Tisha Spence, M.D., joined Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in 2021, amid a pandemic that altered lives everywhere.
As a critical care physician, she sees some of the sickest patients admitted to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) at the St. Petersburg, Florida, hospital. In honor of Black History Month, we checked in with Spence about her job and her thoughts on Black history.
Tell us about your job and what you do in a typical day.
I am a pediatric critical care physician. I take care of the sickest and most fragile pediatric patients. I often tell friends and family that I am the pediatrician you never want to have a need for. Families bring their children to my unit because something has gone wrong, and I do my best to set things right. Each day on my unit is different, but it is always fast paced and challenging.
What is your favorite thing about working at Johns Hopkins All Children’s?
My favorite thing about working at the hospital are the people. From the environmental services worker who checks on me every morning when I am on service, the surgeon who always cheerfully takes my 4 a.m. emergency phone calls, to the unwavering support from my PICU colleagues. The people make this hospital great.
This year’s Black History Month theme is Black Resistance. What does this mean to you?
The purpose of this year’s theme is to celebrate how the Black community collectively works together to strengthen their communities, most often through social movements. When I reflect on this year’s theme, I think of the civil rights movement of the 1960s compared to current social and racial justice movements. While some may feel this theme and the way the history of race in this country is taught is provocative, I disagree. This year’s theme is not provocative but rather about empowerment. Education is such a powerful tool. With education, one can gain wisdom and with that wisdom gain understanding of who they are as a person and recognize and appreciate the differences in someone who may not look like them.
Tell us about a Black American you admire or think people should learn more about.
Mary Elliott is a curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture (NMAAHC). Her work on the museum's inaugural exhibition “Slavery and Freedom” and the Slave Wrecks Project has helped bring to life important parts of our nation’s history that have often been overlooked, not taught or marginalized in the classroom. The knowledge that has been gained from her work will have a profound impact on generations to come.
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