Dr. Velma Scantlebury-White is the nation’s first African-American female transplant surgeon. The mother of two currently serves as the Associate Director of the Kidney Transplant Program in Delaware at Christiana Care Health System. She holds extensive research credit in the outcomes of organ donations and transplantations in African-Americans. She focuses on the medical and financial support of minority transplant candidates and recipients.
Although she has more than 800 transplant operations under her belt, Scantlebury-White was once told her hands were too small to be a surgeon. She has said the discouraging remarks only encouraged her to speak to children about achieving their goals no matter what others may say.
She most likely learned that from her own mentor, Dr. Barbara Barlow, a pediatric surgeon who taught Scantlebury-White the ins-and-outs of surgery, and used her network to move her forward.
Many of Scantlebury-White’s patients are uninsured or underinsured. She often sees minority patients whose transplanted kidneys fail because they can’t afford the medications to keep them working properly. She works with social workers to get government funding for her patients, most of whom cannot afford Medicare. Her goal is to educate African Americans about the options available for transplants. Many are unaware of the funding offered to help those in need.
One of her current and future endeavors is to increase the longevity of the transplant patient. The average survival time for a kidney transplant recipient is 10 to 15 years for those who received their kidney from a live donor and eight years for those who received a kidney from a cadaver.
As the co-author of more than 85 medical papers, 10 monographs and book chapters, Scantlebury-White is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, a member of the American Society of Transplant Surgeons and the American Society of Minority Health and Transplant Professionals. She sits on the boards of Donate Life America, the National Minority Organ and Tissue Transplant Education Program, and the United Network for Organ Sharing.
She says she refuses to retire until there are 10 more black women in transplant surgery in the United States. Currently, there are now nine.