Neurology- Dr. Mary Olabisi Hollist

bisiWhat made you choose medicine and why Neurology specifically? 

I was always the little girl who wanted to be a doctor since the age of 5. Just like most, I changed my mind multiple times in high school. I went from interior designer, to airline hostess and even an engineer. At the end of the day, I did not choose medicine, medicine chose me. It was solidified at the age of 17, when a family member lost his greatest battle in life to cancer. With this, a new form of life was born; my motivation. This was the fuel that pushed me through 13 years of education. During the journey, neurology simply made sense. The human brain is a puzzle. I was fascinated and blown away by it; specifically, the anatomy. Being able to use my mind to help others sealed the deal.

What is the best advice you have received?

During my third year of residency, on my first month of inpatient service, I rounded with my program director. At the end of the week, he sat the team down for lunch and we discussed the highlights and interesting cases of the week. As he went round the table, he turned to me, took a deep breath and said, “my greatest fear is that I don’t think you realize your full potential and how far you can really go”. As he got up to leave the table, his advice was: envision it, plan it and go for it. As simple as his advice was, it literally changed me. The moral is, where there is a will, there is a way, and only you have control of your destiny by simply believing in yourself.

 How do you find balance?

I find balance by doing things I enjoy and staying as social as possible. I make time for the daily necessities like going to the gym, and also, for my weekly sushi dinners. When time permits I travel, knit, and collect comic books for my DC superhero collection.

 How do you stay healthy?

Eating healthy and working out. I make sure I always have a gym buddy which helps with staying motivated during the winter months.

What 3 lessons would you impart to the up and coming young black female physician that you wish you had known earlier on in your training and now as you pursue a prestigious fellowship at the NIH?

Three important lessons:

  1. Stay determined. Never let a disappointment or negative criticism keep you down, as no one knows your story. Let your past lessons guide you to become a stronger and better person.
  2. Work hard and never let your guard down. It pays off in the end.
  3. Keep track of the goals ahead. If you don’t believe in yourself, no one else will.

These are the lessons I have learned along the way, bitter or sweet. It has helped my career path and with my fellowship.

 What is your biggest/ greatest or proudest moment or accomplishment?

I moved to America at the age of 10. Being able to set forth every dream, and make my family proud by being a physician is my greatest accomplishment. Walking the stage during my medical school graduation, by far, represents my proudest moment.

 As a black woman in medicine, what have been your biggest challenges?

As a black woman in medicine, my greatest challenge is upholding the reputation of many great black physicians.  In particular, my field does not have a lot of practicing black women, so my challenge is to strive to always do my best, and to set an example so I can represent not only myself but an entire community in a positive manner.

 What is a typical day like for you?

Typical day is gym at 4:30am, work, home, TV and bed. Sounds boring but I would not change a thing.

Instagram: olab819

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