Explorations in Black Leadership

Co-Directed by Phyllis Leffler & Julian Bond

Early Interest In Medicine

BOND: Dr. Pinn, we’ve done a lot of research on you and found that at age four, you had decided to become a doctor and you learned how to spell the word pediatrician. Now —

PINN: Oh, you found that. That’s true.

BOND: How did it happen? When I was four, I was not thinking about pediatricians.

PINN: I spent a lot of time with grandparents because I came from a home where both mother and father worked, and in those days, when I was very young, my mother worked in another city. She was in Halifax and would commute back to Lynchburg where I spent most of the time with my father and my grandparents because of the rules then that two people of the same family couldn’t teach in the same school system. And I spent a lot of time with grandparents, both my mother’s parents on the farm down in Halifax, Virginia, and with my grandparents, my father’s parents, in Lynchburg. But my grandfather was ill and was suffering from cancer, and so that’s where I really got to see a lot of doctor visits from Dr. Boulware, Dr. Johnson coming to visit him. And my grandmother had diabetes and had to take shots for her diabetes, and my grandmother couldn’t stand to see a needle and my father was the strong one, although my father was a physical education teacher, not a physician, but he was the one who’d give the shots and he taught me how at that age.

My grandparents were very — I guess, very loving grandparents. I’m not sure I’d want to trust a four- or five-year-old to give me shots today but they did. And so I got into the mode of taking care of and helping my grandparents and sort of waiting on them as a child. And I think, as I’ve stated before, also noticing that when they weren’t well and the doctor would come to visit, they seemed to feel better afterwards, and I liked that feeling, the feeling that a doctors’ visit made someone feel better and when that person felt better — my grandmother and my grandfather — the rest of the family felt better because we’d all been dealing with the pain that they’d been going through. And that’s how I think back and recall that I wanted to be like those doctors we saw who came and made somebody feel better. And I remember thinking, you know, laughing because my aunts couldn’t stand to see a needle and they couldn’t stand to deal with blood and it didn’t seem to bother me. I guess I was my father’s daughter. It didn’t bother me, and I can remember it was my grandmother who taught me how to spell pediatrician. I don’t know why I selected pediatrician. Maybe when I said I wanted to be a doctor, if you were a woman in that day everybody assumed you were going to be a pediatrician.

BOND: So obstetrician never came into —

PINN: Never thought — I don’t think I even knew about obstetrics, but I was born at home and I’m not sure I recall even knowing about those and OB/GYN until much much later because it didn’t have much meaning to me, so I did — I can remember my grandmother drilling me on learning how to spell the word and being very proud that I could spell it and I held onto that idea of being a pediatrician until I got to medical school and found out with so few women in medicine, everybody assumed if you were a woman, you were going to be a pediatrician because women were good with babies. So what did I do? I became a pathologist.