Becoming an Inspiration

Tommie Berry, Jr.
Third Year Medical Student
University of Louisville School of Medicine

Tommie Berry’s first memorable touch with the medical profession was in 6th grade when his grandmother Geneva was treated for cancer. She was a family caregiver – a stable, nurturing figure who served as surrogate mother to Tommie’s three young cousins.

"I was too young to really understand what was going on," says Tommie. “But I’ll never forget the day the doctor walked in and said grandma was better. I remember thinking of the doctor, ‘There are amazing people who do this every day for a living.’”

Junior year in high school, Tommie began to think about college. He was linked up with mentor Lindsey Dates, a lawyer and fellow African-American.

Lindsey took the young Tommie to an event at the University of Illinois’s law school where social and career issues were discussed amongst the group’s minority participants.

“There was a lot of talk about becoming an athlete, a rapper, or a famous entertainer. But this didn’t seem realistic to me – the odds weren’t there,” says Tommie.

“I was challenged to name an African-American doctor and could not. I was not daunted – I wanted to become that person and go back to my schools and encourage other minority students to dream big.”

Today, Tommie is a third year medical student at the University of Louisville College of Medicine. Rigorous days are filled with classes, electives, research, board and shelf exams, and rotations. After finishing his medical schooling, Tommie plans to go into physical medicine and rehabilitation with a specialization in brain and spinal cord injuries.

Inspired by the mentor role Dates provided to him, which propelled him into medicine, Tommie plans to initiate Doctors Back to School programs in his native Urbana and in Louisville where he earned his degrees to bring the medical profession into the schools and inspire students, especially minorities.

“I want to be an example and inspiration for others – to be real for them and help them recognize that as minorities, they can achieve whatever they want.” says Tommie. “The Christie Foundation’s support has helped me realize my dream.”