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The Voice from the Back of the Room


By Shamanique Bodie-Williams, MD, FACOG


Coming from the Bahamas, a predominantly Black nation, I never saw myself as “the other,” oppressed, or silenced—whether real or imagined—because of the color of my skin.

Medical school marked the first time in my life that I felt like a tiny voice in the back of a very large room. Few shared my gender and even fewer my racial background. I felt isolated by the twin “isms”: racism and sexism. With no mentor who could understand my experience, affirm that I belonged where I was, and guide me through, it seemed best to remain silent—to “lay low” so as not to attract any unnecessary attention.

Was it my coping mechanism, my race, or my sex that rendered me invisible? My strategy meant that I was undervalued and often overlooked for opportunities that, by virtue of grades and performance, should have rightfully been mine.

If I could travel back in time, what would I tell myself? Be comfortable being the only one! I was so accustomed to growing up with Black people in positions of power that when my environment changed, I did not know how to carve out my own space. The color of my skin should have been their problem, not mine.

This realization influenced my career and my passions. In addition to being an obstetrician–gynecologist, I am also an author. I wrote Progression: A female adolescents’ and parents’ guide to gynecologic health and Being Breast Aware and coauthored Expecting the Greatest: Thriving in Pregnancy. Importantly, I also write children’s books. My first children’s book, Life is Good to Me, serves as a reminder that gratitude for the little things in life is perhaps one of the first steps to happy living. I wrote I Want to Be a Doctor to connect with young people of color and reinforce the message that they can succeed. They can fly high if they would just believe. There are role models who look like us … and they are all around us.

Book covers for "Life is Good to Me" and "I Want to Be a Doctor" by Shamanique Bodie-Williams, MD, FACOG.


I Want to Be a Doctor and Life is Good to Me by Shamanique Bodie-Williams, MD, FACOG


These books remind me of who I am and where I came from. I wish there were someone to tell my younger self that my space was limited only by my self-imposed boundaries. I was not comfortable expanding, and so I shrank, leaving medical school without a mentor, someone to help steer me in the right direction as I progressed in my career.

I am thankful that almost 15 years after training, I found my mentor in Annekathryn Goodman, MD, MS, MPH, FACOG, a gynecologic oncologist and gynecologic surgeon and professor of obstetrics, gynecology, and reproductive biology at Harvard Medical School. In the Bahamas, I attempt to do for others what Dr. Goodman has done for me: connect with young physicians who share my clinical, research, or community service interests and see how best I can help to move them forward. Above all, I work to be a global advocate for women’s reproductive rights, especially those of Black women. My goal is to share my story and the lessons I’ve learned along the way with as many people as I can so that others can be inspired to carve out their own spaces. The most important lesson I want to share is to never allow the opinions of others to faze you and always push yourself to be more.

The theme for Black History Month 2023 is Black Resistance. This February, ACOG wants to hear from our members about how they’ve created, benefited from, or seen the need for space to resist racism and work toward equity in medicine or in their institution. Email [email protected] to share a story in the form of a written essay, visual art, or a video.

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