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Women in Medicine Spotlight: Jayme Locke, MD

Jayme LockeJayme Locke, MD, shares advice and reflects on what has inspired and challenged her as a woman in medicine.

What is your name, title, and department here at UAB?

I’m Jayme Locke, Department of Surgery, I’m an associate professor of surgery in the Division of Transplantation and vice chair for Health Services Research in the Department of Surgery. I’m also director of the Comprehensive Transplant Institute for UAB Medicine.

Where did you attend medical school?

East Carolina University, Brody School of Medicine

Why did you decide to get into medicine?

I decided to get into medicine, cliché or not, because I’ve always wanted to help people. I was a bit of a nerd as a kid and was really good at science, so I sort of got intrigued with the idea of becoming a physician. When I first started, I thought I was going to be a pediatrician, in part because that was the only kind of doctor I had ever known. I didn’t have any doctors in my family, but my interest really grew out of some opportunities to be able to shadow local physicians and really see what it meant to take care of another person, to be responsible for their welfare and well-being.

What is your leading charge or project here at UAB?

One of the things we’ve really struggled with is the huge burden of end-stage renal disease in Alabama. And much like the rest of the nation, there are not enough kidneys to go around for all the patients in need of a kidney transplant, which we know is a lifesaving therapy for patients with end-stage renal disease. So when I first moved here almost 7 years ago, the part I was charged with was trying to grow our Living Donor Kidney Transplant Program. We know that almost half of all people who come forward to be a living donor won’t match their intended recipient because of blood group or tissue incompatibility, so I was really charged with helping us build and grow an incompatible kidney transplant program. And now our team has managed to build quite literally the world’s longest living kidney chain, so that is probably what I’ve been most involved in since I’ve been here.

Do you feel that being a woman has helped you in your job?

I think being a woman does help me in my job. I think men and women are inherently different, so I think what we bring to the table and how we approach things is quite different, and I think that is actually good. For one, being a woman brings diversity to my job, a different way of thinking, and a different way of interacting with patients. It’s not that one way is better than another, but I think that having that diversity just enhances our ability to really be able to relate to our patients, and I think that ultimately translates into the highest quality of care. When patients really feel that you are hearing them, that’s when I think their care is really optimized, so I would say that yeah, the way I interact here is a bit different, and I think being a woman really helps me take great care of my patients.

What would you say to a young woman who aspires to become a physician or surgeon?

What I would say to any person, not just a young woman but anyone who aspires to be a physician or surgeon is follow your passion. If that is what you’ve always dreamed and imagined you were going to do and you can’t see yourself doing anything else, I would say don’t let anything stand in your way. Life is full of all the people who will tell you why you can’t do something, but I would say believe in yourself and follow your passion. If you do that, you will definitely land where you need to be and will make a positive impact on the world. So, I would say follow your dreams.

What are some struggles you face in medicine as a woman?

I’m not sure I can necessarily place a struggle specifically with gender. I think some of the struggles we encounter are really blind to gender and blind to race. If you think about what we do in medicine, it’s an extraordinary privilege. We are invited into people’s lives I think at the most vulnerable moments of their lives, and we are tasked to help them through those moments and fight those diseases, and with that comes an enormous burden. And I would say that independent of gender or anything else, I think that’s one of the things you feel as a physician. The flip side to that, I think, is the absolute joy you feel when you can see in a patient’s eyes the hope they have for a future and that you might have been a small part of that hope. So, while I think there are challenges, I think it is the opportunity to provide hope that motivates each of us.

Do you have a strong female mentor, and, if so, how does she encourage you in your practice?

Strong mentors, I think, are the backbone of everything we do. I have strong mentors, both men and women. I can honestly say that one of my strongest mentors is my previous chair of Surgery, Julie Freischlag. She has now gone on and is the CEO and dean of Wake Forest University School of Medicine and WakeMed. I think what Julie taught me more than anything is what I mentioned earlier. That is to follow your passion, follow your dream. Don’t let anyone stand in your way and stay on that path, and if you do that, you’re going to live a life that you’ve always imagined, and it’s going to be amazing.

To watch more of Dr. Locke's story and learn what has inspired and challenged her as a woman in medicine, click here.