As a youth in Jamaica, Codie-Anne Crew had a number of role models to emulate.
She admired her school teachers, especially a favorite fourth-grade teacher, who pushed her to constantly be better than Crew thought possible. Her mother, in the nursing profession at the time, had such drive and was determined to offer something more for herself and her family, while Crew’s father, a Seventh Day Adventist minister lived out lessons in humility and service.
Crew, 28, took the best of them all to begin a career in medicine. She is one of 169 students in the College of Medicine who will receive medical degrees during Honors Day set for Saturday, May 28, 2016, at Aronoff Center in downtown Cincinnati. Her mother, Erica Crew, a fairly new attending physician, will be on hand to present her daughter with her graduation hood as part of the ceremony. Her father Corben Crew and her two younger brothers, Corben II and Carson, will also attend.
Crew will begin her family residency in July at Bethesda North Hospital in Cincinnati.
"I have a wonderful family that I can live for and that has supported me,” says Codie-Anne Crew. "I can get up every day and do what I do because they are there for me. I have to honor that as a physician. I can’t just squander that away. It puts things in perspective when you have gone through so much and yet there is so much more you can do for others.”
Erica Crew, Codie-Anne Crew, along with Corben Crew II, Carson Crew and Corben Crew Sr. pose for a family photo.
Leaving Jamaica for Family and More
Born in Montego Bay, Jamaica, Crew and her family moved to Long Island, NY, in 1998 when she was just 10. It offered more opportunities for the family and her mother, Erica Crew, also had a chance to pursue medicine. She was nurse, but within a few years of living in the U.S., began taking pre-med classes. Codie Crew harbored an interest in teaching, but as she approached high school her interests began to change.
In junior high school, she told her mother she was interested in medicine, and her mom suggested some volunteer work in a medical setting to see if that was the route her daughter really wanted. In high school, Codie Crew volunteered at a nursing home agreeing to transport geriatric patients to destinations—to doctor’s appointments and other travel needs. She was in a hospital setting but wanted to do more.
Meanwhile, her mother got the chance to follow a dream of her own. She entered medical school at the American University of Antigua in Antigua and Barbuda. The move from New York back to the Caribbean had a profound impact on the family, though Codie-Anne Crew says everything just seemed so effortless at the time. She was beginning her senior year in high school when her mother entered medical school, and her two brothers were seven and 11 at the time.
"This was the plan that my parents discussed long before we were involved,” says Crew. "This was the goal of why they came to United States to begin with. They wanted to make sure we all had more opportunities. They said it would be better if we broadened our horizons and come to the United States.
"When it came time for my mom to start school they had already set everything up. ‘Are you as the daughter who is the older child going to be able to help dad around the house, help out with your brothers and make sure things around the house run a little more smoothly now that mom is in school?’” says Crew, repeating a conversation she had with her mother.
"I don’t know how they made it seem like it was just a smooth transition and it wouldn’t take that long, but it was and didn’t. I felt I was mature enough. I told myself ‘I can do this.’ I felt like it wasn’t a big deal, and this is something mom had to do, and we are just going to pick up the slack where we can.”
Corben Crew understood his wife’s journey into medical school was also part of a larger mission of providing service to a world that desperately needed more physicians. "When my mom had to do STEP exams (U.S. Medical Licensing Examination) and go to different states, he was right there driving her where she had to go,” says Codie-Anne Crew. "In terms of support, my dad is the epitome of support. My dad told us if, ‘If I can’t do this personally as a pastor, have a broader impact on the world, I can do it through you guys. This is my way of serving the community.’”
Off to NYU, Boston and Finally Cincinnati
After high school, Codie-Anne Crew entered New York University with a plan to major in biochemistry. Her mother had suggested that route when Crew’s interest in medicine grew serious in high school. She lined up all her basic science courses, but she also found time to do more volunteering.
As a sophomore, Crew worked at a hospital in Brooklyn and took courses that allowed her to learn about structural adjustment programs on a global scale and their impact on women and children. She eventually majored in Africana Studies and graduated from NYU but needed a break before med school.
"After I graduated, my mentor from undergrad said, ‘I feel like you have been telling me about your interest in women and children, and I know you said you didn’t want to go to medical school right away, though I know you will get there one day. In the meantime, there is a master’s program in women’s health in Boston. Would you be interested?’” says Crew.
At Suffolk University, Crew spent a year and half earning a master degree that looked at determinants of health and how the socioeconomic, cultural and political struggles facing patients will influence how they present their health problems to physicians. After her master’s, Crew spent a year as an administrative employee working at a home health care system in Hyde Park, Long Island.
She applied to medical school and considered the University of Cincinnati after a friend suggested she get out of her comfort zone and look at schools in the Midwest. Crew met with members of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion in the College of Medicine during her visit to UC.
"I thought, ‘I am an out-of-state resident; how am I even going to have a chance?’ I came here and met Mr. William Harris who was the program coordinator in the Office of Diversity and Inclusion at the time. The department was just so welcoming and so warm. I just loved what I saw. I could see myself spending four years here.
"I thought this is really nice, and they are really supportive, and they want you to learn. I just got that vibe when I came to the interview. We had dinner and I met several older medical students. They did a good job. They sold Cincinnati.”
Family Medicine Is Her Calling
One of Codie-Anne Crew’s favorite memories at UC was the time she spent on the seventh floor of the CARE/ Crawley Building toiling away for med school exams.
"I would study with a bunch of other classmates, and we were able to take a break and go out on the balcony on the seventh floor in CARE/Crawley and then just get back to studying,” says Crew. "That was during our first year, and it was a way to anchor us. I think being able to study with a group for your initial year before you hone your own style of studying was really helpful. You didn’t feel like you were alone.”
That said, medical school had its rough moments. Erica Crew remembers her daughter calling home one day in tears during her first year wanting to come home.
"I said you have got to stick with it,” says Erica Crew, an attending physician in Independence, Kansas. "This is your first obstacle, but in life there are always challenges. If this is what you want to do, you have to continue. My daughter is tough and I am very proud of her. She just needed someone to remind of her of that.”
Erica Crew knew all too well of the struggles prospective medical students face since her own journey had many potential pitfalls. "I couldn’t let my children see me fail. I couldn’t tell them to stick to something if I gave up. I couldn’t reach the top of the mountain immediately so I had to start out climbing. Sometimes it was slow and I had to go around obstacles. My children will have to do the same.”
Codie-Anne Crew stuck around for her second year and her clinical rotations with patients at Bethesda North Family Practice in Cincinnati were definitely another bright spot. She really liked the experience and returned to the same practice in her third year before accepting a family medicine residency at the hospital, ironically in the same specialty as her mom.
"During my rotations, I was trying to like med-pediatrics, anesthesiology and obstetrics and gynecology, and I said, ‘You know, when it comes down to it, being able to serve a community is an aspect the family medicine physician does that fits well with how I have grown up and who I am.’”
"It’s the job of a family medicine doctor to give back. You know, it’s good to be humble and have this relationship with other people that promotes healing and is supportive in their lives,” says Codie-Anne Crew.
"I spoke with my mom because I was thinking about OB-GYN for a while, and I said, ‘I really don’t want to do OB. I feel more comfortable doing family medicine,’ and she said, ‘If that’s what you want to do, I will start setting things up so that when you are done, we can start working together,” says Crew.
Erica Crew says her daughter’s decision wasn’t totally unexpected. But she didn’t want to sway Codie-Anne one way or the other.
"I think she is a great advocate for patients,” says Erica Crew of her daughter. "She is a very unselfish girl. We are a family that believes in service and giving back to society. With her personality I am not surprised she is in family medicine. I see her as an advocate for people who are passed by because they don’t feel they have a voice.”
Staying connected to community is big part of Codie-Anne Crew’s faith and spirituality. It is not only shaping her path as a physician, but also as a mentor. While in med school, she joined UC Med Mentors, a mentoring partnership linking medical students with mentees in Cincinnati Public Schools/Cincinnati Youth Collaborative. She served as co-treasurer of the organization.
For the past four years, Crew has mentored a student from South Avondale School. She will continue that relationship after graduation.
"I felt like staying with my mentee throughout my years in medical school,” she says. "I didn’t want to drop in and drop out of her life. I wanted her to know that I was there. It is nice to see her blossom and open up. She is doing well in school and seeing her is something that keeps me grounded in life. I thought if there was one thing I wanted to do outside of medical school, this is where I wanted my focus to go.”