One of my heroes passed away early this morning. Dr. Brenda Armstrong was Dean of Admission at the Duke University School of Medicine where my medical career began. I recall the day I came to Duke for my interview. As a poor, single parent, not able to afford airfare or a decent place to stay, I drove through the night and slept a few hours at a rather seedy hotel that was near the school. My stomach was rumbling from nerves as I pulled onto the campus. Dr. Armstrong was short of stature but had a very large presence; and I immediately admired this powerful woman who later became an amazing role model for me.
Dr. Armstrong’s success recruiting talented URMs to the medical school came because she was willing to invest time and look where others might not. She would not just sit and wait for applicants, particularly since she knew the schools history and understood that some, especially students of color, might not apply because they didn’t think they would be accepted. She went out and brought in talent that others might have overlooked. I personally was grateful that despite being a single parent, she saw value in having me join a class of stellar students. The expectations of me were the same as they were for every other student and perhaps higher. You see, Dr. Armstrong herself was as single parent in addition to being a pediatric cardiologist and Dean of Admission for a top tier medical school, while she gave back to the community, coaching for the Striders track team. She never let me allow my situation to define what I could become. And for that I am eternally grateful.
Although she has transitioned, her legacy as a champion for workforce diversity, both at the Duke University School of Medicine and around the country, will not be diminished.