Because it will take a village to raise the next generation of Black doctors.

Our Origin Story


On November 12, 2021, when one from an informal Twitter community of Black physicians sounded the alarm for anyone available to help with their mentee in trouble, several of us answered the call. Two days later, we met virtually with Dr. Gislaine Bernabe.

Born in Haiti, Dr. Bernabe immigrated to the US as a child. She is a US citizen but returned to the Caribbean for medical school for financial reasons and is the first in her family to graduate from college and medical school. On July 1, 2021, she started working as an intern physician in a newly formed family medicine residency program at a for-profit hospital in Nashville, Tennessee, where she was one of only two international medical graduates and the only Black intern among her peers across three new training programs.

Although the Educational Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates (ECFMG) certified her as ready to enter US training programs, she found her entire career in jeopardy within the first month of her training. Instead of the program applying for her license to practice as they did all their other trainees, program leadership decided to create a narrative that she was unprofessional and incompetent and placed her on a Performance Improvement Plan 3 weeks into her internship—an action essentially unheard of so early in training. Though she exceeded all required tasks, she was placed on a Remediation Plan in December 2021 and ultimately terminated on January 14, 2022, for failing to meet 5 of 6 competency areas without communicating specific reasons.

Dr. Bernabe with her 11 year-old twin daughters (faces blurred for their protection)

Since that November call to action, our small group met with Dr. Bernabe on multiple occasions, reviewed all of her receipts, joined her meeting to secure a local lawyer, crowd-funded the lawyer’s retainer fee, and facilitated finding her a new position through our networks and social media. Unfortunately, this meant starting the arduous intern year over—but she is THRIVING in her new program!

Not everyone is so lucky. The average medical student graduates with $240,000 of debt, but without a medical license and at least one year of residency training, one can not legally practice medicine. Black doctor-hopefuls are disproportionately affected. Only 5% of resident physicians in the US are Black, but 20% of dismissals from training programs. And there is no entity responsible for supporting or advocating for these individuals.

From the experience of witnessing Dr. Bernabe being harassed and gaslighted when she should have been allowed to focus on being an intern like her peers, we knew we needed to do more and that we would have to get organized to do so.

This is why Dr. Vanessa Grubbs founded Black Doc Village. Because there is power in numbers.

Bethanie Hines Photography

Vanessa Grubbs, MD, MPH
President & Founder www.thenephrologist.com

Dr. Grubbs is a double board-certified internist and nephrologist and published author. She completed undergraduate and medical degrees at Duke University and primary care residency at Highland General Hospital in Oakland, California. She went on to complete an MPH from UC Berkeley and general medicine clinical research and nephrology fellowships at UC San Francisco. After nephrology fellowship, she maintained a clinical practice and research program with a focus on palliative care for patients with end-stage kidney disease at San Francisco General Hospital for a decade. She currently works part-time as a primary care physician; contributes to the California Health Care Foundation blog and her own blog at thenephrologist.com; produces relatable educational videos on her YouTube channel, Real Kidney Talk with The People’s Nephrologist; and is working on her next book projects.

Robert Phillips

Robert Phillips is President and Chief Executive Officer (CEO), West Oakland Health, the only predominantly Black community-serving Federally Qualified Health Center in California. Robert has spent over 25 years empowering communities, addressing health and race equity issues, and working to improve people’s health and lives. Robert specializes in race/gender equity, social health and health care service, and community health and development initiatives. Before joining West Oakland Health, Robert has been a CEO and Founder of a social tech firm, an executive director at Kaiser Permanente, managing director of The Center at the Sierra Health Foundation, a managing director at The California Endowment, and served in various roles for the Service Employees International Union and the AFL-CIO. He has a BA from Morehouse College, an MPH from the H.T. Chan School at Harvard, an MPA from the Maxwell School at Syracuse, and is ABD from UNC Chapel Hill.

Melanie Tervalon, MD, MPH

A pediatrician by training, Dr. Tervalon’s seminal article on cultural humility* together with her hands-on leadership with public, private, and nonprofit organizations has helped to change the way professionals, service providers, institutions – and entire fields – approach their work in the community and within institutions and organizations.

In her current role as an independent consultant, Dr. Tervalon tailors services and products anchored in the principles and practice of cultural humility for clients in both the public and private sector, spanning the disciplines of health care delivery, public health, education, public service and advocacy.

* Cultural Humility versus Cultural Competence:  A Critical Distinction in Defining Physician Training Outcomes in Multicultural Education, Melanie Tervalon and Jann Murray-Garcia, Journal of Health Care for the Poor and Underserved, 1998.

Because it will take a village to raise the next generation of Black doctors.

“I’ve worked with Drs. Grubbs, Hussein and Givens and have the utmost respect for the work they’re doing and believe deeply in this project.  Black trainees and physicians, reach out.  And the rest of us?  Make a difference — join the village today.

Imani McElroy, MD, MPH
Resident Physician
Department of Surgery
Massachusetts General Hospital 

Sign-up for BDV Newsletter!
Privacy Settings
We use cookies to enhance your experience while using our website. If you are using our Services via a browser you can restrict, block or remove cookies through your web browser settings. We also use content and scripts from third parties that may use tracking technologies. You can selectively provide your consent below to allow such third party embeds. For complete information about the cookies we use, data we collect and how we process them, please check our Privacy Policy
Consent to display content from - Youtube
Consent to display content from - Vimeo
Google Maps
Consent to display content from - Google