First Person with Dr. Dana Thompson: Black History Month Reflections

Dr. Dana Thompson, Division Head, Otorhinolaryngology-Head & Neck Surgery, has earned a wildly impressive series of achievements throughout her career to date – many preceded by the word “first.” She’s spent years trailblazing a path of reputational excellence as a Black surgeon, and at the core of her drive is a deep commitment to community-based care, and equity and access for marginalized groups. In this Q&A, she gives a closer look at her early influences into the medical and the confidence she has in Lurie Children’s to have a unique impact on the health equity movement.

Q: Can you tell me about an experience that influenced your career path?

A: I come from a family of pioneering physicians. My dad was one of the first Black residents to integrate the training program for his residency in obstetrics and gynecology in Kansas City, Missouri, and my grandfather was the only Black physician in about a 100-mile radius where he lived in Mississippi. Their stories and history are a huge part of who I am and what drives me. I carry forward their value system, which is largely about advancing community-based medical care and ensuring all populations have access to the same high-quality care.

Q: How does racial and health equity intersect with your professional work?

A: In the Chicago area, we are a multi-ethnic diversity of 11 million people. One of the beauties of Lurie Children's is that we see patients from all different backgrounds – some with the same diagnoses – walk into the doors of our hospital and clinics. I truly feel that we have a responsibility to aim for health equity through a relationship-based model of care, where we learn and understand the unique needs of our families.

Q: Can you talk about the importance of health equity?

A: For me health equity means making our unique care for specific diagnoses available to all children, regardless of background or socioeconomic status. We are uniquely positioned here in Chicago, and at Lurie Children’s, to make an impactful contribution to children’s health – to study it and set an example for the entire country as a differentiator.  

Q: Do you have a piece of advice for young people of color interested in pursuing a career in the medical field?

A: Be courageous even when it feels difficult to be, be compassionate, lead the way you would want to be led, and ensure you’re evaluating your own biases of who can mentor, support and be an ally.  We still have significant gaps in mentors that look like us. I found mentorship by building relationships and proactively reaching out to others who had skills I wanted to learn or emulate, and none were physicians of color.  

Q: How do you choose to celebrate Black History Month?

A: Through education of others and the contributions of courageous Black physicians and pioneers in healthcare.

Q: Do you have a favorite Black-owned business in Chicago readers should try? 

A: Overflow Coffee in the South Loop is a Black-owned coffee shop with a great environment! 

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