Black History Month has been observed since 1926 when the U.S. designated the second week of February to study the history and lives of African Americans. In an effort to remember and celebrate important people and events in the history and present of the African diaspora, Collaborative Imaging ‘s employees have been highlighting their contributions and discussing their impact on music, politics, TV & film, writers, poets, art, food, sports, medicine and even Nobel Laureates.
Collaborative Imaging would like to recognize one of their partner’s most recognized radiologists, Dr. Kenneth Crosby of Raleigh Radiology in North Carolina. Dr. Crosby did his residency in Diagnostic Radiology and fellowship in Breast Imaging at UNC Chapel Hill. Known for his expertise in Breast Imaging radiology, Dr. Crosby is an avid member of the American College of Radiology and Radiological Society of North America (RSNA).
Dr. Crosby has recently published an article on Medpage Today: Recognizing Medical Contributions by Africans and Black Americans
To hear about his influences, career, challenges, and the school programs that changed his life, read more below.
Let’s start from the beginning. When did you know that you wanted to become a radiologist?
Well, my story’s a little bit convoluted… I grew up in a family of five, two siblings and two parents, and we did not have a lot of money at all. I really, really strived to do well in school in order for us to not struggle. I always loved sciences and I got exposed to medicine in college through a couple of summer programs that were geared towards African American college students. One program was called the Future Doctors Program at East Carolina University in Greenville, NC. I did that during the summer of 1993, and group consisted of approximately 20 minority students. We took classes as if we were in medical school and I was around motivated kids who wanted to go to medical school. That really got me to think—Okay. I can do this. Coming from where I came from, I wasn’t sure if [medical school] would be the route for me. I had thought about just earning a four degree and leaving, but my parents really pushed education as being key and I heard that all my life. Neither of them graduated from college. The following summer, I went to a program called M.E.D. (Medical Education Development) also geared towards minority students, that was at UNC Chapel Hill and that really solidified the fact that I would apply to medical school. Fortunately, I did get into UNC Chapel Hill.
But initially, I was a psychiatrist. I did my internship at New York Presbyterian Hospital and finished my psychiatry training at UNC Chapel Hill. I practiced for five years but decided the psychiatry path was not right for me. In medical school I enjoyed anatomy and radiology, so after a little soul-searching, I decided on radiology. Then in 2008, I got into UNC’s Diagnostic Radiology program and did my fellowship in Breast Imaging. That was the best decision I ever made. I really, truly enjoy what I do.
That leads me to what I wanted to ask you next, what is your favorite part of your work now?
Radiology is a specialty in which you can quickly have a diagnosis, because often the diagnosis will be on the images. Which in turn gives the treating clinicians what is needed to manage the patient’s condition. Unlike psychiatry, which is often a much slower, difficult process in terms of treatment and betterment. It tends to weigh on you, as a doctor, after a while.
What were some of the challenges you faced on your journey?
I worked hard to earn good grades in order to get into medical school. I felt an even harder push to work hard because of my family’s situation. My Dad really pushed me and always said “keep going”. After leaving psychiatry, going back to school was tough. It was an adjustment for my wife and I, as going back to school can be. But it was the best thing I did.
What qualities do you think a radiologist needs?
You must enjoy anatomy. You have to be able to appreciate disease processes and how they manifest. An analogy I use is related to video games− if you like problem solving in that way, similarly, a radiologist looks at imaging with a problem-solving eye and strategy. For any gamers out there, radiology could be for you.
Also, we are looking at variations in shades of grey most of the time, so attention-to-detail is an important quality.
Is attention-to-detail a quality you find you have outside of the office as well?
Yes, it is something I’ve had, but radiology definitely builds upon that quality.
How has being a radiologist been different since the pandemic?
We were used to being busy, but everything slowed down. People were neglecting their exams because they were afraid of the virus. Now, they’re starting to get more comfortable and we’ve adapted, found ways to stay safe.
So many political things have happened in the past year as well. What would advise young African Americans in school right now?
The advice that I’ve always lived by is− if others can do it, you can do it, too. Don’t doubt your abilities. Push forward. Use all your resources. Reach out to people who have been there and done that. These are the things I want to pass onto others and always, always remember: If someone else can do it− you can, too.
I think it can be very scary for students to do something outside what their parents have done, because they don’t have a mentor guiding them and the process of something unfamiliar seems too unknown.
I was lucky to gain mentors from the summer programs I did. Even though I wanted to be a doctor, I also didn’t think it was possible given my circumstances. But I really wanted it. I wanted it a lot so I pushed forward, and so can you. You just have to put the work into it.
What does Black History Month mean to you?
I think this month is very important because our history can get lost easily. It is important to appreciate and celebrate important people and hopefully one day, everyone will realize that we’re all important and we can make and have made contributions that will continue to make this world a better place.