• Neurosciences

    Black History Month: Dr. Alyx Porter on shaping the future generation of physicians

Dr. Alyx Porter

Black History Month is commemorated every February. It's a month for all people to celebrate and learn about diverse and important contributions of African Americans to American society and culture, as well as to reflect on the ongoing fight against racism, inequity and discrimination.

Mayo Clinic News Network is profiling several Mayo Clinic physicians who are focused every day on achieving health equity through their work.

Meet Mayo Clinic's Dr. Alyx Porter, a neuro-oncologist who is working to help shape the next generation of physicians.

Watch: Black History Month - Dr. Alyx Porter on shaping the future generation of physicians

Journalists: Broadcast-quality video (2:41) is in the downloads at the end of this post. Please "Courtesy: Mayo Clinic News Network." Read the script.

Dr. Alyx Porter is a neuro-oncologist for Mayo Clinic. She is part of an interdisciplinary team that treats the most complex and serious cancers of the brain and nervous system. Dr. Porter says she is only one of three Black women practicing neuro-oncology in the U.S. 

"If you look at the latest census data for African Americans, we're at around 13% of the U.S. population, but only 5% of the physician workforce. Hispanic or Latino populations measuring around 18% to 20% — yet only 8% of the workforce. And so there are certain groups that are underrepresented compared to what the demographic looks like," says Dr. Porter.

Research has shown that underrepresentation in race and ethnicity among the physician workforce leads to health disparities and less than optimal patient health outcomes. Mayo Clinic is focused on closing that gap.

Dr. Alyx Porter consults with a patient.

"Mayo Clinic is devoted to eradicating racism and promoting health equity. In 2020, they earmarked $100 million as a commitment against racism. And so I see the investment time and time again, and ensuring that we're part of the change that we all wish to see," Dr. Porter says.

Dr. Porter leads a nonprofit organization she founded called ElevateMed, along with her husband, Dr. Gregory Umphrey, also a Mayo Clinic physician. 

ElevateMed's vision is to inspire and support future generations of physicians from historically underrepresented backgrounds, with scholarships, mentorship, leadership development and financial wellness education. 

Dr. Alyx Porter and Dr. Gregory Umphrey

"It is personal. This was a gap that we both had in our medical school and early career matriculation. And so really, we’ve aimed to fill that gap with what we wish we'd had," she says.

Ewoma (Ay-WHO-mah) Ogbaudu (Owe-bah-DOO) is an ElevateMeD scholarship recipient. He attends the Mayo Clinic Alix School of Medicine. His goal of becoming a doctor stems from his own upbringing in an underserved community.

"That really sparked something in me to say, 'Hey, there's so much more that I can do to impact people from communities like where I'm from, and really make a difference in their health and their health outcomes," says Ogbaudu.

Making a difference. It's a commitment inspired by the greatest leaders of the past, present and future.

"I'm hoping that we'll start to see health disparities eradicated and we'll stop seeing differences in survival just based on your race and ethnicity. That's the big dream, that's the big goal. But we have so much work to do before we get there," says Dr. Porter.

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