Diversity in Medicine: Dr. Wells’ Story

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Lawrence Wells, MD Lawrence Wells, MD Lawrence Wells, MD, Associate Director of the Sports Medicine and Performance Center at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, enjoys working with children with sports and musculoskeletal injuries to help them regain form, function and movement lost to injury or disease, and resume active lives.

Here, he shares his early influences that inspired him to pursue a career in medicine, his mentors’ words of advice and what today’s medical leaders can do to make the field more accessible to diverse staff.

Q: When did you know you wanted to become a doctor?

A: When I was about 12 or 13, one of the members of my church was a doctor. I followed him around his office and on hospital rounds. I grew to explore more by my volunteer work at local hospitals to see the field up close and in person. I started watching medical shows like Dr. Kildare, Marcus Welby and Emergency, and while they were very Hollywood and not real, I enjoyed the happy ending for most. I enjoy trying to provide happy outcomes to my patients even to this day.

When I was 11, I broke my arm and met an orthopaedic physician named Dr. Hood who set my forearm. Boy, did it hurt! But Dr. Hood saw an inquisitive, crying kid and asked me about school and my interests. He encouraged me to keep getting good grades and study hard because one day, I could be likely him – a doctor. It was and is a noble and stable profession. I truly enjoy helping people, and in turn, I like being the recipient of “thank you doc.” The earned trust of people who allow you to help them in their time of need in a huge reward to me, along with a simple “thank you.”

Q: What barriers did you face?

A: Discouraging people who said I would be the first and my high school counselor who told me not to bother applying to Stanford University.

Q: Is CHOP a welcoming place for surgeons from under-represented categories? How?

A: CHOP is welcoming, but it’s sometimes timid before the embrace. One has to prove him or herself to earn the trust needed for any emerging relationship.

Q: Why is it important to see more diversity in the ranks of pediatric surgery?

A: If you don’t see people who look like you, you’re less likely to envision yourself in that role.

Q: What can leaders do to make the surgical field more welcoming and representative?

A: Be active, relentless and intentional with recruitment and engagement of diverse staff. We should be cultivating the desired mix of staff to achieve parity with the community we serve. We still have work to do.

Q: What is your No. 1 piece of advice to female and minority medical students who are interested in surgery?

A: Use your relentless drive and your curiosity to develop a strategy that will help you solicit and retain support along the way. Continue to build your network of sponsors, your team of mentors and endorsements from colleagues.

Q: What’s one myth or misunderstanding about your field you’d want others to know?

A: It’s not just for those who can bench press their weight.

Q: What is your favorite part about practicing medicine?

A: It’s not a 9-5 gig. Every day presents a new challenge and a new opportunity to do good and make a difference in someone’s life.

Q: What is your favorite part about working at CHOP?

A: The tremendous opportunity to collaborate in the spirit of teamwork to improve patients’ lives. We have tremendous resources here to keep pushing medicine and research forward. While the word “no” is present in many of my encounters, the environment is receptive to review and reconsideration.

To learn more about Dr. Wells, his education, training and research interests, please see his staff biography.

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