Oct. 10, 2019 — While some children idealize a superhero in a cape or perhaps a wizard with a wand, a young Shavano Steadman found the physician to be a mythical being. The third-year medical student grew up in the Bahamas, where access to health care was limited at best.
“Most of my medical school classmates had a doctor for a role model when they were growing up. When I was a kid, having a doctor around felt like royalty was visiting,” Steadman recalls. “They arrived with a flurry of white coats, a flash from one of those old wind-up Kodak cameras and a small bag of multivitamins, and just as quickly as they arrived, they were gone. It was the rarity of their visits that turned the physician into this magical creature for me. I was idealizing it, but looking back, it was a sad situation.”
Today, Steadman’s early experiences fuel his motivation. He says receiving the Hugh “Smiley” Hill Scholarship provides valuable support to allow him to pursue his dream of becoming a surgeon who gives back by treating underserved populations.
“When I become a physician, my goal is to not be this foreign, magical being. I want to be present and available and give sustainable, dependable care,” he says. “Improving access to health care for an entire community is my dream. And every dream begins with a small step forward and support from people who believed it could be done. For me, that has been the university and this scholarship.”
At the UF College of Medicine, Steadman has served as president of the UF chapter of Student National Medical Association and a mentor in the UF Minority Health Professional Mentorship Program. For Steadman, helping underrepresented minorities in medicine achieve their goals is a priority.
“I remember how hard it was for me to get my foot in the door when my interest in medicine was starting to bud,” he says. “The point is to make it easier for those who come after us.”
In September, Steadman received the International Medical Outreach Service Award at the 2019 UF College of Medicine Honors Convocation. During his spring break, he traveled two to three hours each day to isolated villages throughout Nicaragua to see patients.
“The goal was to correct things commonly wrong with mission trips. A lot of the time, mission work is about addressing acute issues in the moment. We wanted to focus on managing chronic issues by partnering with local care providers,” he says.
While in Nicaragua, Steadman was exposed to surgical work for the first time under the supervision of UF Health physicians Drs. Lawrence Yeung and Erich Wyckoff. He found the experience exhilarating and now aims to pursue a surgical subspecialty after graduating.
“I was drawn to the immediacy of the results,” he says. “Patients came in with a problem and we would fix it in a matter of hours.”
In his clinical rotations, Steadman is exploring his interest in urologic, vascular and plastic surgery. He says the road to becoming a surgeon — a black surgeon — appears hazy at best, but that does not discourage him.
“Of all the surgeons in the U.S., about 10% are black. That shows the representation isn’t where it needs to be,” he says. “In almost any other specialty, I’ve had the opportunity to ask black physicians about their journey in very candid, honest ways. Because I haven’t had the opportunity to work with any black faculty in surgery at UF, the path before me is foggy. There are so many unknowns, but I can’t imagine wanting to do anything else.”
As the first in his family to attend college and medical school, Steadman knows what it feels like to forge a path into unfamiliar territory. He hopes his future career will serve as a beacon of light for those who follow him, his footsteps guiding the way toward a more diverse, equitable playing field.
“If I can make it through this hazy fog, I can look back at my own footsteps and use them to help the next generation,” Steadman says. “Just like surgery leaves lasting effects on its patients, my goal for my career is to leave a lasting impression on everyone I interact with.”