Alumni News

Sharee Wright MD

Spotlight On: Sharee Wright, M.D. COM Class of 2007; Surgical Residency Class of 2013

After completing a surgical residency at MUSC in2013 and a fellowship in Vascular and Endovascular Surgery in June 2015 at Temple University, Sharee Wright, M.D. is now a vascular surgeon with Surgical Associates of Richmond. Her path to a career in vascular surgery was a long -and often challenging - journey.Growing up in a single parent household in the quiet community of Bonneau, SC, surrounded by the Francis Marion Forest, her life was a good country life.

By her junior year in high school, herhorizon expanded when she was accepted to The SC Governors School, a two-year, in-residence program for academically advanced students in science and mathematics. There she met students from different backgrounds and cultures and developed a well rounded perspective that provided the foundation for her future in academic medicine. When the high school curriculum required a research project, she chose to research spinal cord injury at MUSC, and became interested in neurosurgery, which eventually led her down a path to vascular surgery.

Dr. Wright attended North Carolina State University. After graduating, she did not gain admission to medical school; instead she was offered a spot in the MUSC Post- Baccalaureate Reapplication Education Program (PREP), a program that engages promising underrepresented minorities (URM), rural and disadvantaged students in post-baccalaureate courses to prepare them for medical school.

After completing PREP, she was admitted to the MUSC College of Medicine. As a black student, she felt that she frequently needed to prove herself. She found her way to Dr. Myra Singleton, Associate Dean for Student Affairs in the College of Medicine. Dr. Singleton bonded with Wright and other URM students, inspiring them continue to work harder and be stronger. She embraced Singleton's advice and matched into MUSC's surgical residency.

New hurdles appeared. When Dr. Wright entered her surgical training, there were only a handful of URM students and she was the only black woman. Residency is a time during which trainees develop an understanding of how they fit into their work environment and solidify plans for their career. This concept is even more significant for URM and women trainees.

“There were many times I questioned if the faculty thought I deserved to be in the program,” she said. “You need people who believe in you, who lift you up.”

She found those people when she rotated on vascular surgery and developed a special bond with vascular surgeons Jay Robison, M.D., Bruce Elliott, M.D. and Thomas Brothers, M.D.

Dr. Robison became her mentor. “He believed in me even when I didn’t believe in myself, and made me a stronger, more confident surgeon,” she said. “Even now, when I have a particularly challenging case, I call him and we talk about it.”

“Sharee had to be smart, strong, determined,dedicated and hard working to fulfill her historic accomplishment of being the first black woman to finish MUSC’s surgery residency and go on to complete a 2-year fellowship in vascular surgery,” said Dr. Robison. “As administrative chief resident, she was respected and acknowledged by students as a very good teacher, with high - but fair- expectations.”

“I couldn’t be more proud of all she has accomplished,” he added.

She admires Dr. Brothers for his surgical skills. “Heis the most technically-gifted surgeon I ever met,”Wright recalls. “I aspire to be like him, plus we have the same dry sense of humor.”

The feeling is mutual.

“Dr. Wright is one of my most favorite people in the whole world,” said Dr.Brothers. “Not only do I have enormous respect for her accomplishments, her personal drive, and her exemplary humanity, we share the same quirky, extremely dry sense of humor that very few people seem to fully appreciate in its nuanced hilarity.”

She faced financial barriers as well.

When Dr. Wright found out all residents needed to purchase loupes in PGY-2, she didn't know how she could ask her mother for the money. “She was a single mom and money was tight,” she said. The struggle stayed with her and during her final year, she and her fellow graduates asked that their graduation gift to be gifted towards loupes for the incoming PGY-2 class. Since then, the Curtis P. Artz MUSC Surgical Society has provided loupes to all second-year residents as away to ease the financial burden.

Wright continues to give back to improve resident education. She hopes her gifts to the MUSC Surgical Resident Research and Education Fund will make the next generation of surgical trainees’ journey a little easier.

“If it buys a new couch, or some extra food, orin any way makes for a better, more enjoyable training environment, then I’ve achieved my goal.”

She gives back to the College of Medicine and the Elliott - Robison Endowed Chair in Vascular Surgery asa way to thank both the institution and the people who propelled her to a successful career in vascular surgery.

“It's quite simple - MUSC made me the successful surgeon I am today,” she said. “And I’m very grateful.”

Patient education and advocacy are important in her career choice of vascular surgery. “African Americans have more severe vascular disease by the time they seek care,” she explained. “And, black patients are more likely to have chronic diseases, like diabetes,hypertension, congestive heart failure and end-stagerenal disease. Yet, vascular surgery is comprised of only 10% black vascular surgeons, a disparity that creates a barrier to care for the African American population.”Research shows that patients’ comfort level is better if there is racial concordance with their doctor. African American patients feel more comfortable discussing health related concerns and are more open to advice if the physician looks like them.

“By educating and advocating for my URM patients, I know I can improve their outcomes,” she said. “It is rewarding to know I am making a difference.”

Dr. Sharee Wright during a visiting lecture.

Pictured with Dr. Sharee Wright, during her administrative chief year are (left to right)  Jeb Hallett, M.D., Jay Robison, M.D.,Tahlia Weis, M.D., the first woman integrated vascular surgery resident to graduate, Nitin Garg, M.D., visiting lecturer Joe Mills, M.D., and Tom Brothers, M.D.

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Many of our alumni, like Dr. Wright, value their MUSC education and want to give back to the institution and program that made them the successful surgeons they are today.There are many philanthropic opportunities and each gift makes an impact on our residents' daily lives. We hope that you will partner with us to advance education and help pave the path for the next generation of surgical leaders.

Please contact Vera Ford, Director of Development,at 843-792-1840 or fordva@musc.edu or visit musc.edu/surgery/give.