2016 Reasons to Believe Alumni Honor Roll

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Role models who give us Reasons to Believe in the power of education

Jeanette Pitts, MD

Jeanette Pitts, MDWashington High School, 1980

Other Kansas City, Kansas Public Schools Attended: Hawthorne Elementary, Northwest Junior High

Some people follow the crowd, while others dance to the beat of their own drum. Dr. Jeanette Pitts has learned to trust herself, and to allow her internal compass to direct her thoughts, feelings and actions. From her decision to attend Stanford University, rather than an Ivy League college, to her decision to take a mid-career break to study a foreign language and culture abroad, Dr. Pitts has charted her own course, and blazed her own path.

As a young woman attending Northeast Junior High School, she got involved in a health careers club sponsored by the Kaw Valley Medical Society. Through this program, she received tutoring, attended summer classes, and was paired with a local dermatologist, Dr. Bertram Caruthers, Jr. It was through these experiences that her natural abilities in the sciences turned her towards medicine.

Her academic journey took her to Stanford University where, during her senior year, she decided to apply for a Rhodes Scholarship. One of only 32 people selected in the country, and the first black Rhodes Scholar from Kansas, this prestigious scholarship allowed her to study at Oxford University in England. She was also selected as a member of the Phi Beta Kappa honor society, a recognition she treasures even more, because it recognizes how hard she worked in school, and how much she accomplished.

Dr. Pitts is a fellowship-trained skin cancer surgeon, and a board-certified dermatologist. Among her leadership activities, she has served as an officer on the board of directors of the Arizona Dermatology and Dermatologic Surgery Society, and as dermatology section chair of the National Medical Association.

In addition to her career accomplishments, Dr. Pitts has a life-long passion for the humanities, inspired by Ms. Showalter’s class at Washington.

Her advice for students today: “Become well-rounded, have an open mind, and don’t let others set limitations for you. You cannot build your life based on someone else’s vision.” Role models are just that, she says, “models” and not “blueprints”. They serve as guides and examples, but you have to learn to look beyond them. “I was the only black woman in my specialty, so if I had waited for someone else to lead the way, I never would have achieved what I have.”