CLEVELAND (WJW) — It’s a pinch-me moment rooted in a lifelong dream fulfilled for 26-year-old Tamia Potter.

Potter, a medical student at Case Western Reserve University studying neurosurgery, has made history as the first Black woman neurosurgery resident in Vanderbilt University’s nearly 150-year history. 

“Literally just tears and everything,” said Potter. “All these years of hard work have just finally paid off and it just feels so good.”

The Florida native who starts her residency this summer said she was so excited to be matched at her ideal university, she had no idea it was a historic pairing.

“It was really just a shocking moment, like disbelief, where I was like, ‘Oh, my gosh,'” said Potter.

Potter said becoming a doctor was a lifelong dream but becoming a trailblazer at the school of her dreams is an accomplishment she never imagined.

Tamia Potter. WJW photo

“It just blew my mind and not necessarily because of the time frame or what I’ve done, but the fact that I will be there to help inspire other students,” said Potter.

She hopes to increase representation in the field of neurosurgery where Black women are vastly underrepresented. According to the American Society of Black Neurosurgeons, there are 33 Black women in the field.

“When you think about the patient populations that you serve where there are larger populations of African American people, you really want to make sure you have representation so that they can see that they’re being treated by a doctor who looks like them,” said Potter.

Potter said her education at CWRU, along with the guidance of trusted mentors, made it possible to achieve the historic match. Given the ability to study at both the Cleveland Clinic and University Hospitals as a medical student, she hopes her accomplishments inspire the next generation to aim high.

“I think that’s the whole goal of this,” said Potter. “You know, you go to medical school, you receive this degree, you do the training, but I can’t operate on myself. So, the whole point is to give back, to make sure that you are helping other people move forward. You are breaking those ceilings.”