Whitney Palmer

Healthcare. Politics. Family.

Dr. Brenda Armstrong, Dean of Admissions, Duke University School of Medicine

Published in the May 2015 Durham Magazine

By Whitney L.J. Howell

As a student in a segregated Rocky Mount, N.C., high school, Brenda Armstrong, M.D., knew she wanted to be a scientist of some sort. But, she didn’t know far her determination and the support of her family and friends would take her.

But, now, Armstrong points to events and people in her life that positioned her to use her gifts to help others.

“My life, and whatever roles I’ve been fortunate enough to find, has been about giving back,” she said. “I have wonderful gifts that no dollar amount could bring.”

Today, Armstrong, 66, has been the Duke University School of Medicine Dean of Admissions for nearly 20 years. (She’s also an associated dean for medical education, a professor of pediatrics, and a pediatric cardiologist for children, adolescents, and adults with congenital heart disease — a woman who wears many hats!) She’s changed the School’s demographic make-up to better reflect the Durham community, more than doubling the number of black applicants in her first few years and continuing to enhance diversity.

It’s an accomplishment close to her heart. While at St. Louis University School of Medicine, Armstrong was the only black woman student for three out of her four years of training. She recruited the second black woman who joined her for her final year.

Her road to steering medical school admissions was a winding one, though. It was a teaching job right out of Duke undergraduate that revealed Armstrong’s future career.

For four years, she taught science and math to the same students as they progressed through school. With her, the students rose from “C” and “D” achievers to the honor roll. That experience prompted her to pursue medical school so she could heal and teach others about their well-being.

She even had the opportunity to hone her teaching skills in medical school – this time with a support network. The custodial staff frequently asked her about her work as she studied late at night.

“When I studied by myself, the folks cleaning up would ask me what I was doing,” she said. “It was great to have someone who looked like me care about my work. They were my study aids, and they knew it.”

Because the community bolstered her, she works to give back. For more than 30 years, she’s served as the physician for the Durham Striders, a local youth track association.

“Being of the community and in the community makes me a better person,” she said. “The community has kept me grounded, has given me values, and has allowed me to use whatever gifts I have to make my community better.”

To read the profile at its original location: http://issuu.com/shannonmedia/docs/binderdmmay?e=13657385/12589504 pg. 38

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June 28, 2015 - Posted by | Profiles | ,

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