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Division of Preventive Cardiology, Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Mayo Clinic
Assistant professor of medicineVIEW PROFILE
The mother of LaPrincess Brewer, M.D. (CV ’16), says she knew her daughter would be “somebody,” recalling her reading books while they walked the aisles of the grocery store. Dr. Brewer grew up in an economically challenged single-parent household with her mother as her No. 1 cheerleader. Curiosity and early exposure to science put Dr. Brewer on the path to become a chemical engineer. She received a full college scholarship through a Gates Foundation program for underrepresented minorities and worked it into a medical career. Three years out of training, she’s a preventive cardiologist at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, leading research focused on community-based interventions for underserved, under-resourced ethnic minority groups.
“Getting into medical school was a highlight for me. There were odds against me as an African American woman going into medicine.”
As early as elementary school, I was interested in science and focused on becoming an engineer. Scientists came to our school to demonstrate experiments and mentor students. I’m a good example of the power of STEM pipeline programs. As I progressed in school, I had opportunities to visit engineering companies in the area of my hometown (Charlotte, North Carolina) and see others who looked like me in science-related careers. I was a curious child and liked the discovery aspect of engineering.
In college at Howard University in Washington, D.C., I was a chemical engineering major. I have an analytical nature and loved discovery and the team-based approach. I did an internship at 3M in St. Paul, Minnesota, after my freshman year. I loved the work but felt something was missing — social interaction and societal impact. I returned to college and talked to my adviser about adjusting my course of study. The following summer I participated in a summer research training program at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, North Carolina, with a cardiologist who was focused on physical activity and cardiovascular outcomes. In work sponsored by NASA we examined muscle breakdown experienced by astronauts on long-term space missions. That was my aha moment. I saw that you could combine clinical practice and research as a physician-scientist.
When I returned to college I was motivated to pursue medical school. I took a gap year after college to work at the National Institutes of Health as a post-baccalaureate scholar. I was honored to be accepted to the George Washington University School of Medicine in Washington, D.C.
After the first year of medical school, I was selected for a summer research program for underrepresented minorities at Mayo Clinic and was matched with Iftikhar Kullo, M.D. (I ’94, CV ’99, CLRSH ’06), who is now my colleague. I focused on peripheral artery disease patients, and Dr. Kullo was a wonderful mentor. I presented our findings at my first American College of Cardiology Scientific Sessions. Our work resulted in my first published manuscript, and I received the best research manuscript award from my medical school. There’s a lot of crossover between chemical engineering and cardiology, so that specialty was a perfect fit for me. In addition to falling in love with cardiology that summer, I fell in love with Mayo Clinic. It was a well-oiled operation with an unparalleled level of professionalism I hadn’t experienced. Working with the peripheral artery disease patients, I saw their love for Mayo Clinic. I saw patient-centeredness shine through not just in clinicians but in all employees. You don’t see that everywhere.
Something kept calling me back to Mayo Clinic. During my fourth year of medical school, I returned for a sub-internship, again working with Dr. Kullo on the hospital service. I returned again as a visiting resident from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, Maryland, for a clinical rotation in cardiology. I was convinced that Mayo Clinic was the place where I wanted to train to become an academic cardiologist. I finally returned for cardiology fellowship and have been here ever since. Had it not been for the summer program for underrepresented minorities, I might not have met Dr. Kullo and received the support I’ve had from Mayo through the years.
I completed cardiology fellowship training three years ago. It’s very rewarding to forge my own path, develop my niche in research and practice, and mentor the next generation of clinicians and researchers as a faculty member.
I’m fortunate and honored to have trained at prestigious medical institutions and to have been mentored by incredible physicians and scientists. I’m viewed as a role model, which I take very seriously. I’m involved in several national organizations whose core values and missions are to mentor the next generation of clinicians in various specialties. I’m very active in the Association of Black Cardiologists, Inc., which has a built-in mentorship program for medical students, residents and fellows.
It’s rare that I turn down a medical student who asks to shadow me in the clinic. Those early experiences help shape whether someone pursues a particular specialty. I want to give them real-world experience.
I spoke to the students in Mayo’s Summer Research Fellowship for underrepresented minorities about how to maximize their experience at Mayo. It felt like I’d come full circle because I had been a student in that program. Early in my career, I’ve been afforded the opportunity to mentor trainees including medical students, residents, fellows and researchers. Mentoring is gratifying and fulfilling.
Getting into medical school was a highlight for me. There were odds against me as an African American woman going into medicine.
I grew up in a single-parent household, and we struggled financially. I had everything going against me in terms of getting into prestigious institutions for education. I received a full scholarship for my undergraduate education. I was in the inaugural class of the Gates Millennium Scholars Program for underrepresented minorities. That was truly a blessing because it allowed me to focus on my studies. It was an honor I wanted to live up to. I didn’t want to let them down.
I hope to become an independent clinician-investigator focused on community-based interventions for underserved, underresourced ethnic minority groups. I was fortunate to be awarded a Building Interdisciplinary Research Careers in Women’s Health (BIRCWH) Award and a KL2 Scholar Award that provides protected research time and mentored career development.
It’s challenging to have time for it all. There are only 24 hours in a day, and I wish I could use them all for patient care. I realize that taking care of myself is very important. I integrate things I enjoy into my life — concerts, meeting up with friends, participating in service organizations, fitness and travel. I have a lot of speaking engagements through work and my research, so I try to go a day early or stay a day later to enjoy the cities I travel to. I also enjoy bringing my family (including my puppy) along!
See past New Chapter stories here.