Pioneering a Healthier Future for Women and Beyond:

My Journey to Health Equity

Pink thin doodle line

Witnessing the disparities in healthcare access and outcomes within my community, I developed a strong desire to make a difference. Through relentless dedication to education and continuous growth, I embarked on a journey to become a physician, scientist, and engineer with the ultimate goal of advancing health equity and transforming lives.

From a young age, I was driven by a relentless curiosity. My incessant inquiries might have tested the patience of the adults around me, but I was eager to comprehend the world in all its complexity.

Questions like "How does the heart circulate blood?" or "What occurs on other planets?" or even "How do planes manage to fly?" constantly occupied my thoughts. I was, simply put, captivated by the mysteries of life.

Yamicia Connor when she was young playing with a wooden dinosaur toy

I entered the world in Bronx, NYC, welcomed by my caring parents, David and Doris Connor. My father, a retired Master Chief from the US Navy, hails from the small Caribbean island of Montserrat. The island, tragically, has become almost uninhabitable due to the activation of the previously dormant Soufrière Hills volcano, leading to the devastation of major cities and the displacement of many of its residents.

three navy commanders wearing uniforms facing each other

My mother, while trained as a CPA, chose to devote much of my childhood to being a full-time homemaker. Her roots trace back to the picturesque island of the Dominican Republic.

I enjoyed a wonderful childhood in Jacksonville, Florida, in the company of my younger brother, David Connor Jr. The memory of his birth remains vivid in my mind, his perfection encapsulated in his exact number of fingers and toes, and the charming smile that seemed to dictate the adults' actions in the room. Today, it's remarkable to witness the compassionate and kind-hearted young man he's matured into, choosing to walk in his sister's footsteps by pursuing a career in engineering.

Yamicia D Connor's parents walking down the aisle together on her wedding day, radiating happiness and pride.

This same sense of curiosity led me down the path of becoming a dual-degree MD, PhD holder. This notion of wearing both the hats of a medical doctor and a scientist was first introduced to me by a high school biology teacher. Her guidance proved instrumental in helping me land my first job in a lab at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida. Even at the tender age of 16, donning that white lab coat imbued me with a sense of significance and purpose.

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Arrow pointing to the left vector

My curiosity reached new heights when I stepped into the world of MIT. For the first time, I had a clear understanding of the questions I wanted to pursue and began to grasp the methodology needed to find the answers.

MIT holds a unique position among educational institutions. Its vibrant and inclusive "live and let live" culture welcomed a broad spectrum of behaviors, fostering a learning environment unlike any I had previously encountered. It was at MIT where I honed my ability to think both deeply and creatively, cultivating resilience and determination that have proven crucial in my professional journey.

Yamicia D Connor, radiant and triumphant, is crowned as the winner of a pageant, symbolizing her achievement and grace on the stage

My time at MIT led to me being awarded the UNCF-Merck Undergraduate Science Research Scholarship, which marked the beginning of my next professional journey. This brought me to Merck Research Labs, offering me a fresh perspective on scientific research.

Until then, I was familiar with scientific pursuits undertaken by one or two individuals sharing a common objective. However, my tenure at Merck exposed me to large-scale collaborative research, where dozens, even hundreds, of scientists collectively sought to unravel a single problem. This broadened my understanding of group dynamics in science, while also allowing me to sharpen a variety of technical skills. With access to a wide spectrum of tools and techniques, along with seemingly boundless resources typical of academic research, my skill set and scientific acumen were greatly enhanced.

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Arrow pointing to the left vector

Armed with these skills, I joined the Harvard-MIT MD-PhD program next. There, I earned a medical degree from Harvard Medical School through the Harvard-MIT Health Science and Technology Department and a PhD from MIT in Medical Engineering and Medical Physics.

My PhD research focused on how metastatic breast cancer cells interact with the endothelium, specifically looking at cytoskeletal structures that enable cell-to-cell communication. These structures transport various types of intracellular contents, the most interesting of which are micro RNAs. These tiny RNA molecules have the potential to change the behavior of the cells that receive them, which could have significant implications for our understanding of cell behavior and communication.

4 diverse medical personnel in scrubs
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Arrow pointing to the left vector

After finishing my PhD, I spent about a year at St. Jude, researching the tumor microenvironment in medulloblastoma. At that time, I was sure I'd go on to train in pediatric hematology-oncology. However, that all changed when I found out how much I enjoyed working in the operating room.

Before this, I had never thought about becoming a surgeon. But the idea of choosing a non-surgical specialty, and potentially never stepping into an OR again after medical school, made my decision obvious. Despite my earlier plans, I knew that I wanted to pursue a career in surgery.

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Arrow pointing to the left vector

Following the completion of my OB-GYN residency, a transformative journey that honed my skills and deepened my commitment to advancing women's health, I pursued a Commonwealth Fellowship in Minority Health Policy. Here, I was fortunate to acquire a Master of Public Health (MPH), further enriching my perspective on healthcare delivery and policy.

In the midst of this rigorous academic progression, life graced me with the joy of twins. Embracing motherhood while navigating the healthcare sector allowed me to experience firsthand the challenges and triumphs of balancing professional and personal growth. It was during this period that I founded 'Race to Better Health' and 'Diosa Ara', initiatives that embody my dedication to improving health outcomes and advocating for policy change.

an adorable photo of two new bord baby sleeping on their tummy

My gratitude extends to those who have supported me throughout my journey, be they family, friends, mentors, or even strangers whose paths crossed mine. The opportunities that I've been blessed with are a testament to the collective efforts and dedication of those around me, and I eagerly anticipate contributing further to the field of women's health, armed with the knowledge and experiences I've gathered thus far.

Yamicia D Connor and her husband on their wedding day
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Arrow pointing to the left vector
A black and white portrait of Yamicia Connor

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