When Toya Moore was a child, her family doctor provided care in a hospital setting. When she’d go for a check-up, she saw a sea of white people in white coats. One day, she saw something different – a black woman in a white coat. The woman was kind and professional, excellent at her job. Toya learned she was a medical assistant. The impression she made was so strong that Toya decided to become a medical assistant one day. Another black woman in a white coat. Another beacon of possibility to a black child in the future.
Like most of us, Toya found her life didn’t follow a straight-line path to a childhood dream.
As a military wife with two children, her aspirations needed to be balanced with her responsibilities. Toya found herself back at school, working to earn her GED. Her remedial math teacher encouraged her to apply for a program called Bridges to Success.
Program participants worked in the sciences. They were assigned, mentors. Toya went through the application process and earned a spot in the program.
Toya first met her mentor, Dr. Joseph Fagan, in the throne room at Case Western Reserve University, a renowned institution. The institute was named for the large and ornate throne chairs in the room. It had intricate stained glass windows and the weighty energy that came from thousands of life-changing events taking place there over the years. Dr. Fagan chose the room to impress on Toya the importance of their meeting and his expectation that she had impressive achievements ahead of her. His expectations of her were high. She thrived on the challenge and ended up working with him on important research for the next fifteen years.
As Director of Allied Health and Certified Medical Assisting at Seattle Central College, Toya tells her students that every opportunity that has come to her resulted from observing her doing her best every day.
Like the remedial reading teacher and Dr. Fagan, people in Toya’s life have often seen her in roles that she hadn’t even considered yet. Her first dream of
becoming a medical assistant led to larger dreams and achievements. She got her GED, then went on for her Associate’s degree, then a Bachelor’s, and recently a Master’s. Every leap in her work has involved being willing to unlearn what she used to see as her horizon and learning what she needed to know to reach her new horizon.
Toya wears her white coat every day. She knows that black children watch the world around them, deciding what roles are for people like them and others’ roles. She tries to pass on the gift she received all those years ago from the hospital’s medical assistant. She not only makes possibilities visible, but she also works hard to shape systems, so they work for those who have long been underrepresented in many roles. She does her best every day, waiting for the next horizon to be revealed.