Dr. Cherise Hamblin is founder and president of Patients R Waiting, a nonprofit organization started in 2019 and dedicated to eliminating health disparities by increasing diversity in medicine.
As a full-time, board-certified OB-GYN with Penn Medicine Lancaster General Health’s Family & Maternity Medicine practice on Good Drive, Hamblin, 40, spends most of her days caring for women’s health needs, monitoring expectant mothers and delivering babies at Women & BabiesHospital.
A graduate of Franklin & Marshall College, Hamblin attended medical school at Northwestern University in Chicago and did her residency at Maricopa County Hospital in Phoenix, Arizona.
She and her husband, Shaun Murphy, a professor at HACC and community health educator at UPMC, live in Manheim Township. They have two young children: a daughter, Violet, and a son, Shaun II.
What is the mission of Patients R Waiting?
“Only 5% of American doctors are Black, despite the population being over 14% Black. Our mission is to have a better correlation by increasing the pipeline of minority clinicians, making the pipeline less leaky by supporting students, and supporting minority clinicians in practice .”
Who are the board members?
“Dr. Sharee Livingston and Dr. Wendy Goodall McDonald. Dr. Livingston received her medical degree from the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine and did her residency at Penn State Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, then began practicing as an OB-GYN at UPMC Lititz . We live less than a mile away from each other and we worked in outreach for planning the third annual Diversity in Medicine Conference. Dr. McDonald is a board-certified OB-GYN at Women’s Health Consulting in Chicago, Illinois. She attended medical school with me and we became close confidants and friends.”
What does the name Patients R Waiting mean?
“It represents the idea that patients are waiting for doctors to whom they can relate, good outcomes and meaningful health care relationships. It is a way of encouraging those who are interested in medicine to know they are needed and wanted by patients. In other words , ‘Don’t believe anyone or anything that tells you you can’t contribute, you are needed.'”
Why do Black patients do better when their doctors and health care providers are Black?
“Studies have shown that Black patients do better with Black doctors. Black babies with Black doctors have better outcomes. There is research to support that. It may have to do with being able to make a connection with your doctor, building trust or your doctor going the extra mile to meet your needs. There may be many factors. It’s a starting point of commonality. For some patients having common ground opens up conversations. Patients often tell me things they haven’t told their doctors before. I think it gives us a connection. Studies show that having a connection is so important in medicine.”
What are some of the obstacles for Black students to pursue medical degrees?
“Racism and implicit bias affects students, from elementary education funding and opportunities, through college. If students successfully overcome these hurdles and apply to medical school there are more challenges. Navigating the medical school application process is a challenge for anyone, but for Black students it is even more daunting. There are expenses, like having to pay up to $5,000 to apply to medical schools. The fees add up. Test preparation also costs thousands of dollars. The process is subjective and despite commitments from medical schools to representation, the stats remain the same. Too few make it through the process. We need a better process.”
How does Patients R Waiting help to overcome those obstacles?
“We are here to help mentor students and guide them through the process. We help pay for application fees and test preparation, while we try to change the system. We teach students how to network, send them to conferences and more. Some of our initiatives have been sponsoring a STEM Summer Camp, F&M Mentoring, and making connections through internships and shadowing.”
What is your own background?
“I was born and raised in the Bronx, NY Both of my parents were college educated and always encouraged my sister, brothers and me to go to college.”
What was your educational background?
“I excelled in science and was accepted at the Bronx High School of Science, which is a prestigious high school that focuses on math and science. That was how I heard about Franklin & Marshall, when we visited various colleges.”
Did your family have a medical or health care background?
“My mother, Violet Hamblin, was an OR nurse. She often talked about her work in the hospital operating room. My uncle, Milton, is a doctor. And my pediatrician was a Black woman.”
How did your mother’s death influence you?
“My mother died when I was in ninth grade. She had lupus and high blood pressure. She died from a heart attack when she was still young. Thankfully I have had people in my life step up to play mother roles where I needed. It made me not take my family for granted.”
Who encouraged you to go into medicine?
“I always thought I would be a teacher, but my father, Carlyle Hamblin, encouraged me. When I liked biology class, he would say, ‘You should be a doctor.'”
Any other influences in going into medicine?
“When I was young, I saw a lot of Black doctors on TV, like ‘ER’ and ‘Grey’s Anatomy,’ and thought, yeah, maybe I can do this.”
What made you choose Franklin & Marshall for your pre-med education?
“I first discovered F&M when I attended a minority recruitment weekend. There were 50 Black and brown students, all excellent students, and I thought, this is great. They treated us so well and I felt that I really fit in.”
What was your first impression of F&M when you began as an undergrad?
“I don’t want to say it was a bait and switch exactly, but when I showed up as an undergrad my first year, not all 50 students who visited with me had enrolled. I hadn’t realized that my experiences during recruitment were different than what I was expecting.”
What was your experience like at F&M?
“As it turned out, while I was at F&M, I ended up coordinating the same minority recruitment weekends for students while I was an intern for the admissions office. I had a great academic and social experience, and was involved as Black Student Union vice president. I made lifelong friends and connections.”
How did studying in Guadalajara, Mexico influence your education?
“I made it my goal to become fluent in Spanish, which has served me well in medicine. In Mexico, I was able to become more proficient in Spanish and learn to speak conversationally. Coming from the East Coast, it was a great cultural experience .”
How did you get involved in playing rugby?
“That was really an accident, but I loved it. One of my friends was trying out for the team and said, come with me. I didn’t even know what rugby was, but I made the team and played for two years. It’s basically football with no pads and a lot of running. I remember telling my Dad I was playing rugby, and he said, ‘What?’ then proudly watched my games from the sidelines.”
What drew you back to Lancaster?
“I thank Dr. Dan Weber for that. He was my mentor in undergrad at F&M. He is an F&M alum who is about 25 years older than me. We both had the same experiences, studying in Guadalajara and going into OB-GYN.
I had the opportunity to shadow him. He encouraged and taught me so much. We stayed in touch and he asked me to interview for a position at Lancaster General, which turned out to be a great fit for my love for teaching and serving. He has been a great mentor. And that is something we want to provide with Patients R Waiting. Mentors like Dr. Weber can make all the difference. Someone who sees the best in you and sees your worth is imperative.”
How did you choose OB-GYN as your specialty?
“I always knew I wanted to do OB-GYN. When I did my clinical rotation, I knew that I loved surgery, working with my hands, and working with people.”
What do you like to do when you are not caring for women, delivering babies and mentoring others?
“Shaun and I enjoy spending time with our children, and as a family we like to travel to New York and to Barbados, where we have family.”
Who are contributors to Patients R Waiting and how can donations be made?
“Some of our biggest supporters last year were UPMC Pinnacle Foundation, High Foundation and Lancaster Osteopathic Health Foundation. Donations can made on the website at www.PatientsRWaiting.com or checks can be mailed to Patients R Waiting, PO Box 562, East Petersburg, PA 17520.”