Dr. Eric Freeman
President and Physician in Chief at Old Dominion Pediatrics
Striving & Thriving at VCU interviews Dr. Freeman about who inspired him to pursue a career in medicine, why he chose pediatrics, and why its important to achieve true diversity in the STEM fields.
An interview with Dr. Freeman
Who is your greatest influence?
The greatest influence in medicine for me was my aunt Rita who has been a pediatrician now for 32 years. I spent a summer in North Carolina as she was working at the public health department and I was inspired by the connection that she had to her patients, the ability to give back, and serve her community. I enjoyed the field of medicine and that really was my impetus to stay on that career path. I also was very blessed to have an aunt who practiced in Petersburg, VA and was an obstetrician gynecologist who really was an outstanding role model for me. Both of those individuals really put the fire in me to pursue a career in medicine.
Why did you choose pediatrics?
For me, I think pediatrics is the coolest specialty. I admit my bias. Pediatrics enables you to create a bond with the patients and their families. I think that the ability to add continuity of care and to see the growth and development of children and adolescents over a number of years is very rewarding.
Why is it important to have true diversity in the STEM fields?
I did my undergraduate training at the college of William & Mary. I went to medical school at the VCU School of Medicine. Then I did my residency training in Pediatrics at the University of Florida. Across all of those phases of training, minorities are still a very low percentage of the student population. I took that as a huge undertaking and a huge responsibility because it is important to me to be successful so that I can inspire, recruit, and retain outstanding individuals. So, that is a tremendous weight and responsibility.
It is very sad to see that we don’t make up a greater percentage of the medical professional census. We need more people who look like us. Individuals from our communities look to people from our backgrounds to be their best advocates in terms of reducing health disparities and including access to care. So, I take my role very seriously.
It has been truly a joy to give back now that I am a medical physician, particularly as a new advisor for Black Men in Medicine. That is my way to pay back and to give to brothers behind me so that they’ll follow in my footsteps. I think for us what we need to spend our time on is trying to expand the map in terms of the number of minorities, not only in STEM fields, but I have a passion for getting young African American men and women and people from all areas into a career in medicine.