There’s no force more powerful than a woman determined to rise. We came across Dr. Melissa S. Charles’s story on Instagram and couldn’t help but share in hopes that her story inspire you to keep pushing and never, ever, give up!
“I am the daughter of a single immigrant mother who relied on social assistance to raise four kids practically by herself. When I think back on this 10-year MD/PhD journey, I’m emboldened by the circumstances that have framed this trajectory. The last 2 years living out of my car all the while studying for boards, dealing with local police, waking up to gun shots, intrusive homeless people, peeping toms, getting ready for my senior gala in the basement of one of the buildings on campus, never deterred me from maintaining my focus.
I think of the days when I was exhausted because of inadequate sleep in a car with no AC/Heater dealing with back pain and swollen feet from not sleeping supine for months, but yet still trying to study. I think of the overwhelming sense of rejection and embarrassment when I was refused help after asking/begging for it; or being treated like a charity case. I think of the many times my resolve to finish this MD was emboldened despite dealing with micro-aggressions, discrimination, harassment, when my car was totalled, my bike stolen, and bank account fraudulently liquidated by a hacker all a few days apart ( Murphy’s law is a MF). I think of the many times I wanted to throw in the towel and the only thing that kept me from falling apart was my faith, my art, my Aunty Val, and my best friend (Joelle Pluviose in Toronto who called me every day to make sure I was still alive)
To every boy/girl who chose to drop out because the urgency of insufficient funds superseded the point of getting grades; I was you. To every boy/girl who had to deal with parentification, discrimination, harassment, I was you. To every boy/girl who had to deal with people telling you, you weren’t good enough and who put you down when you vocalized your aspirations; I was you. If you had to lie to teachers about mailed letters returning to the school because you were homeless living from place to place; I was you. To every boy/girl who was treated as a subordinate because they were judged by their circumstances, or somehow vilified by the lack of ancestral “success”; I am you. I believe with my whole heart that there is a power much greater than your circumstances, and no matter how much people want to reduce you to your circumstances, mistakes, choices, or even your grades; I. Believe. In. you. Your future is bright and I believe it wholeheartedly.
As I receive my second doctorate degree (first was PhD in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics), I celebrate God, I celebrate Love, I celebrate the many Black U.S. champions in Science and Medicine who paved a history that I am fortunate to benefit from. I celebrate the scholarships, the donations, UNCF, and my alma mater Oakwood University. I celebrate the complicated history of my Cuban Haitian heritage that have led to my existence. I celebrate those who poured into me and demonstrated black excellence (My Ottawa Family/Friends, My Guyanese extended family, My California friends that have become my family). I celebrate my Mami and Papi who equipped me with the intangible tools of grit, art, dignity, self-respect and resilience to pursue this goal relentlessly. I celebrate my “Auntie” Val, my angel sent from God who changed my life. I celebrate the Londons, the Corts, the Fosters who loved me relentlessly.
Lastly, I celebrate every boy and girl whose potential and power is yet to be revealed to the world because of the circumstances that “bind” them. Never give up on yourself. Even when everything and everyone tells you it’s the “smartest” thing to do. If God did it for me, surely he will do it for you.”
Dr. Melissa S. Charles is originally from Ottawa, Canada and graduated from Loma Linda University School of Medicine dual doctoral program MD/PhD. Her PhD was in Microbiology and Molecular Genetics and she will be starting Anesthesiology Residency at LLU. Her current research interests include Clinical Anesthesia and Neuroscience; focusing on opioid pharmacology, and perioperative pain management.
Most importantly, she hopes to encourage other young girls from challenging backgrounds to pursue the field of sciences and medicine!