Dr. Toni-Ann Wright found her calling early after a senior shadow day at Matthew Walker Comprehensive Health Clinic. Originally from Jamaica and currently planning her wedding in the Bahamas next month, she is bringing all good vibes to her little patients as the newest partner at Rivergate Pediatrics. We sat down to talk about her journey to becoming a pediatrician and how self-care + outdoor activities have been her go-to before and during the pandemic.
What inspired you to become a pediatrician?
I had the opportunity to shadow a pediatrician for my senior shadow day at Matthew Walker. I was just kind of blown away by the impact she had on the lives of her patients and their parents and that just really stuck with me.
Oh, I love that. Speaking of amazing African American institutions like Matthew Walker, did you know you wanted to attend an HBCU for undergrad?
Yes, so my parents encouraged me to go there. They have lots of friends and family who went to Oakwood University and it’s affiliated with our church. They have an amazing pre-med program and they really nurture you. More so than I feel like you would get at other institutions. You really make long-lasting connections. I have friends now that went there with me for college and medical school. We were able to matriculate together for our entire eight years.
How has your church, faith and family played a key role in your life?
It has definitely played a vital role. I think anybody who has a terminal degree, knows they are not just giving those out. It takes blood, sweat, tears, and maybe some sleepless nights. So, yes, my faith has definitely been a guiding principle for me along with the support of my family, of course. My family and I have been in Nashville for over 20 years. I attended Brentwood High School and actually looked into moving back to Jamaica at one time. But Nashville is really a fun city to live in, and glad I was able to come back here.
What do you enjoy most about the city?
Well, definitely the food, I love to brunch! I think during the pandemic, I really learned about the natural beauty of Nashville. I always liked going for walks, as I have always been active. I did gymnastics as a child and team gymnastics during college. Then. picked up yoga during medical school as a stress reliever. But now I can say I have been to every single state park in Middle Tennessee this past year. It has been great, seeing all the waterfalls and the walking trails. It is really beautiful.
I also think the people in Nashville are great. I love to salsa dance (even though I have not done much dancing recently) but I feel like that whole community just really embraced me. Everybody is so friendly and It is a diverse city, which I like.
Connecting with people, especially the little ones is a natural part of your job. What has been your greatest joy as a pediatrician?
Oh my goodness. I think getting to have relationships with families is so rewarding. You become like part of your patient’s family because you take care of a kid from birth until 22. That’s a long time. Then those patients that you cared for, now have their own children, so they become grand patients. You really grow with the family and I think that’s awesome. I have patients that brought me their first baby and now they have a second kid. I feel like just getting to see them going through the different stages is an amazing experience.
As you think back on your time with patients over the last year, has the pandemic impacted the work you do?
I think it’s given me more of an appreciation for my own good health. It has also been a nice time to kind of slow down because I tend to like to be busy, busy, busy. It’s been nice to have some more time with family and friends. I also think people express their appreciation to healthcare workers more now in my experience. Parents have said on many occasions, “thank you for what you do”.
Photography: Tyre Granneman
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