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Lorna Dove, M.D., Healer Columbia U. College of Physicians & Surgeons

By Liza Young

Dr. Lorna Dove, is a Clinical Hepatologist at the Center for Liver Disease and Transplantation (CLDT) at Columbia University Medical Center as well as an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons.  She received her medical degree from Columbia University and additionally holds a Master’s in Public Health (MPH) from the University of California, Berkley. She is renowned for her research in innovative treatments for patients co-infected with Hepatitis C and HIV.

Here she explains her earliest roots, her motivation for success, sources of strength, and how to find meaning and happiness in life.

Education Update (EU): How did you choose your career?
Dr. Lorna Dove (LD): I don’t even remember making the decision to become a doctor. It must have been early in life, because I can remember knowing that this is what I was going to do as early as 5th grade. There were no doctors in my family growing up...though there are few now. I had no pressure to become a doctor, but there was certainly pressure to “do something useful.” For me and my siblings that pressure translated into different things… lawyer, teacher, counselor. My father is a mechanic, very thoughtful, quite a diagnostician. I think that if he had access to different resources, he would have been a doctor.

EU: What are some of the personal challenges you’ve had to overcome?
LD: I think that near the beginning of my career my biggest obstacle was my own self-doubt. I come from a rural town in the South and early on (as young as 8 or 9) I learned that everything is not distributed fairly, and people don’t always treat you in a fair manner. My parents told me “That’s just life. Work to change it but don’t let it stop you!” I heard the words but it takes a fair amount of strength to translate those words into action. I have spent my entire life first convincing myself and then convincing others that I can do what others are doing, and furthermore that I can do it well. You would assume that once you have some success you would relax and feel confidence, but that is not really true. The subtle messages that come from racism and sexism are powerful deterrents to success that you must fight internally everyday. The problem is that some times these messages are so subtle you don’t even realize that you are in the midst of a battle.

EU: What are some of the achievements you are most proud of?
LD: I hope that my biggest achievement is yet to come; that’s what keeps me motivated. I have had a fair amount of career success. I completed college, medical school and I have a challenging job in academic medicine. However, I would like to accomplish more in the community. I come from a family that was active in the civil rights movement. As I get older, I realize that personal success is only one part of the equation. Finally, if I can raise two confident, well-adjusted, happy sons…I will give myself a hand!

EU: What was a turning point in your life?
LD: To be honest I don’t remember a clear turning point in which the decision made changed my entire life. Instead, there are continuous small decisions that I make all the time. With each decision, I think about how it will affect my family, my overall goals, and myself. In some ways, I have always made the “safe” choices, not necessarily what I would always recommend, but this is a truthful answer.

EU: Who were your mentors?
LD: I think that there are two types of mentors; those that you know who inspire you on a daily basis and the ones that you read about and see in the media who teach you what is possible. The first type is easy for me to describe. My parents grew up in rural NC not with much material wealth but with wisdom, determination and a sense of what is right: “Always do the right thing even when it is hard!” My father was the president of the local NAACP chapter when it was dangerous to even belong. They continue to mentor me.

As for the mentors from afar…well I am always inspired by women who achieve regardless of the forum. Think about the obstacles that Shirley Chisholm faced and the ones that Serena and Venus Williams face each day…the agendas are different but the ability to face the challenge is the same.

EU: What advice would you give to today’s youth?
LD: Determine what you want to accomplish and stay focused on that goal. Be confident in your ability, but realize that everything takes hard work. So often we are consumed with immediate pleasures, but most long term success takes a little sacrifice up front. Don’t become distracted by all of the material messages/baggage that we are bombarded with everyday. Don’t get me wrong, I like pretty things. I also like to do things and go places, but happiness and success are not defined by what type of purse you carry.#



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