“It’s pretty sad, but of the number of practicing medical doctors right now, only about 2 percent of them are Black women and there are other significant shortages in the number of other minorities in medicine,” Dr. Jasmine Zapata tells Madison365. “It’s so important to have networks of support when you are a young woman of color who wants to become a doctor. It’s easy to get discouraged when you look around and you don’t see anybody else on that path.
“By bringing everybody together in a virtual space – since we’re so few and far between – it really normalizes it. You now have a place where you can gain support, get mentorship and motivation,” she adds.
The first-ever Madam Dreamers Virtual Summit will be a 4-day event geared toward women traditionally underrepresented in medicine or from disadvantaged backgrounds who are interested in a career in medicine. It will be held Thursday-Sunday, July 23-26, and hosted by Dr. Zapata, a Madison-area pediatrician and a preventive medicine doctor who is also an author, speaker, entrepreneur, mother, wife, and mentor.
Jade Norman, a pre-med student and a master’s in health sciences candidate from Atlanta, is the Madam Dreamers Academy Summitt Planning Committee Chair.
“I’m looking forward to collaborating with over 300 minority women in medicine and over 30 minority women physicians to match the mission of The Madam Dreamers Academy to their commitment to pipeline mentorship and diversifying medicine in an unprecedented way,” Norman tells Madison365.
The Madam Dreamers Virtual Summit hopes to inspire future doctors with workshops, breakout sessions, speakers and panels on a variety of topics.
“This summit is a dream come true. Having underrepresented women come together to empower and support one another is all I could have ever asked for,” Andrea Sánchez-Velázquez, MPH, from San Juan, Puerto Rico, tells Madison365. “Representation is so important, especially in the medical field. Madam Dreamers Academy is a safe place for women interested in medicine.”
Madam Dreamers Virtual Summit came out of Dr. Zapata’s Madam Dreamers virtual mentorship program she started to support and uplift young women of color in medicine. Almost five years ago, Dr. Zapata started an online community for a handful of mentees in underrepresented backgrounds – young female women of color that were on the same path as Zapata.
The Madam Dreamers Academy’s small Facebook group grew over time to over 1,000 members. “The group includes other minority medical doctors from all over who help mentor the women who are on the path to medicine,” Zapata says. “It’s pretty amazing.
“A big part of the support is emotional support and motivation. At times when you feel like giving up or feel discouraged, we give that aspect of it. So, it’s not just the academic part, but the social and emotional support,” she adds.
Dr. Zapata says that she knew she wanted to be a doctor ever since she was five years old.
“Ever since I was a young girl I knew I wanted to be a doctor. However, I got a lot of discouragement over the years and people telling me that I should switch to something easier,” Zapata remembers. “Also, when I looked around when I was at the doctor’s office, I didn’t really see that many Black women who were medical doctors.
“But I did have a few mentors in my life that did look like me who were able to push me on to success, so that is what this group is aiming to be for others,” she adds.
Right now, there are tremendous racial disparities in health care outcomes that exist across the board, Zapata says, and diversifying the medical field can help that.
“Whether it be COVID-19, maternal child health outcomes, diabetes, obesity, cancer – there are so many racial disparities in health outcomes,” Dr. Zapata says. “What a lot of people are focused on right now is training people on implicit bias and dismantling racism, which is important, but another solution is to increase diversity in the health care workforce. That is another way that we fight this.”
One of the purposes of the Madam Dreamers group and this weekend’s Madam Dreamers Virtual Summit, is to support young women of color on a path to medicine in a radical way so that the diversity can be increased in the area health care workforce.
“We now have 30 speakers lined up for the event and over 300 pre-med students from across the United States from cities everywhere who are registered for the conference. These are minority women who aim to be doctors someday,” Zapata says. “And then we have over 30 dynamic speakers – some of them are practicing physicians, some of them are medical students, and some are pre-med students who are doing special topics.”
Gulnihal Akbulut, an osteopathic medical student from Chicago, tells Madison365 that the Madam Dreamers Summit – and the Madam Dreamers Academy as a whole – is a dream come true for people who don’t have the connections or access that other med students have.
“Representation in medicine is so important and having providers that look like their patients and understand their unique struggles is extremely valuable,” Akbulut says. “I’m very excited to meet, help, learn from, inspire, and be inspired by so many talented women.”
For those interested in attending the first-ever Madam Dreamers Virtual Summit, click here. It’s not too late to register and the summit is free.
“In this group, we dream big dreams but then we also join to support our students in executing them and making them a reality,” Zapata says.