Dr. Shanteria Dixon is very passionate about her work, and it was a pleasure interviewing her. Through her many words of encouragement and support that she provides other young girls in being able to do what they want when they grow up, her achievements and dedication to the medical field help her shine among her fellow colleagues.
“I think I have adjusted my goal over the years,” she said. “Initially, I wanted to save the world and help everyone from this community have a better life, but I think at this point, being realistic, if even one or two girls are able to hear my story or see my path in life, to grow up in poverty and still make it, I think at the other end—that will be enough for me.”
–Dr. Shanteria Dixon
Q: Dr. Shanteria Dixon, tell me a little bit about yourself. What made you want to get into the medical field?
A: Thanks for having me today. I have a bit of a different story. I was raised in West Palm Beach, Florida, but I was born in Peoria, Illinois, a small town outside Chicago. But growing up here, I was the youngest of eight. When I was younger, three of us were in the house, but my mom had eight kids. So big family, a lot of really great family support. But what really changed my life is I got hit by a car when I was 13. I was crossing Palm Beach Lakes Boulevard, a street in our city. And a drunk driver hit me, and I became a trauma patient. So it was kind of my first introduction to the healthcare field. The surgeon who operated on my legs that night his name was Dr. Richard Wiener.
I broke my pelvis in both legs, so they said I spent about eight hours in surgery. But this experience, having to learn how to walk again and being a patient, kind of going through it, really opened my eyes to the difference you can have in healthcare. So I wrote him a letter asking if I could shadow him in the operating room and his office. And he actually called me back on the phone, which was pretty amazing. So I thought I was like 13 or 14 at the time, and I had this big orthopedic surgeon who is the most humble, most genuine, amazingly competent person; call me on my phone and ask, you know, if I was interested in volunteering with him.
So that was really the big thing of it all.
I started shadowing him in his office. He gave me a job in his office. Then I would go to the operating room with him and just watch him put phones back together from horrific car accidents and, you know, phone replacements or joint replacements, things like that. So that was pretty influential in my quest to become a doctor. I also started shadowing the trauma surgeon that works in that department. So that’s how I got interested in medicine and how this journey took off.
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Q: So when you asked to shadow a doctor, at that point, were you anywhere near doing anything in the medical field, or was it just kind of like, I want to learn how to do this stuff?
A: Not at all. Well, I wouldn’t say no direction. I love math and science, but I absolutely had no idea what I wanted to do when I grew up. In hindsight, I probably would’ve ended up in law enforcement. My sister’s a police officer, and her husband, my brother. So very law enforcement, heavy family. And I knew I wanted to do something with the community and help people. We come from a very service-oriented family. My mom was a nurse’s aide and always wanted to be a nurse. I have a sister who’s a nurse and a sister who’s a teacher. So very kind of service giving back oriented type family. I had never met a woman, a female doctor, or a black doctor. I didn’t even think it was a possibility for me. So it was definitely not on my radar before this accident.
Q: So I saw you volunteered at a Good Samaritan Medical Center, part of the Palm Beach Health Network when you decided to volunteer and give your time and things like that. Was there any specific reason you chose this place, or did you just kind of have a list of places and were looking to see who would accept you? How did that go?
A: Yeah, so how that one is, I actually wanted to volunteer at St. Mary’s Medical Center, part of the Palm Beach Health Network. This place is where I had my surgery and was a patient; I wanted to volunteer in the emergency department and the trauma center because that was my experience there. But I was too young. I think I was only about 15 or 16 at the time. And the two hospitals are kind of sister hospitals, St. Mary’s Medical Center and Good Samaritan Medical Center, also part of the Palm Beach Health Network. So they said, you can start at Good Samaritan Medical Center and then once you get older, you can move over to St. Mary’s Medical Center. So I started volunteering at Good Samaritan Medical Center because it was also closer to my school. And it was through this program. So I volunteered at the medical records department doing basic clerical duties and things like that. But they had this amazing library that looked like something from Hogwarts.
So it was very fancy and had all these beautiful things, but I could just go in and get anatomy books, make little flashcards, and study stuff on my own outside of my schoolwork. And I absolutely loved that. So I fell in love with it there and eventually ended up going, I think, also doing some clerical volunteer work and risk management when the manager from the medical records department left. And then, when I