Mayo Clinic Arizona neuro-oncologist helps shape future generations of physicians

Feb. 1 marks the start of Black History Month honoring the triumphs and struggles of African Americans throughout U.S. history, and the Mayo Clinic has taken steps to ensure its workforce is diverse and representative of all patients.

The Mayo Clinic is lit up in red, yellow, and green to celebrate Black History Month, something it will be doing every night until March 1. 

Meet Dr. Porter

Dr. Alyx Porter always knew she was destined to help others.

"It really is a privilege for me every single day to come to work and be inspired by them," says the neuro-oncologist for Mayo Clinic in Phoenix.

She's part of an intricate team that treats the most serious and complex cancers of the brain and nervous system from patients who travel from across the world.

Dr. Porter says she's only one of three Black women practicing neuro-oncology in the United States – and that's a statistic she wants to change.

"Whenever we enter healthcare we should have the opportunity to see someone who looks like us, to care for us, and we know that when that happens, there is a much more rapid establishment of trust and belonging and that should really be a right as a patient," Dr. Porter said.

Research has shown that underrepresentation of race and ethnicity in the workforce can often lead to disparities in healthcare. Mayo Clinic is focused on closing that gap.

"Mayo Clinic has always had a commitment to equity and diversity and that is something that is deeply intertwined with our values. In 2020, there was a $100 million commitment made against racism to promote health equity and eradicate racism within healthcare," Dr. Porter said.

Taking things even further, Dr. Porter leads a nonprofit organization she founded called ElevateMeD, along with her husband, who is also a Mayo Clinic physician. The goal is to inspire and support future generations of doctors from historically underrepresented backgrounds with scholarships, mentorships, leadership development and financial wellness education.

"Frankly, I hope that in the future, an organization like ours may not need to exist because the support is already there, that we have such a diverse cadre of students that are interested in going to medical school and graduating from medical school. That the wrap-around support is already built into the medical school's environment for them," Dr. Porter said.

Since launching in 2019, they've provided more than half a million dollars in scholarships and support to 35 diverse medical students from across the country.

"In the future, I hope that we will have a physician workforce that truly reflects what our U.S. population looks like. That is the way that we start to chip away at some of the health disparities that exist in our country," she said.

To put it further into perspective, according to the association of American Medical Colleges, only 5% of American physicians are identified as Black or African American.

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Dr. Alyx Porter