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“I feel hope”: pioneer Dr. Khalil Gates paves the way for black women in medicine

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Written by Eddie Costen

CHICAGO (CBS) – In honor of Women’s History Month, CBS 2 examines women’s challenges and victories in medicine.

Dr. Khalil Gates is a therapist and pioneer who talks about the changes needed to make more black women follow in her footsteps.

“I decided I wanted to become a doctor at a very young age,” she said. “Stories say I made a statement at age six.”

Gates had great support.

“My parents were my role models. They instilled in my sister and me the idea that if we think about something, it can be difficult, but we can do it, ”she said.

After graduating from Spelman College, Gates attended Loyola Medical School, where she was one of two black women in her class. She says it didn’t affect her so much because she knew she was there to get her doctorate

“All the extra noise that sometimes comes from being ‘alone,’ you either hear it and keep going, or you hear it and it stops you,” she said. “I decided to hear it and be aware of it, but keep going.”

But Gates says that even over the years, systematic factors are preventing women, especially colored ones, from advancing in medicine.

“A lot of those minorities and marginalized groups that they feel are a lot of bias and a lot of micro-aggression,” she said. “If you look at academic medicine, we don’t go through a cycle of promotion anywhere like any other group.”

For Gates, these are the challenges that black women face on a daily basis.

“There are different structures, sexism, racism, just bias in general,” Gates said. “We really need to deal with that as a health care system.”

Gates says mentoring is crucial.

“Another thing I really admire is the importance of role models and the importance of not only encouraging and supporting black women who come to medicine, but also providing the resources we need to meet them where we need them.” she said.

Gates will be there to do so with optimism.

“I feel there is so much momentum to try to solve difficult issues,” she said.

Gates also went down in history as a pulmonologist helping patients and families cope with a pandemic.

She says it changed her life and she was thrown to the border. And she is grateful for that.

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