SAN ANTONIO AFRICAN-AMERICAN FEMALE DOCTOR SHINES & CASTS OUT ANY DOUBT
She walks into the medical office at 7:45 a.m. every morning with a determination to help a child in need. Throughout her day, she reassures her patients the reassurance that her medical expertise will help alleviate their ailments. Her day may be unpredictable, but with God by her side, Dr. Linda Fay Howelton serves her San Antonio community inside and outside the office with helping children become the best version of themselves.
Linda Howelton started her journey at the University of Texas Health Science Center in Houston for her pediatric residency at Memorial Herman Hospital. During her residency, she would go out in the Life Flight Helicopter to pick up critically ill children and fly to cities in south Texas. She would stabilize them on I.V. or put breathing tubes in to get them back to the nearest medical center to bring them back to restoration.
“One time I flew to Austin to pick up a baby needing heart surgery," Howelton said. “We made our way to Texas A&M and flew in their private plane to Boston Children’s Hospital to drop the newborn off. That’s only one experience out of the three years I was there.”
One of the most impactful trips was when the team had to pick up premature twins and had them in one isolette. While, on the helicopter, she had to put the airway tube in the babies windpipes while they were still in the nursery. These practices are more difficult than treating full-grown adults as every movement must be delicate and on a more focused scale due to the babies' sizes.
“The air tube came out while still in the grounded helicopter,” Howelton said. “I had to put my hands through the isollette and reinsert the airway tube with the helicopter shaking and blade whirling.”
After finishing her residency, Howelton started working at the Ella Austin Health Center on the east side of San Antonio which is an underserved area. She worked there for three years to fulfill her National Health Service obligation. The National Health Service obligation paid for her medical school which included her tuition, fees, and a stipend of $500 per month. Now, she has been working and a senior partner at Northeast Pediatrics Associates for 30 years.
When she first started working at Northeast Pediatrics, some patients would judge her because of the color of her skin. Some patients would ask to switch to a different doctor because they would find out she was African-American. Once a man deliberately kept degrading her because he thought she wasn't the doctor but the nurse instead.
“It comes as a shock to some people when they first see me because they weren’t expecting someone like me due to my last name.” Howelton said.
Other incidents took place where other doctors would mistake her for a nurse and had to affirm her credentials. Some would think she was in the wrong place when in the 'authorized personnel only' area. She makes her presence known when entering any medical ward to assert her authority as the physician in charge and cast out any doubt of her abilities.
She believes it's important to have people of color in the medical field because it allows children to see a representation of themselves. Children ask questions on what she does and it opens their experiences and gives them hope if they pursue becoming a doctor.
"..being around her while growing up I've always admired how effortlessly she takes the role of being an African American doctor," 24-year-old patient Paul Wilson said. "It's almost as if she never thought of her color as a hindrance in anyway. I've tried to carry that into my life and adopt the mindset itself and it's really helped me out”
Even outside of the hospital room her work is never done. As a first responder, she's drawn to different people in need. Whether it's at home, church, the store, or even the spa, Howelton is always available.
In the summer of 2017, Howelton and her son, Zachary, were traveling overseas when suddenly someone collapsed near the back of the plane. The lead steward got on the intercom and asked if anyone was in the medical field. Howelton immediately unbuckled and rushed to help. She was luckily one of two physicians on board, and they helped the passenger back to health after his severe hypoglycemia.
"After everything that happened on the plane, my mother returned to her seat and started reading her novel," Zachary Howelton said. "Even when she's a hero, she's still humble as ever."
Howelton also volunteers throughout her community. She helps at her church, Skybridge Community church, where she is the coordinator of outreach, local food banks, and to facilities when natural disasters happen.
At the end of the day, Howelton's mission is to educate parents on how to take care of their children in terms of their health and their development psychologically and educationally.
“I want them to be as healthy as they can be and be able to aspire to be whatever they want to be and not let their illness hold them back."
Favorite Book: Becoming by Michelle Obama
Favorite color: Green
Favorite way to relax: reading a book by herself on the back patio with jazz playing in the background
Favorite type of music: Smooth jazz
Favorite type of animal: Beagle
Who inspires you?: God
Birthday: August 19
Dr. Linda Howelton is a respected African-American Woman, Doctor, Wife, Mother and Friend to many within the San Antonio community. Her ministries span from the time she rises until she rests. The Observer spoke with Dr. Howelton. It is important in our world that children see people who look like them doing their dream job. We asked Dr. Howelton what would she, as an African-American Woman Doctor, tell children who look like her and with dreams of being a doctor?” Dr. Howelton’s response was simple-
“I have a young lady who will shadow me for a week in July. She is a junior in high school. The first thing I would tell a young person of color interested in the medical field is to find a mentor. Someone who is already doing what you aspire to do. Ask church members, teachers or your coach for a name. There is a physician of color ready and willing to guide a mentee through the process, offer clinical experiences and discuss the pitfalls to avoid. Our motto is "See one, Do one, teach one." Make yourself available to teaching.”