Our Voices Dasia Caldwell

August 03, 2023

A financial analyst, a vascular surgeon, and a summer intern student from the College of Charleston, all walk into the clinical science building, what do you get next? Well for me in this case, I, Dasia, received an amazing shadowing, learning, and networking experience.

For the summer of 2023, I was unsure of what steps I should take to make myself more appealing to a medical school application board. Then again, did I truly want to be a doctor? I’ve already dedicated three challenging years towards a biology degree with this plan in mind, so I had better figure it out quite quickly, or I had just bombed thousands of dollars on an otherwise, in my opinion, pointless degree. So simply put, guidance and mentorship were needed more than ever at this point. Luckily, I was able to meet Dr. DaNine J. Fleming, the Associate Chief Officer for Inclusive Excellence, who introduced me to the summer internship through the Office of Equity for MUSC, that allowed for students to shadow different departments within the medical university. After the approval of my application and the completion of interviews, I was assigned to the Department of Surgery, and from that point forward, it was on!

I was gifted the opportunity to work with the amazing Keller Lee and Dr. Sharee Wright, two of the most genuine and hardworking people I have come to know. Immediately, on my first day on the job, I witnessed what it meant to be a part of the MUSC team. Dr. Wright and Keller work together on the “Inclusive Excellence and Cultural Dexterity” efforts of the Department of Surgery. Together, Keller, Dr. Wright, and I spent time crafting ideas, implementing plans of action, writing of papers and petitions and much more that will increase the inclusivity and emphasize the diversity within the department. Being that these are two of the most dedicated people to their efforts within the department, I found it amazing how two people who have trained at totally different levels, and complete daily tasks that are both important, but are completely different, collaborate to make these aspects of the department work so seamlessly.

I’ve watched Dr. Wright stand for several hours straight operating in a body cavity with extreme confidence, while simultaneously teaching several students at different points in their educational/professional careers while still being able to make everyone simultaneously feel included in the learning process. I mean, I haven’t even graduated college, and yet Dr. Wright makes me feel as though I’m a 3rd-year resident on my way to being an attending. Seeing how gracefully she carries herself and the respect and attention she has earned inside and outside of the operating room being not only as a female surgeon, but as the only black female surgeon in the department is so assuring for me. I, as a black woman, am always questioning if I belong in the field of medicine. Is there even a place for me? Or am I going to receive the same respect as others? Dr. Wright serves as proof that there is space, and that in the case that there isn’t, I can make the space for myself. She is a prime example of what young aspiring black pre-meds want and NEED to see. Following her from clinic to surgery is quite refreshing, seeing how she tends holistically to her patients with her bedside manner that provides mindful ease, understanding, humor, realistic dialogue and appropriate medical attention to her patients is all a student needs to see to reassure faith in medicine from a spectator perspective. Dr. Wright has allowed me to regain my passion for medicine and shown that I can be as effective as a physician as anyone else.

Keller is the boss though. He is the sweetest person you can ever meet and is truly dedicated to all facets of his job. His flexibility and dedication are commendable. When first getting this internship, one of my more realistic fears was that I was going to be a huge burden to my preceptor. When I found out that I would be working with a “financial analyst” I prepped myself for long boring days, but then I met Keller. He’s the greatest preceptor/financial analyst/inclusive excellence and cultural dexterity team member EVER! There is never a dull moment, and he has never made me feel like less than a team member and family. He is as invested in my success as I am. Keller constantly puts me in spaces that are conducive for me to be successful within whatever path I choose. He has found different opportunities for me within the Department of Surgery during my educational career to assist in my application process.

When Keller joined the advisory committee for the DOS inclusivity excellence and cultural dexterity, he became one of the most formidable assets of the team. I’ve watched Keller work extremely hard to create an atmosphere in the department that feels like home for everyone. He truly cares about the people he has set out to help and will do anything within his means to ensure that they feel comfortable, respected and valued. Being able to work alongside him, has been such a rewarding and rejuvenating experience. For all students, staff, employees, and trainees immersed in the many moving parts at MUSC, you have Keller in your corner, and he is ready to stand toe to toe with anyone to ensure the values promoted by MUSC stand true in the Department.

This summer has been nothing short of amazing. From watching full circle kidney transplants to helping create ideas and plans that will leave a lasting impression and impact for everyone in this department has been the highlight of my time here at MUSC. The Department of Surgery truly aspires to be among the most inclusive environments in any academic medical center.

At the backbone of all of this work stands a financial analyst and a vascular surgeon. Being able to watch their collaboration efforts effectively begin to change the narratives of what a department of surgery looks like is beyond anything I could have imagined before I was able to be a part of the team. I have a newfound appreciation for the work being done in and outside of the clinical setting. Being able to shadow Dr. Wright’s surgical procedures allowed a glimpse of what is ahead for me, and working with Keller and being able to see the different components and constant collaboration between teams in the department has shown me multiple possible career paths that are available to me. I will forever appreciate this opportunity, and will forever be grateful to Melissa Caroll, Dr. DaNine Fleming, Keller Lee, Dr. Baliga, and Dr. Wright, for facilitating such a wonderful summer experience and allowing me all the experiences and opportunities I have received working as a summer intern for the Office of Equity assigned to the Department of Surgery.