Chyrisha Rucker, Class of '25, strives to change the narrative for Black women in medicine
Second-year American University of the Caribbean School of Medicine (AUC) student Chyrisha Rucker has always been guided by her mother's spirit. Losing her mother to breast cancer as a teenager, she felt her presence when she became a doula — and still feels her presence today. "I felt like my own mother was guiding me as I witnessed mothers and their babies meeting for the first time."
Rucker recalls how her interest in obstetrics and gynecology began. "I've been working as a doula for twelve years, and there’s nothing more moving to me than aiding in childbirth. I witnessed my first birth at age nine and supported my sister during the birth of her children and other family members. I felt part of the birthing world very early, and caring for women invigorates and inspires me."
Nurturing her interest in obstetrics
Raised by her father, Rucker grew up understanding that hard work and perseverance would be necessary to achieve her life’s goal: to become a physician. As the first in her family to attend college, she knew that she would need support and so she formed First Gens @ Michigan, a student group for people who shared that identity. She completed her bachelor's degree and pre-med program at the University of Michigan-Ann Arbor in Women's Studies and Psychology, then received an MBA in Healthcare Administration at Cornerstone University in Grand Rapids, Michigan.
During her undergraduate years, she conducted a community-based research project on the childbearing years and the health of mothers. Rucker learned about birth work through her research. "When I completed my training, I felt like it was my calling to provide compassionate and intentional care for my clients. I immersed myself in learning about labor and delivery." She shadowed some practicing doulas, started taking her own clients, and joined a consortium of doulas in Ann Arbor, which helped to connect her to birth work.
Inspired to work for health equity
Working with her clients, Rucker developed a deep interest in health equity and in fighting against health disparities. "I believe that advocacy is woven into the work of a physician to provide equitable care. I want to encourage my patients to take ownership of their health care by developing a partnership with them. I see reducing maternal mortality rates in my community as a stance against the social determinants that plague health outcomes."
Before entering medical school, Rucker was active in the community in Detroit. She advocated for improved state policies regarding issues related to reproductive health for underserved and incarcerated pregnant women and was a founding doula of The Michigan Prison Doula Initiative, which supports and educates expectant, incarcerated women.
Paving the way as a future Black female physician
While an undergraduate, she attended an admissions presentation for AUC. That messaging resounded in her mind and over a decade later, she felt intrigued to explore the university as an option for her medical education journey. “As a Black woman in medicine, I think of my education as a way to do what I love and serve patients, to remedy health disparities, and to aid in changing the landscape for Black women in medicine while encouraging other female medical students to do the same.”
Once at AUC, she became involved in the community, joining the OB/GYN Interest Group (OBGIG), the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA), and the Black Medical Student Association (BMSA) on campus, as well as participating in a variety of community outreach programs like AUC’s Community Action Day — all while managing her studies, tutoring, and raising three young children with her husband.
Empowered to reach her dream
In 2022, Rucker became an Empower Scholarship Fund recipient. The Empower Scholarship Fund helps keep education within reach by providing scholarships to qualified current students. In her scholarship essay, Rucker calls on her own experience as a medical student. "As a Black, female, first generation, non-traditional applicant, mother, and wife, I believe that these combined identities are underrepresented among medical professionals. I am aiming to help change that narrative and will rely upon that way of thinking to navigate caring for my patients."
Looking forward to continuing her work in obstetrics and gynecology, Rucker aspires to practice in an urban setting with underprivileged and underserved patients. "I hope to educate, support, and empower others to positively impact the health climate in their communities."
Learn more about medical scholarships available at AUC here.
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