Dr. Velma Scantlebury, a native of Barbados, became the first Black female surgeon to specialize in transplant surgery in the United States in 1989, and now the State of Delaware will honor her with the state’s “History Makers Award. She will be presented with the award at the Delaware History Museum in Wilmington, the state capital, on October 7, 2021. She is the first and only Black woman to be honored in this way in the history of the award, which has previously been presented to United States President Joe Biden, among others.
Commenting on the award, Dr. Scantlebury said it was “an honor” to be chosen, and told a reporter from the Delaware State News, “I feel like I don’t really belong in this unique league of folks, but I am grateful and honored to be selected.”
Dr. Scantlebury has frequently shared stories of her journey to success, a journey that presented challenges and obstacles. The youngest of seven children, she was born in Goodland, St. Michael, in Barbados, and migrated to the US with her parents when she was a teenager. Her goal was to pursue educational opportunities that would ultimately lead to becoming a doctor, a dream she had sustained since childhood.
Interviewed by the Weekend Nation some ten years ago, Dr. Scantlebury described the “terrifying experience” of attending a Brooklyn High School and how “the edge” she obtained through her secondary education at the Alleyne School in St. Andrew helped to surmount her difficulties.
Dr. Scantlebury received a degree in medicine from Columbia University in New York City and then went on to complete fellowship training in transplant surgery at the University of Pittsburgh. She joined the University’s School of Medicine as an assistant professor of surgery in 1989. She became an associate professor before being appointed as a Professor of Surgery at the Regional Transplant Center of the University of South Alabama in Mobile. She also served as the Director of the Kidney Transplant Program and as Assistant Dean of Community Education at the university.
Before her recent retirement from the Kidney Transplant Program at Christiana Care, Dr. Scantlebury was the Associate Director of the program and the Director of Outpatient Clinics. She is currently a Professor of Surgery at Texas Christian University (TCU) and University of North Texas Health Science Center (UNTHSC) and Medical School, in Fort Worth, Texas.