A Passion for Women’s Health

Profile of Dr. Felicia Hamilton

Dr. Felicia Hamilton, ob/gyn specialist at Unity Health, Anacostia. Photo: National Health Service Corps

Having trouble finding a black physician? There’s a reason. Black physicians are in great demand in the medical field. Blacks represent 13 percent of the US population, yet less than 3 percent of the nation’s one million doctors and medical students are black. The National Health Service Corps (NHSC) program addresses this disparity by providing loan repayments for students who want to become medical providers in low-income areas. One doctor who has benefited from this program is Felicia Hamilton at Unity Health Care Center. She brought her passion for women’s health to Anacostia and never looked back.

Dr. Hamilton entered medical school during the late 1990s at the University of Arizona, Tucson, with a vision of becoming an obstetrician and gynecologist. Her goal was to apply her skills in underserved communities. She entered into a two-year agreement with the National Health Service Corps to have her student loans paid while she practiced in an underserved area of the Bronx, N.Y. After finishing her tenure there she moved to the District. “Serving women who are less fortunate or do not have the means to take care of themselves has always been something that I’ve been interested in,” she explains. “The NHSC has facilitated my dream by helping me get the education I needed to serve this population.”

As an ob/gyn specialist who sees patients at Unity Health and works as the director of the Mother/Baby Unit at Washington Hospital Center, Dr. Hamilton has identified many barriers to women getting proper and adequate healthcare. Lack of insurance, time constraints, and caring for others all interfere with getting to the doctor. Dr. Hamilton notes that too many of her patients visit her office to address a concern instead of getting a routine checkup. “When I see women, most of the time there’s usually a problem or they’re pregnant. Women are often caregivers for everyone else; sometimes our health falls by the wayside. Working, taking care of your family, parents, are all barriers to care. But that’s a problem for women in general and not just Southeast DC.” Preventative care is something she strives to promote with her patients and in the community. 

What keeps Dr. Hamilton in Anacostia when she could clearly take her practice elsewhere? The answer is her patients. Dr. Hamilton loves not only what she does but also the community where she works. She makes herself available through a teen pregnancy prevention clinic. Working with different age groups deepens her connection with the community. “It’s an honor to serve these women. They tell me things that they may tell their best friends or their mothers or husbands. I find that to be a privilege to help in anyway I can. A lot of time it’s just a listening ear. No judgment. There are some very private issues when it comes to female issues. It’s good to have someone that you can talk to about private issues. I take joy that I am trusted to share these things.” 

The National Health Service Corps

The National Health Service Corps is a program of the US Department of Health and Human Services. It provides student-loan repayment for doctors who practice medicine in communities with limited access to healthcare, as well as scholarships for students who pursue primary-care careers in low-income areas after graduation. It also helps clinics recruit and keep qualified doctors. 

Studies have shown that when patients are allowed to choose their physicians they often select someone of the same racial and ethnic background. Patients report that doctors who are of the same racial background tend to provide more culturally sensitive care and make them feel more comfortable. Programs like the NHSC’s help ensure that black doctors come to black communities and practice medicine. 

For aspiring black doctors the NHSC program can be just the right avenue to make dreams come true. “NHSC is a wonderful opportunity to have your education funded,” says Dr.Hamilton, “and live the dream of helping people in whatever that may be; primary care, ob/gyn, pediatrics, psychiatry, dental. The new health care law is giving more people access to health care so we need more doctors. This program is essential.”

Candace Y.A. Montague is the health reporter for East of the River.