Paying It Forward: How One Doctor Uses Children’s Books to Promote Science Careers

Dr. Oneeka Williams made a childhood dream reality, inspiring other girls of color around the world

(Image: Williams)
(Image: Williams)

Dr. Oneeka Williams took a childhood dream of pursuing science as a career to not only become a doctor but empower other children to follow their dreams in STEM. The author of the Dr. Dee Dee Dynamo children’s book series, Williams’ books feature an African-American heroine who journeys into space adventures, educating and entertaining with fun science facts for youth along the way.

A native of Guyana and raised in Barbados, Williams traveled to the States to attend and graduate from Harvard Medical School and Johns Hopkins. She’s now a surgeon specializing in urology. “I’ve always loved science,” she says. “My mother is a science teacher, and so, from the time we were very young, we’ve always been engaged and involved in science education and science learning and just captivated by science.” talked further with her about her determination to build her career in medicine and how she’s paying it forward by advocating for science interest in children. You have a solid career as a surgeon. Why did you choose to become a doctor?

Williams: When I was about 11, one of the young ladies in my class had an issue with her earring that got ripped out, and in that moment, I was the only one who responded to her in a way that wasn’t intimidated by the sight of blood. That was the first spark for me [indicating] I want to take care of people. From there grew this small list of desires to make contributions to help people with medical issues—in a way that was my calling. That’s how I started with my interest in medicine, and it has grown over the years.

From your experience as a young girl who had an interest in science to zeroing in on career in medicine, what advice would you have for black girls and young women to pursue successful careers in science?

Having a very good grounding in science, first of all, [is important.] [You must have] a love and passion for learning, for discovery and for helping others. I think that medicine has changed significantly, so [studying it] requires a lot of dedication and commitment.

Second, [get] exposed to science and medicine. Volunteer in high school—before you even get to college—at various medical practices, [including] local community hospitals. You have to have an understanding of what doctors do, what’s involved in medicine, and understand the license and training with the real gratification that comes with training to be a doctor.

Finding a mentor is something that’s very important [as well]. This is someone who helps you understand and navigate the process and identify what might be helpful in terms of entering medical school. [You have to develop] a global appreciation for asking questions, looking for answers, and considering approaches and treatments to evaluate—looking for better ways to be more effective and more efficient. It’s a constant learning process, and having someone to help you navigate is very key to having a successful medical career journey.

Read more about Dr. Williams’ journey into a medical career on the next page …

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