Dr. Bonnie Mason was a successful chief resident for many years until a diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis forced her to reconsider her future. “Although I was able to practice for another few years, I had to rethink my career path and find a way to integrate my experience as an orthopedic surgeon into a business model that would benefit the medical community,” said Dr. Mason. I chose to teach students about the field of orthopedic surgery and provide hands-on simulated surgery workshops for students across the country.”
[Related: Black History Canada: 8 Famous and Influential Northern Neighbors of Color]
Along with her desire to be of service, Dr. Mason had first-hand knowledge of the healthcare disparities across the nation and the fact that minority women and men were underrepresented in medicine, particularly in specialty fields. With this in mind, she launched Nth Dimensions, a 501(c) 3 organization that has coordinated a team of over 40 orthopedic surgeons from 30 institutions and private practices to educate over 3000 medical students about musculoskeletal medicine, healthcare disparities and orthopedic surgery as a career option.
“Through Nth Dimensions, I have been able to integrate my motivations and multiple intelligence into a set of solutions that benefit the next generations of surgeons in numerous ways,” said Dr. Mason. Over its twelve-year history, almost half of the students who graduated from Nth Dimensions pursue careers in orthopedic surgery. And on average, of the female graduates, 75% of applicants who applied for an orthopedic residency were matched. Dr. Mason also reports, three out of four minority scholars matched an orthopedic residency slot. As if this weren’t enough, Nth Dimensions has awarded more than $1.5 million in scholarships and program grants since 2004. For her efforts, Dr. Mason was honored with the 2015 Diversity award from the American Academy of Orthopaedic Surgery.
“With an increasingly diverse aging population and obesity rates, various healthcare organizations are evolving to meet the needs of the changing patient demographic,” Dr. Mason explains. Nth Dimensions is one of these organizations striving to educate the surgical population to successfully provide care for such patients.” Now, on a mission to increase diversity in the technology field, Dr. Mason, plans to leverage her experience on the business side of medicine and as a physician educator to create a comprehensive online physician engagement and alignment tool to increase physician recruitment and retention.
BlackEnterprise.com caught up with the trailblazing leader in medicine to learn more about her journey.
BlackEnterprise.com: Tell us a bit about your background.
Mason: I am a proud third-generation Howardite, who graduated Phi Beta Kappa and magna cum laude as a chemistry pre-med major. I graduated from Morehouse School of Medicine in Atlanta, and completed a general surgery internship at the University of California at Los Angeles, followed by an orthopaedic residency at Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C. My second and greatest accomplishment has been and remains prayerfully having a loving and fulfilled life with my husband, children, family and friends.
Devising solutions to fill voids and being of service to my community had been instilled into both my sister and myself by my parents, yet, I was a risk-taker having decided to pursue orthopaedic surgery as a woman, of which there are still approximately less than 200 African American female orthopaedic surgeons in the U.S. currently.
What advice would you give your younger self?
- Please understand that most, if not all, negative feelings or perceptions of you (or that are directed towards you) primarily stem from the other person’s insecurities or ignorance.
- You have choices every step of the way— to act or react (or not), to go for it or go within (or not),
- To believe and grow (or not), to give and shine your light in spite of everything (or not).
Many people have a ‘secret sauce’ that has defined his or her path to success. What are the top three ingredients that have helped you succeed?
I have been blessed with the most supportive family and friends, including my husband, children, in-laws, girlfriends and colleagues. They have faithfully supported my finite dreams of becoming an orthopedic surgeon and supported me when the finite became ill-defined and an entrepreneur emerged. I have found that the importance of relationships translates into business, specifically, that building collaborations are the key to both individual and collective success.
What are the daily habits that make you successful?
- I am very intentional about taking time to become centered through meditation and prayer, which remains particularly challenging with two young boys, a husband and a racing entrepreneurial mindset.
- I make a list of weekly objectives and then pare this list down to a daily list of to-do’s for the day. On this daily to-do list, I make sure to add comments in my emails to my staff about how much I appreciate them, their expertise and professionalism.
- I also reserve time for activities with my kids.