Growing up as a child in Compton, California, LaShyra “Lash” Nolen dreamed of being a neurosurgeon and an astronaut. Her ambitions proved to be profitable leading her to become the first Black woman class president of Harvard Medical School (HMS).
Born to a single mother, who earned a master’s degree while working several jobs, Lash remembers her mother encouraging and affirming her dreams.
“Mom pursued life with grit and a desire to win. She would tell me: ‘I’ll see you at the top,'” Lash told Teen Vogue.
Today Lash is an activist, HMS class president, and Fulbright scholar. Lash doesn’t take her position as class president lightly and knows what her achievement means for others.
“For me it means opportunity — opportunity in the sense that it will allow me to create a pipeline for others who look like me to hold positions of leadership at Harvard Medical School,” Lash told Teen Vogue.
When asked how she deals with excelling to new heights in the world of medicine, a predominately non-Black and male dominated field, Lash describes using the power of her ancestors and those who came before her.
“When I walk into a room, no matter where I am, I know the strength of my people and how much they are the reason why these spaces even exist,” she said.
Lash also has a plan for the future of health disparities in regards to Black communities.
“So, I think the only way that my community will truly have sustainable, positive, health outcomes, is through our society’s reckoning with the systemic and historical wrongs committed against black people. This could manifest as anti-racism training in medical schools all the way to residency. This could manifest as reparations,” Lash said.
Lash is passionate about seeing Black women in leadership roles and hopes to see a future where Black women will be compensated and celebrated on par with their medical colleagues. With Black women like Lash leading the way, the future of medicine is in good hands.