Dr. Kyron C. Tamar, who grew up in Hempstead, N.Y., is a board certified General Surgeon at Franklin Medical Center, in Louisburg, N.C. His fascination for the Medical field was sparked when, in 1969, at age 19, he was hired as an operating room scrub tech, during a summer break from Lincoln University, Pa. After that first summer, Dr. Tamar had found his passion and went on to enroll at SUNY Health Science Center in Brooklyn in 1971. Dr. Tamar graduated with his Medical Degree in 1975, followed by a surgical internship at Brooklyn Jewish Hospital.
He completed his surgical residency at Maimonides Medical Center, Brooklyn, in 1980 and a Vascular Fellowship at Baylor College of Medicine, Houston in 1981 under the direction of Dr. Michael Debakey, the world-renowned cardiovascular surgeon who performed the first heart transplant in the United States. Dr. Tamar has spent the past 33+ years working in Texas, North Carolina, and Florida. He has been in solo and group practice, was an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Texas Tech in Odessa, was a civilian contractor with The Dept. of Navy, and has worked as a locum tenens surgeon intermittently for twelve years. He has also traveled to central and southern Nigeria and eastern Uganda to perform missionary work. He enjoys traveling, swimming, photography, reading, listening to live music, listening to jazz on WSHA 88.9, teaching, and sharing information about the abundant opportunities in the healthcare industry.
Co-Chair of the Publications Committee – Jonathan R. Batson:
Dr. Kyron Tamar, thank you for joining me to answer questions about your career path and journey in medicine for our premedical and medical students as a part of the Journal of the Student National Medical Association’s Your Story Matters interview series focused on the state of black males in medical education!
1. What inspired you to pursue a career in medicine as a physician?
I got a job as an OR technician at age 19. I was told by the recruiter that I would be washing the floors and the walls of the operating room. My father had always told me: “Never be afraid to get your hands dirty, as long as it is honest work.” Martin Luther King said, “if your lot is to be a street sweeper, be the best street sweeper you can be. Having worked in a cafeteria cleaning tables, in a supermarket as a stock boy, and at Grumman aircraft Corporation, putting rivets in the F111 jet fuselage, I was not above such a job. I also, along with my brother, had to clean the floors and the walls of the house we lived in growing up. When I found out that I would be assisting surgeons, I was even more enthusiastic. I would skip lunch or breaks during each case to learn each surgeon’s method. After that summer of 1969, I decided I wanted to be a surgeon. I went back to college, more dedicated to my studies. I had to take physics a second time to bring up my GPA. How many people want to take physics more than once? My father would say, “how badly do you want it?”
2. What challenges did you face as an undergraduate student? Was there ever a time when you felt discouraged or someone discouraged you from being a doctor? How did you handle that?
My grades in undergraduate school were not strong. However, my experience as a scrub tech motivated me to become a better student. I had to improve my study habits dramatically. Even upon getting admitted to medical school, my study habits needed marked improvement. Luckily, I found that studying with a group was the most helpful. Regarding being discouraged…while an intern at Interfaith Hospital in Brooklyn, I was told by the Chief of Surgery, that I didn’t have the “initiative, decisiveness, or dexterity to become a surgeon.” He told me to seek another specialty. This was on my birthday, November 21, 1975 at age 26. Naturally, I was very upset. However, it was too late… I had already made up my mind that I was going to become a surgeon. The rest is history.
3. How did you balance the demands of medical school with additional obligations and challenges?
I was blessed to go to State University of New York, Downstate Medical Center, Health Science Center at Brooklyn, as a New York State resident. I had scholarships, loans, and grants to help pay for medical school. I was a single man, focused, and afraid to fail. I don’t know if I could’ve handled additional obligations and challenges.
4. Did you partake in any summer academic or research programs as an undergraduate student?
No. I worked as a scrub tech every spring, summer, and winter break, while at Lincoln University, Pennsylvania. The surgeons that I worked with, wrote recommendations for me when I applied to Medical School.
5. According to the Association of American Medical Colleges report, Altering the Course: Black Males in Medicine,
“In 1978, there were 1,410 black male applicants to medical school, and in 2014, there were just 1,337. The number of black male matriculants to medical school over more than 35 years has also not surpassed the 1978 numbers. “
What do you think attributes to the decrease of black males pursuing medicine and what do you think is necessary to improve those numbers in the next 10 years?
That is the big question, isn’t it? The problem is multifactorial.
- Systemic racism – young black males face innumerable challenges throughout their academic life. Expectations are diminished, stereotypes are reinforced, and opportunities for experiences, such as mine, are limited. The “public school to prison pipeline” is real. It is well documented that young black students are suspended, expelled from, and arrested at public schools at a higher rate than any other race for the same infractions. (mobile.nytimes.com, 08/24/2015 by Motoko Rich).
- Inadequate long-term preparation for the rigors of medical training.
- Inadequate knowledge of funding sources.
- Mentors and encouragement are lacking.
- The prohibitive cost of medical school.
- The false belief by the various medical school admission committees and students that GPA and MCAT scores reflect the eventual success and quality of a physician.
- The failure of medical school admission committees to recognize other factors, such as emotional intelligence, that are extraordinarily key factors in determining success.
- Inherent biases of medical school admission committees.
6. Why does diversity and inclusion matter in medical education and academic medicine?
An ethnically and culturally diverse nation means changing healthcare needs, and an increased need for ethnic diversity in medical schools and within the physician ranks. Healthcare providers who reflect the diversity of our population are more likely to be culturally competent physicians. According to the AAMC, success in increasing the number of minority medical school students and future physicians has three main benefits…
- Improved access: Minority physicians are more likely to treat minority and indigenous patients, as well as to work in underserved areas.
- Increase patient satisfaction: Minority patients are more likely to choose minority physicians and are better able to relate to them. Trust and respect levels for both the patients and physicians are better.
- Culturally competent care: Increased minority representation in medical school & in a physician workforce creates an atmosphere for all doctors to become more culturally competent in their practice of medicine, and to provide the best care to a diverse population. Assumptions and perceptions of racial, ethnic, and cultural differences can be challenged by a diverse student peer group.
7. If you can write a note to your younger self about what you know today, what would you say?
In addition to my previous note to self, I would include a plea to work harder on my study habits, don’t procrastinate, and never let anyone deter you from your dreams.
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