Trident surgeon works to bridge gap between African American and medical communities

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NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. (WCBD) – Dr. Shasta Henderson is breaking barriers as one of the top orthopedic trauma surgeons in the country. She works at Trident Medical Center in North Charleston.

“African American women represent less than 1% of orthopedic surgeons and I’m number 10 in terms of orthopedic trauma which is fun, it’s exciting,” said Dr. Henderson.

She describes being part of the few as an honor, but also a responsibility.

Growing up in what she calls a “medical household” – meaning both her mother and father worked in the medical field – Dr. Henderson knew she wanted to follow in their footsteps from a young age.

“I can remember as young as five years old taking trips with my dad on the weekends to do rounds and seeing patients and just really falling in love with the process,” Said Dr. Henderson.

A woman of many talents, Henderson was a college basketball star at Columbia University. She then completed her residency at Yale University and her fellowship at Penn State. She moved to North Charleston a little over a year ago to be part of Trident Medical Center’s trauma program.

“It’s an opportunity to take care of a deserving population,” said Dr. Henderson. “We have a bustling trauma center here. We’re pretty busy even in the pandemic.”

While working with patients with broken bones, Dr. Henderson feels another responsibility, bridging the gap between the African American and medical communities.

“I think there is a long, storied past between the African American community and the medical field. There’s a rhetoric that’s passed down in the community from generation to generation and its one of distrust, unfortunately, and that is rooted in a number of things, particularly like the Tuskegee Experiments,” said Dr. Henderson. “That distrust leads to disparities in care and disparities in outcomes when it comes to certain health conditions. So, if I can act as a medium or a go between or increase exposure for the African American community to the medical field and have honest and frank conversations about what the history is, and why this rhetoric and where it came from, and find ways to kind of bridge a gap. That excites me.”

In her day-to-day work, Dr. Henderson uses her platform as the only African American surgeon at Trident. She talks to everyone she sees, enjoys having candid conversations about the pandemic, works to answer questions and address concerns, and celebrated the fact that she was vaccinated for COVID-19. She interacts with students in the community, as well.

As Black History Month approaches, Dr. Henderson reflects on hundred of years of history.

“Black History Month is a phenomenal opportunity for us to look back at the history and identify and revel in the way that the African American community has been such a part of the tapestry that is American history,” she said. “It also gives us the idea to hit the reset button, an opportunity to hit the reset button and recommit to ourselves, recommit to each other, and recommit to ways that we can uplift the community.”

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