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The Grit and Grind of a Non-Traditional Medical Professional

Photo of Dr. Anya Bazzell wearing a black jacket, pink blouse and pearls.

Dr. Anya Bazzell, creator of the social media blog “Surgery and the City,” recounts her winding experience to and through medical school – and beyond.  

Dr. Anya Bazzell, creator of the social media blog “Surgery and the City,” recounts her winding experience to and through medical school – and beyond.  

Her prologue began nearly two decades ago when she graduated with a Bachelor of Arts in history;  

This summer, Dr. Anya Bazzell will start the story of her career as an attending physician with Planned Parenthood. 

A lot happened in between – including being awarded scholarships with National Medical Fellowships, for which she is now a Health Equity Ambassador.  

“I promised I’d make myself available as a resource to other students when I survived, and I’ve done just that,” wrote Dr. Bazzell, creator of “Surgery and the City,” a fashion and lifestyle blog.  

“I want to make sure non-traditional students get their fair chance. Just because they’re non-traditional does not mean less than, and I am living testament to that.”  

Dr. Anya Bazzell was raised in Marietta, Georgia, with her parents, brothers, and grandparents.  

“I watched as my family struggled to navigate the health care system because there weren’t many doctors who looked like us in our area, and since then, I wanted to be able to help,” she said.  

Because of the grade deflation she experienced at Boston University, however, Dr. Bazzell would have to switch her major from pre-med to history with a minor in African American Studies to graduate on time.  

“I ended up getting more education in something I loved and was able to become a more well-rounded applicant later on,” she said.  

Thus began her tenacious journey as a student unwilling to accept any diversion from her goal. 

“I’ve always wanted to care and advocate for communities made vulnerable,” Dr. Bazzell said.  

She first pursued her master’s in public health from Morehouse School of Medicine, which gave names and specific verbiage to the health care system gaps she, her family, and her community experienced growing up.  

“It was the first time I had conversations about health inequities, social determinants of care, and reproductive health justice in an academic setting, which helped inform my future decisions.”

But she found herself in Doctor of Medicine classrooms and libraries more often, gathering intel from service-oriented medical students on how to become a better applicant.  

This included earning her master’s in biomedical sciences from Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine in Georgia and embarking on her first medical mission trip to Ghana.  

Finally, she moved off the waitlist and into Morehouse School of Medicine in 2015.  

“There are amazing people there who supported me, especially the President, Dr. Montgomery Rice,” Dr. Bazzell said. “She gave me a chance when others would not.”  Dr. Valerie Montgomery-Rice is also an NMF alumna and received the NMF National Alumni Lifetime Achievement Award in 2022.

Dr. Bazzell also credits the NMF/United Health Foundation’s Diverse Medical Scholars Program and NMF’s Anarcha, Betsy & Lucy Memorial Scholarship for providing her additional support and guidance.  

“I appreciated how NMF required research in which to build my resume with, and as a Black woman with a passion for women’s health, I was honored to win that particular scholarship.”  

In her second year, Dr. Bazzell said her friends and family suggested she foster a creative outlet to bring more balance to her constant studying – and “Surgery and the City: An Overdressed Medical Doctor’s Guide to Fashion and the MD” was born.  

“I shared my journey through medical school and my mission trip experiences – including another one to Haiti – and it resonated with other non-traditional students,” she said.  

One blog detailed her struggles with standardized testing required to graduate from medical school.  

“In 2017, I failed [the] Step One [exam], and my entire career was completely jeopardized,” Dr. Bazzell wrote. “The Satisfactory Academic Progress Policy committee said I’d never pass my Step exams, pass my Shelf exams, graduate from medical school, or match into residency – but God always has the final say and I’ve officially accomplished every single one of those things.”  

Though Dr. Bazzell said she believes women’s health is the epicenter of medicine, she recently completed her residency in family medicine with Mount Sinai Hospital-Institute for Family Health, a high-volume, federally qualified health center in Harlem, New York.  

“I’ve been adamant about carving a path for myself in women’s health, so I helped to create a Reproductive Health track in my residency that didn’t exist before I got there, and I’m very proud of it,” she said, citing her training in colposcopy, prenatal care, high-risk obstetrics, and more.  

Dr. Bazzell also collaborated with FIGS, Matibabu Hospital, and the Tiba Foundation to provide women’s health and obstetrics care in rural Kenya earlier this year.  

“Kenyans don’t make any excuses when it comes to how they treat and serve their patients – they just get it done,” she said. “They also allowed me to function within my area of expertise. It would’ve been so easy to label me as a generalist and place me on inpatient wards, but instead, I was able to use what’s in my preferred toolbox.” 

Dr. Bazzell said she plans to continue enhancing the health of underserved communities as an attending physician with Planned Parenthood in the Atlanta-metro area.  

“If we don’t have healthy women, we don’t have healthy families or healthy communities, and the fact I can impact so many by impacting just one female patient is so meaningful to me. It is my purpose to educate and advocate, and I especially feel that way when it pertains to women’s health and reproductive justice in southern states.”  

“I went into medicine to ensure I’d be providing a service to my community, and if that means getting looked at a certain way even though I identify as a follower of Jesus, so be it. I’m here to do my job and would rather patients safely get the services they need rather than be forced to make decisions that are not good for their health or others.’” 

Dr. Bazzell said it’s a dream job she worked tooth and nail to prepare for.  

“It’s a privilege to be in this position because I almost wasn’t – and that jolts me back to reality and into a space of gratitude,” she said.  

As the recipient of the NMF Franklin C. McLean Award and National Council Alumni Award, Dr. Bazzell said she’s grateful to NMF for making scholarship opportunities available for physicians of color.  

“Until there is complete equity, and I’m not sure that will ever happen, it’s more than okay to create opportunities for Black people. In fact, I think it’s a necessity,” she said. “I hope to see that increase in physician representation and therefore decrease in health inequities, because statistics show African Americans have some of the worst outcomes and health experiences – and I don’t want that for myself or for people who look like me.  

“I don’t want that for anybody.”