Skip to main content

Black Female Doctors Share Their Stories 
Ashley Roxanne Peterson, DO ’19

Standing on her Shoulders: Celebrating Meta L. Christy, DO, and African American Alumnae Trailblazers

Ashley Roxanne Peterson, DO ’19 (PCOM Georgia)

Family Medicine Resident, Morehouse School of Medicine, Atlanta, Georgia

Artistic portrait of Black female physician Ashley Roxanne Peterson, DO“When I walk into a room, especially if I’m not wearing makeup, most people think I’m about 15 years old. But I’ve dealt with that my whole life [Dr. Peterson started college at age 15 and medical school at age 19]. Even when I introduce myself as Dr. Peterson and they ask, ‘Where is the doctor?’ it has become natural to say, ‘It’s me, I’m the doctor.’ And then I tell them, ‘I get that a lot,’ because I want them to know their judgments are not uncommon, and I move the visit along. … Unfortunately, microaggressions are a common part of my career. A comment might be made because I’m a woman. I’m mistaken for a nurse at least once a week. (I want to be very clear: There’s nothing wrong with being a nurse!) But my boyfriend is also a young physician, and he’s rarely if ever called a nurse. … And then, I’m a Black woman whose white coat says ‘osteopathic doctor,’ which I am proud of—but the osteopathic distinction is less common where I practice. … Thankfully, I have had 26 years to learn that other people’s comments are a reflection of them, not me. One day I hope young Black women DO doctors are so common, no one blinks when they enter a room. … When I’ve told colleagues about the racism or discrimination I’ve experienced, some wouldn’t otherwise have known, as I have come to believe a lot of Americans think racism is over. … The Black Lives Matter movement has made people address many issues—whether they agree or don’t. I’m pleased that we’re all having more uncomfortable discussions about our prejudices. … People always ask how they can be an ally. Everything starts at home. You don’t have to lead a parade or feel like you need to be a superhero. The next time you’re having a conversation and a questionable comment is made, ask that person, ‘Why do you think that?’ Your friends and family trust you, and you may be the only person challenging them to think differently. I myself am learning more about different populations during this time, and I hope it makes me a better family medicine doctor. … To me, the beauty of family medicine is that you’re trained to see every age group. So someone can tell their aunt, ‘When you have your baby, you can see my family doctor.’ That network of trust means everything in medicine, especially as more people seek information from unverified sources and place less trust in medical professionals. A strong patient–physician relationship, with shared decision making, can favorably influence many health outcomes. I think that’s a big theme for 2020/2021: working together for everyone’s best.”

as told to Janice Fisher

Standing on her Shoulders

Read more stories from African American female physicians, leaders and health professionals.

About Digest Magazine

Digest, the magazine for alumni and friends of Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine, is published by the Office of Marketing and Communications. The magazine reports on osteopathic and other professional trends of interest to alumni of the College’s Doctor of Osteopathic Medicine (DO) and graduate programs at PCOM, PCOM Georgia and PCOM South Georgia.