Our Origin Story


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.

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 

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