioxidants, and B vitamins
Low-fat yogurt- Vitamin D, Probiotics
Spinach -fiber, folate, vit C,
Black, White, or Green Tea contain disease-fighting polyphenols and flavonoids.
Sweet Potatoes have beta-carotene, which becomes Vitamin A
Broccoli- vitamins A and C,Glutathione
Fresh Garlic(Not powder) has ability to fight bacteria, viruses, and fungi
Chicken Soup had carnosine that can protect your body from the flu virus.
Pomegranate Juice may help your body fight bacteria and several kinds of viruses, including the flu.
Ginger contains Antioxidants and is effective against nausea

Question 6- What exercises and routine helps boost immunity system?
• 30 minutes of moderate exercise most (at least four) days per week has been proven to improve overall health—especially heart and lung health. In pregnancy, I recommend exercising at the level your body was used to prior to being pregnant. For example, if you were walking 2 miles a day before you became pregnant, you can safely continue doing so. In addition, swimming, yoga, and dancing are great options for pregnant women at any fitness level.
• Along with exercise, good sleep routines are essential to maintaining optimal health and immunity. When we are tried, our immune system is not functioning at its optimal capacity. Sleeping 6-8 hours out of every 24 hours is a great way to allow your body to repair itself and function normally. Late second and third trimesters are often the most difficult times for pregnant women to achieve restful sleep. Talk with your doctor if you are having trouble sleeping. For my patients, I often recommend Sleepy Time Tea with chamomile and Valerian; warm baths with epsom salt and lavender, as well as online sleep stories or meditations. If these are not successful alone, I often add Benadryl or Unisom before bedtime, which are both safe mediations to take in pregnancy.
Question 7- How to prepare for doctor or hospital visits during pregnancy?
• Every hospital or doctor’s office may not have the same policies. This is because policy is often made based on how many really sick people are in your area. In areas with fewer outbreak, policies may be more lax, whereas, in areas that have been hit hard by COVID-19, you are likely to find stricter policies on visitors, appointment availability, and ability to schedule certain surgeries. Nearly every hospital has temporarily stopped allowing visitors with the exception of one designated visitor on the maternity floor. Most clinics are allowing limited or no visitors in the office for prenatal care
o Prepare by calling ahead to find out your doctor’s office or hospital policy on visitors.
o If you have other children, Make sure you arrange childcare before your appointment or hospital stay. Children under 18 have not been allowed in most offices or hospitals unless they are being seen by the doctor. Also, be prepared for the real possibility that children may not be allowed to visit while you are in the hospital.
o Choose one designated labor support person. Make sure you also have a backup support person on standby just in case your original Support person becomes ill or is screened upon entry to the hospital and is found to have a fever or other COVID-19 risk factors and is unable to accompany you.
o Be prepared to have a nasal swab and be tested for Corona virus—many labor and delivery units are moving toward rapid testing for every mom. You may also be asked to wear a mask.
Question 8- Can coronavirus transmit from mother to child in the womb?
• Based on the limited data we have, it does not appear that this Coronavirus is transmitted from mother to baby in the womb, however, it is very important to make sure mothers are not potentially transmitting the virus after giving birth—that is why social distancing is so important, even if it mean distancing yourself from your baby if you have the virus. Being away from your baby for a few days is definitely painful, but certainly less painful than being away from them forever!
Question 9- Can breast milk help shield infants from coronavirus?
• Yes! The antibodies, or proteins that we make to fight infection, are passed to our newborns in breast milk. Breastfeeding is still definitely recommended. If a mother has tested positive for Coronavirus, it’s important that she wash her hands, neck and chest with soap and water, or a skin-safe disinfectant prior to breastfeeding. She should also wear a mask while feeing her baby. If she is continuously coughing or sneezing, it’s safer to have the baby stay at a safe distance away and hand express or pump milk and feed the newborn with a bottle. Breast milk is ALWAYS best!
Question 10- What home remedies can lower the risk of COVID-19?
• The best “home remedy” for lowering the risk of developing COVID-19 is social distancing as much as possible and frequent hand-washing with soap and water for at least 20-30secs (sing the “happy birthday” song through twice to help you keep track of the time).
• Avoid touching your face unless you have thoroughly washed your hands.
• Drink something warm daily, like black, white, or green tea. I usually add clove, cinnamon, and orange to my tea.
• Sanitizing every frequently touched surface like door knobs, fridge handles, countertops, and your phone at least once per day (sanitize more frequently if you have guests) has also been shown to help prevent spread of the virus as well.

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Hey Girl, Hey! Jan 2022

I’m sure lots of folks have wished you Happy New Year, but I wonder how many have called or walked over and chimed “Happy New YOU!”? If the answer is absolutely no one, then let me be the first to sincerely wish you a Happy New You!!!

Hey Girl, Hey! The ONLY thing certain in life is change! Every moment, we are changing, whether we recognize it or not. We are changing physically, mentally, emotionally, financially, socially, and in how we relate to the people and the world around us. All of these changes are occurring moment-to-moment, usually in response to decisions we’ve made or allowed others to make for us… Whether. We. RECOGNIZE. It. Or. Not.

The key word here is “recognize.” In order to be able to take an active role in these changes, we must first recognize that they are happening. Once we do that, we then have the opportunity for response-ability—we are able to respond to the changes and choose to course-correct or continue the decisions that produced the changes we recognize.

Now look, I’m not trying to get too deep here. I was a very philosophical kid, and I’d ask really deep questions while Auntie Elvira used to braid my hair. I’d pepper her with questions until she’d finally say “Be careful! sometimes you real deep folks just end up drowned!”

My point is this: YOU are responsible for your life. YOU get to choose how you RESPOND to the changes that occur in and around you—even when you cannot control every change. You get to choose what decisions YOU make about your life. You choose your boundaries, your relationships, your attitude, your hustle, your happiness.

When I took Organic Chemistry at LaGrange College, I struggled to line up the elements in the right configurations until my professor told me something that changed my life. Dr. Hearn said “Don’t just take life the way someone hands it to you, take it and shape it. Make it what YOU need it to be. Put it in the shape that makes sense for YOU!”

So I’m passing his advice to you for 2022.

I encourage you to take an honest inventory of your life. What is your personal mission statement? I know God put me here to be a change agent. Georgia MUST rise from the state where mothers are most likely to die around the time of childbirth to one of the top 10 states for safe maternity care before I retire. Yes, it’s a HUGE mission, but it provides me a compass that I can use to guide my life decisions. When I have an opportunity, I hold it up to that mission. If it’s not mission-centered, no matter how interesting, fun, or lucrative, I have to decline.
Where are you now? Where do you want to be by the end of 2022? How will you get there? Who is your accountability partner? Share with me on this blog post at http://www.deliveringjoymd.com

Change is happening no matter what. We can choose to shape that change positively. We can live a purpose-driven, mission-fulfilling life that will make a difference in the lives of others for years to come.

My friend Yoon Ettinger wrote something profound that I’d like to leave with you:

Everything is temporary. Nothing is permanent.
We can always choose to begin again.
In small ways. In grand ways.
But always begin fresh.
With no expectations of outcomes and armed with lessons from the past.
No bitterness or anger.
With empathy for those we will encounter along the way, those we love and those we’ve harmed.
We move forward and upward.
Choosing to do better.
Choosing to be better.
What will you choose today?

XOXO,
Dr. Joy

My Self-Care SummerHey Girl, Hey! In the revered words of Fresh Prince & DJ Jazzy Jeff, it’s “Summer Summer Summertime, time to sit back and unwind!” This Summer, I’m heeding their advice!How you ever been in a place you feel overwhelmed, overworked, over-committed; and at the same time under-appreciated, under-supported, and undermined??I found myself being irritable, frustrated, aggravated and ill! I had been burning both ends of my candlestick WAY too often. Sound familiar to anyone?. When I find myself in this place, almost undoubtedly I am becoming resentful BECAUSE I have not been true to my boundaries.I see a therapist on a regular basis. I decided to bring up these feelings. She immediately asked me these questions: “What are you doing for self-care,” and “What do you need to do to repair the fences of your boundaries and restore you balance?”I thought about these questions for a few days, and I decided I needed to do some things differently—STAT!First, I set some serious boundaries at work. A complex set of issues and events left my team SWAMPED with patients, many of whom were scared and disgruntled due to no fault of ours. Suddenly my workload doubled and nearly tripled! For a couple months, I was simply swept along by the tsunami, then I decided to take control of the situation and restore some sense of balance—while we are doing all we can to help the folks in need, I decided we could no longer do that at the expense of myself and my team—we had to set some boundaries for the purpose of safety and sanity.Next, I focused on self care. My goals looked like this:Eat better: I certainly didn’t have the time to add cooking to my workload, but had to get better fuel than fast food, so I started ordering meals from Factor (you’ve probably seen them on social media). The meals are delivered to my door each week and are DELISH!Move my body: I got back on my fitness journey going to classes at Towne Fitness and signing up for 2x weekly yoga and meditation at the Center for Mindful Exploration at Hillside.Focusing on skin, hair, nail care. I found amazing estheticians, Britney at Lewminous Skincare in West Point; and Ashly at Just Peachy Waxing Studio. Protective hair styling in the summer time for Black women is a MUST! So Diamond Williams at The Mane Bar and Takara Davis at Pretty Hair Braiding have been hooking me up with hair treatments and Boho box braids. In addition, I’ve been taking the Nutrafol hair vitamins and Flo vitamins for skin—the difference is amazing!Regular Massage and Meditation. I found the Best. Massage. Ever. At Thrive Studio, and there is also opportunity for meditation and Spiritual health. Plus, I LOVE the meditation during my yoga classes.I am finally starting to feel more like “ Joy” again! Of course, accomplishing balance meant accepting help from the doctors on call so that I could have uninterrupted time just for me. That made some folks unhappy, and it was hard to hold that space under the tension to “people please.” Boundaries are VERY NECESSARY! I bet you could say the same thing for yourself. Put your own oxygen mask on first before trying to help others.Join me of YouTube @DeliveringJoyMD and on BeeTV for my Self-care Summer Series to see how I’m getting my groove back!XOXO,Dr. Joy

Fun in the Colorado Rockies presenting my research at the National Assoc. of Women’s Health Obstetrics & Neonatal Nurses Conference June 2022

Constructive Conflict

Hey Girl Heeey! Do you know what I just learned? Conflict can be healthy! Say what?! YES! Conflict can actually be healthy. If we learn how to work it right, moments of conflict can become opportunities to deepen and strengthen our relationships and our character. So right about now you’re probably thinking “Oh Lawd, Dr. Joy’s been standing too close to the laughing gas in the OR again… who WANTS to deal with conflict??!”

Let me explain. For the past year, I’ve been participating in Medical Association of Ga’s Physician Leadership Academy—so I go to school a weekend every other month to learn to be a better healthcare leader. On one of these weekends, I met Dr. Susan Raines, a political scientist and professor at Kennesaw State University. She teaches leaders how to handle sticky situations, have tough conversations, and to manage conflict. It was during this day of the conflict management course that this concept of constructive conflict “clicked” for me, and it ROCKED MY WORLD! I decided to invest in personal coaching with Dr. Raines to learn all I can about this kind of healthy communication.

If you were raised like me, I.e., a “nice, Southern young lady” who must always sit up straight at the dinner table, chew with her mouth closed, choose the correct fork, and always say “please” and “thank you,” then you know what I’m talking about. If anyone every taught you to be always charming because “a lady is never disagreeable or ugly-acting,” then I know you feel me here!

Many women are programmed to PRETEND. We pretend we are not annoyed, pretend we are not hurt or angry, pretend we are not afraid. We even pretend we agree with or want to do things that we absolutely, positively do NOT agree with or want to do.

You see, conflict comes from a discrepancy in expectations–I expected something and you expected something different. When expectations don’t line up, we often find ourselves frustrated, confused, or even mad as hell. But… what exactly do we do about that? Pretend we don’t feel what we feel? Act like it didn’t happen? Suppose that it must somehow be our own fault?

No! None of the above! When conflicts arise, it’s a perfect opportunity to create SHARED expectations! As in saying something like “I can see that we have some conflict here. Can you tell me what you were expecting from me that didn’t happen, and then I can tell you what my expectations were and maybe we can see how we can meet in the middle going forward?”

This sort of dialog: 1. deescalates the situation, 2. almost forces dialog about where communication broke down, and 3. helps you learn more about the individuals needs/expectations, so you are aware going forward—particularly if this is a relationship that is important to you.

This concept is called “3-Step Problem Solving” and it is helping me learn to stay AWAY from the “4 Horsemen of the Apocalypse” in communication within my meaningful relationships. The 4 Horsemen spell DOOM!  Want to know what they are? Stay tuned for next month’s blog!

Connect with me on my socials at www.linktr.ee/deliveringjoymd and let me know if you use the 3-step problem solving. I’m dying to know how it works for you!

Until next month,

XOXO,


Dr. Joy

Christmas Ain’t Your Birthday!

Hey Girl Hey,

Bring it in close, I wanna whisper something in your ear. Closer now. Christmas ain’t your birthday! Well, unless, of course,  your birthday is actually December 25th on that license of yours—you know the one with the” glamour shot” you probably  decline to show most folks? Anywho, what I’m getting at is the true meaning of Christmas… or Hanukkah or Kwanzaa or the Festival of Lights or whatever you choose to celebrate if you celebrate during what is traditionally known as the “Holiday Season” in North America.

 

The purpose of  all of the above-named holidays in ALL the faith traditions they represent is renewed HOPE & purpose, re-connecting with loved ones and reminiscing on the memories of holidays past. It is a time for sharing love, promoting peace, and looking forward to the future with a sense of expectation. It is a season of joy, laughter, food, festivity, fun, and philanthropy. The holiday season represents so much to so many, but I tell you what it ain’t and what it was never meant to be: our personal “gimme fest.”

 

Unfortunately, many us were raised writing out a list of everything we wanted to make our lives complete to our BFF Santa in the North Pole. We baked cookies to entice him down our chimney (if we had one) and tried to sleep so when we woke, our requested items would magically appear around a decked-out tree. Meanwhile, the adults in our lives schemed, scrapped, saved, and even went into debt playing “Santa.”

 

Every generation giving more gifts that were bigger, better, and more expensive than the last. So one would believe that our children became increasing grateful, angelic, and filled with contentment and wonder—right? WRONG! Now more than ever, we see more children AND adults developing mental and behavioral disorders, social disconnection, entitlement, disillusionment, and frankly just being unhappy and behaving badly. Suicide, substance use, and self-harming behaviors are at an all-time high, and I am diagnosing  more depression and anxiety disorders than I have EVER seen in my 11 years as a physician.

 

So I submit to you, that we don’t need another Holiday Wish List. What we need is some HOPE, PEACE, JOY, and a lot more LOVE. We need genuine connection and safe spaces to be vulnerable within our communities. I personally believe we need Jesus, but if that’s not your holiday, it’s ok, you can still get some of this love I’m slinging too!

 

There is no need to stress yourself out trying to buy a bunch of things and run a bunch of places. There is no need to stake your happiness on what shows up under the tree for you this year, or on who is or isn’t standing under the mistletoe. Your kids will be alright with one small gift this year and one they can give to someone in need. The important things are intentional time with loved ones spent sharing joy, promoting peace, healing old wounds, soul train linin’ in your ugly Christmas sweater (even if your dance moves need work), eating good, and making memories! Happy Holidays, Girls!

Check out the Book “Christmas Is Not Your Birthday: Living and Giving like Jesus” by Mike Slaughter https://www.amazon.com/Christmas-Not-Your-Birthday-Experience/dp/1426727356/ref=asc_df_1426727356_nodl/?tag=hyprod-20&linkCode=df0&hvadid=383774175000&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=17776412560078751194&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvqmt=&hvdev=m&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1015404&hvtargid=pla-820640465741&psc=1&tag=&ref=&adgrpid=77234753206&hvpone=&hvptwo=&hvadid=383774175000&hvpos=&hvnetw=g&hvrand=17776412560078751194&hvqmt=&hvdev=m&hvdvcmdl=&hvlocint=&hvlocphy=1015404&hvtargid=pla-820640465741

 

**Now, I know the holiday season can be very difficult for some folks, especially given the number of people we’ve lost over the past couple of years. If you or a loved one find yourself in need of urgent mental health help, please call the GA Crisis line 1-800-715-4225.

 

 

True Thanksgiving (Hey Girl, Hey! Nov 2021)

A lot of folks said 2020 was pretty bad. I think somebody even wrote a song called “Eff 2020” or something to that effect. Well, in my opinion, 2021 was a MUCH more hellish year, and as she roars to a close (only a “she” could be THIS furious), I can’t say that I’m sad to see her go!
So much happened this year that I just NEVER saw coming—an unexpected divorce; a second, more deadly wave of Covid-19, a surgery with serious complications, and a move to top it all off. As I sit reflecting on this year, I am struck by two thoughts:
I pray 2022 is kinder, 2. I am so THANKFUL to God for His faithfulness throughout 2021!!

When you face one hard challenge after another, it is so easy to begin to feel bitterness and resentment bubble up—that is a natural human response. It’s hard to understand WHY life seems to be dragging you through the mud like a limp rag doll, but… as I often remind myself, things COULD always be worse. I realized that even when things got hardest for me, there were still folks who had it even harder—there are folks who would love to trade their problems for mine, and would do it in a split second. Like those folks who moved from their home out onto the streets, or the surgery patient who had complications they DIDN’T wake up from, or the wife who lost a husband to this second wave of Covid-19 instead of divorce—the list goes on and on.

It’s so easy to focus on the hard things. The things that didn’t turn out the way we planned. Don’t we deserve to pout a little? Jeremiah wrote a WHOLE BOOK of Lamentations. I should get some “laments” too, right?! Wrong.  I am the most FORTUNATE of women! I can be nothing if not grateful. If you are reading this and your life is intertwined with mine, then you have witnessed the hardships of my life and then stood in awe at the miracles that bloomed in tear-soaked places.

Here’s one piece of wisdom I have come to know: bitterness chokes blessings & gratitude grows them. Everyone, no matter how desperate, miserable, pitiful, etc. can find SOMETHING to be thankful for. If you are alive, well that’s something right there!

So when life is hard, find reasons to be thankful. Actively think about how situations that seem awful just might be working for your good. For example, if I’m honest with myself, I have to admit that I would not have ever given up on trying to fix a marriage that was less than I deserved. Being a scared patient dependent on another surgeon was humbling and only made me double down on my commitment to compassionate care. Seeing so much death around me reminded me just how precious our lives and loved ones are.

This year, when I sit down to dinner at my Daddy’s house—a house full of vaccinated family members—it’s gonna be such a meaningful Thanksgiving. I will be super thankful for aaalll the good food (cause I like to eat!), but even more, my heart will be full of true Thanksgiving for all that God has kept me through this year! What are you thankful for this year? Comment on this blog post!

XOXO, Dr. Joy

No matter how you start, Finish Strong!

This quote by Usain Bolt reminds me of the conversations I had with my parents after college. Wasn’t accepted into medschool right out of college—my MCAT score was too low.

I was devastated because I’ve wanted to be a doctor since I was in pre-K. Sad for me, they said “pursue law school.” I told them “I may not be the smartest or the fastest, but I am the most determined.”

I enrolled in an accelerated clinical lab science degree program, took an expensive MCAT prep course, and tried again the next year. My score improved, but not much & I wasn’t accepted. Again.

I passed my MT boards & started working in the lab at Grady with a wonderful group of people. I was afraid to try again for med school, until the day I met Frank Jones M.D., F.A.C.S., MPH in the Grady cafeteria. He was a surgeon who took time to mentor me.

I did the summer program offered then at Morehouse School of Medicine, and LOVED IT! I KNEW #medicine was my path. I retook the MCAT with no prep, but with confindence that this was my moment.

My score improved enough to be accepted at MSM. I graduated with honors & I was able to help tutor my classmates because of the skills I learned in the lab. I have never regretted a single step on this journey. It took me a while to get started, but I am a STRONG finisher!

It matters little where or how you start—it matters how you finish!! You may have more hurdles than others. Perhaps you started further back from where everyone else did. Do not bemoan that. Instead focus on the finish line.

A great pastor I once heard said something to this effect (paraphrasing) sometimes God pulls you back because you are his arrow. When he decides to release you, you will FLY right to the target that he intended for you while everyone who seemed to be ahead of you is still running!!! 🙌🏾🙌🏾 that’s a whole word!!

Stay focused, keep working hard, keep your ears and eyes open for opportunity that God brings your way, and be prepared to move when he is ready. He will shoot you farther than you ever imagined you’d go! I am a living witness!

#dailydoseofjoy #dailyinspiration #deliveringjoymd

A Prayer for Healthcare Workers: National Day of Prayer

Jehovah Rapha, God our Healer, we are honored to have your permission to come boldly to your throne to receive your amazing, sustaining grace.

I thank you for each and every healthcare worker to whom you have entrusted the care of your people. I am so grateful for each clerk, housekeeper, security guard, floor or radiology tech, nurse’s assistant, physical or respiratory therapist, transporter, mental health provider, surgical tech, nursing home or office staff member, biller, nurse, doctor, administrator—every single one who has the honor and the burden of a life devoted to the health and care of others.

You are El Roi— the God who sees us and fully knows us all. You have seen the struggles, the fears, and the heartbreaks of the last year. You have seen us as we cried with the loved ones of those we lost, you have held us when we were so exhausted that we thought we couldn’t go another step, you received 1000s of us into your rest—those who gave their lives in the fight against Covid 19. Through it all, you have continued to strengthen us in the face of immeasurable odds. You have shown us mercy and given wisdom to the wise and knowledge to scholars to create a vaccine that offers us protection and hope.

We thank you for the grace you have poured out upon us in the midst of this unprecedented time of sickness and suffering. God, we recognize more than ever before the work that we must do to ensure that ALL your people receive equal access to and delivery of the care we provide. Forgive us, Lord, for the times we were so concerned with trivial things that we failed to care equitably for all people because we failed to accept and believe that we are ALL made in your very image.

I ask that you give us your eyes that we may see that each person we encounter is a precious one that you died to save. Give us your heart that we might love as you do—unconditionally. Give us your wisdom, that we might choose our words, actions, and each plan of care thoughtfully and compassionately.

Lord, we are eternally grateful to you for the lives and hearts and courage of every healthcare worker.

Now I ask a special blessing on each of us, and on our families. I pray that you meet every need. I ask that you heal your healers and purpose us all to be your hands and feet here in the earth.

In Jesus’ name I pray, So be it.

A Prayer for Healthcare Workers: National Day of Prayer

Jehovah Rapha, God our Healer, we are honored to have your permission to come boldly to your throne to receive your amazing, sustaining grace.

I thank you for each and every healthcare worker to whom you have entrusted the care of your people. I am so grateful for each clerk, housekeeper, security guard, floor and radiology tech, nurse’s assistant, physical and respiratory therapist, transporter, mental health providers, surgical tech, nursing home or office staff member, biller, nurse, doctor, administrator—every single one who has the honor and the burden of a life devoted to the health and care of others.

You are El Roi— the God who sees us and fully knows us all. You have seen the struggles, the fears, and the heartbreaks of the last year. You have seen us as we cried with the loved ones of those we lost, you have held us when we were so exhausted that we thought we couldn’t go another step, you received into your rest 1000s of us who gave our lives in the fight against Covid 19, and you have continued to strengthen us in face immeasurable odds. You have shown us mercy and given wisdom to the wise and knowledge to scholars to create a vaccine that offers us protection and hope.

We thank you for the grace you have poured out upon us in the midst of this unprecedented time of sickness and suffering. God, we recognize more than ever before the work that we must do to ensure that ALL your people receive equal access to and delivery of the care we provide. Forgive us, Lord, for the times we were so concerned with trivial things that we failed to care equitably for all people because we failed to accept and believe that we are ALL made in your very image.

I ask that you give us your eyes that we may see that each person we encounter is a precious one that you died to save. Give us your heart that we might love as you do—unconditionally. Give us your wisdom, that we might choose our words, actions, and each plan of care thoughtfully and compassionately.

Lord, we are eternally grateful to you for the lives and hearts and courage of every healthcare worker.

Now I ask a special blessing on each of us, and on our families. I pray that you meet every need. I ask that you heal your healers and purpose us all to be your hands and feet here in the earth.

In the Jesus’ name I pray, So be it.

Realizing a dream

This week, I realized a dream of mine—I started performing robotic surgery!😍 I’ve been wanting train in robotic surgery since the very first time I saw Jeffrey F. Hines, MD performing robot-assisted cases in 2011. Sadly, at that time, my training hospital did not have a robot— or even great laparoscopic equipment for that matter, so I didn’t get a lot of laparoscopic experience until I got into practice.

After completing my residency training, I chose a job at a site that had a robot and a talented GYN surgeon, thinking I would be treated like a colleague, trained and mentored by this individual. Unfortunately, that wasn’t how it turned out. Instead, that individual said and did things that I allowed to damage to my confindence in myself as a physician and surgeon.

When I moved on from that toxic environment, regaining my confidence and acquiring strong mentorship as a newly minted OBGYN were at the top of my to do list! I had been very well-trained and had done every case available to me during my residency—sometime driving over an hour to scrub into cases with community surgeons all over Atlanta. Thankfully, my next move yielded a wonderful Dept chair who took me under his wing and mentored me and came to all my surgeries. I attended every minimally invasive GYN surgery course I could find, I bought a pelvic surgery simulator, and I practiced relentlessly until I mastered each laparoscopic skill.

After 4 years, I moved to an institution with a robotic surgery program and another great Dept Chair, who invited me to train in robotics!

After months of simulation training and passing all of my courses, I performed my first 3 robotic surgeries yesterday, and I LOVED IT!!! My first case was a pretty large uterus with a lot of fibroids—I was feeling really intimidated, but my trainer and my proctor (a person who basically oversees my first cases and makes sure I am operating safely) didn’t say a word about the size of the uterus, even though it was much bigger than the imaging study originally led me to believe. I was so tempted to go back to straight-stick laparoscopy—what was most comfortable for me, but I refused to go back to my comfort zone without at least giving my best try, and so, I docked the robotic arms just as I had practiced time and time again. I sat down at the console, I envisioned completing the case safely and successfully. Then…I DID that case!! And it was faster and easier than if I would have gone back to straight-stick laparoscopic surgery! I was completely amazed that I did it so quickly and smoothly. Then I did another complicated case and finally to end the day, a straightforward one. At the end of the day, my proctor, who has done hundreds of these cases said to me “you made these cases look easy. There is pretty much nothing different I would have done.”

I was on cloud 9!! I praised God all the way home for allowing me to realize this dream, but also for how He has restored my confidence in my ability to do precisely what I believe he put me here on earth to do— to care for women throughout their lifetime compassionately and excellently. I am in awe of all the honor he bestows on me in trusting me to care for his most precious creations.

Looking at the size of the uterus in the first case was SOO intimidating that I was tempted to back out. But then I remembered my favorite Bible character, the Dahveed Israel and Judah (King David), when he faced Goliath and MANY other challenges. He wrote “when I am afraid, I will trust in you.” He RAN out to meet the challenges courageously, even in the midst of fear. I determined to do that as well. I said a silent prayer, slipped off my shoes, and sat down at the surgeon’s console and got started.

God blesses what we DO. In order for him to bless our efforts, we have to MAKE THE EFFORT first—even when we are afraid or intimidated by the scope of our dream.

I was so encouraged by the surgery outcomes and by the lessons of this day! I hope you will be encouraged to trust God’s timing, to pursue the dreams he gives you, and NOT to run from the Giants that seem to guard the territory that YOU know you are to possess!

My VP Looks Like Me!

It’s a whole mood!! Had to pack my pearls for work today, so as soon as I finished my surgeries, I could capture the memory of today. I always wanted to be a surgeon, but I never actually saw a black female surgeon (April Spencer)until I was 25 years old. I had no lack of confidence or determination, BUT there is something about being able to SEE what you aspire too… I knew that day in that classroom that my dream was totally attainable, and so I pursued it with abandon.

There is a girl somewhere dreaming today. She’s dreaming big dreams and wondering if she can achieve them. I hope she is watching history/herstory happen, and I hope she is thinking, “Yes! I can do it!”

My VP wears pink & green
My VP is a Soror
My VP LOOKS LIKE ME!!

Daughters, Sisters, Women of the World: you can be anything you want to be—the possibilities are endless! 💗💚💗💚

#myvpisablackwoman #myvplookslikeme #myvpismysoror #kamalaharrisday

#BidenHarris #KamalaHarrisVP