Trio Share Hopes, Expectations of Being Black, Female and Residents

Surgery

Quiana Kern, M.D., Kiandra Scott, M.D. and Avianne Bunnell, M.D. are pursuing surgical specialties at MUSC.
Left to right: Quiana Kern, M.D., Kiandra Scott, M.D. and Avianne Bunnell, M.D. are pursuing surgical specialties at MUSC. Photo by Sarah Pack

Writer Leslie Cantu, MUSC News Center 

Avianne Bunnell, M.D., Quiana Kern, M.D. and Kiandra Scott, M.D. are pursuing surgical specialties at MUSC. For one resident, being a surgeon is a chance to develop long-term relationships with patients and nudge them onto healthier paths. For another, it’s an opportunity to ‘fix’ people. And for a third, it’s helping people reconstruct their appearances after cancer.

All three are young, smart and ambitious — that’s a given for any MUSC surgical resident who’s bested dozens, if not hundreds, of other applicants to win a spot in one of the integrated programs that accept one intern each year.

They’re also all black women, which makes them part of an even more select group. African-Americans represent between 2 and 10.2 percent of surgical residents, depending on the specialty, according to a January 2017 article in the Journal of Surgical Education.Diversity is important to MUSC, which has made “Embrace Diversity and Inclusion” one of the five pillars of its Imagine MUSC 2020 strategic plan.

Diversifying the health care team to reflect the communityas a whole strengthens it and improves patient outcomes.Only 5 percent of South Carolina’s physicians identify as black or African-American, yet the state’s population is more than 27 percent black, according to a 2014 report by the Association of American Medical Colleges.

At MUSC, Bunnell, Kern and Scott comprise more than 20 percent of the 2017-18 class in the three integrated surgery programs: vascular, plastic and cardiothoracic.

They’re each the first black doctor accepted into their respective programs, two of which are relatively new. Scott is the first resident ever in the plastic surgery integrated program and Bunnell is only the third resident in the vascular integrated program.

Prabhakar K. Baliga, M.D. chairman of the Department of Surgery, said diversity and inclusion are integral to the department’s vision.

“We are truly excited and delighted that Avi, Kiandra and Quiana chose our department. Each of them has such a strong and compelling personal story that serves to inspire all of us. They have built strong foundations and have shown courage in blazing trails that makes me confident that they will be national leaders in their fields. It is a joy and a privilege to be part of that journey,” Baliga said.