DETROIT (FOX 2) - "I was born right in the middle of the civil rights movement,"
That's Dr. Patricia A. Wilkerson-Uddyback of the Detroit Medical Center. As a child of one the country's more tense eras, the 60's weren't an easy time to grow up in. Coordinated housing that was sold to different groups emphasized the racism of that time.
"You could see the redlining that happened with how people were strategically sold real estate," she said. "We had the bus where all the african americans were on this bus and all the other students were on the other bus."
Then, in 1967 unrest and dissatisfaction spilled over in Detroit. The burning city reflecting a fiery desire in black people everywhere to have full access to the american dream.
At the time, aspirations for African Americans to become doctors, particularly women of color, weren't taken serious.
"It was barely conscionable to think that you could even become a physician," said Uddyback, your best option was a nurse or a teacher if your lucky. That was pretty much as high as I can go."
Those expectations were met, and then shattered. Now in a leadership position, Uddyback is the first first black female chief of the emergency department at Harper University Hospital and the first vice president of academic and community affairs for the Detroit Medical Center.
Those accolades are a testament to her driving curiosity and interest to overcome challenges.
"That kind of fortitude and work ethic was embedded in me," she said. "I saw it real time. I wasn't going to let racism interfere with my career."
Dr. Wilkerson-Uddyback also oversees the med students and residents for DMC, shaping the next generation of doctors - no matter their race.
"This is the part of my job i get excited about. Because there's so much opportunity to shape these minds."
One of the key elements of that process is bestowing knowledge of cultural competency and social determinants of health. Understanding key factors like housing, available transportation, green space and urban planning helps burgeoning doctors address the concerns facing minority communities.
Striving the bridge the world of medicine and surgical procedures with the social aspects of health helps tell a broader story. Uddyback said that students interested in entering the medical field can start understanding the social elements of their patients well before they start school.
She's not bluffing either. Her interests have catalyzed her to start the "medical mentors pipeline program," where students who want to get to medical school can shadow and learn what it means to be a doctor.
"Hopefully we're moving in the right direction now," she said.
"There is no question that when I was born 1965, there was no way anyone could have ever imagined that an African American woman would be sitting in the position that I have right now."