WICHITA FALLS (KFDX/KJTL) — All month long, you’ve been hearing the saying “representation matters,” and it definitely rings true in the healthcare field.

“Sometimes, if they see a person like me, I’ve had Black people come in and say ‘I didn’t know we had this Black doctor’ or something like that, so I think it’s very important for that because if they see us, then they can relate more so than if they were seeing someone that wasn’t their color,” Doctor Sonja Calliste Nurse Practitioner said.

According to the Association of American Medical Colleges, only roughly 5% of all practicing physicians in the United States are Black. It’s shocking statistics like those that Calliste, says inspired her to pursue a career in healthcare.

“Sometimes I have to pinch myself to see if it’s really real because I would’ve never believed if someone was to tell me 20 years ago that I would be the first African-American Dual Board Certified Nurse Practitioner here, I would say no,” Calliste said.

Accomplishments like becoming the first African American in town to become Dual Board Certified were great feats, but it didn’t come easy.

“In a particular office I worked in, there was only two of us that were African-American providers, and we both were females, and we were told that we weren’t able to address ourselves as Dr. Calliste Nurse Practitioner, because it could be confusing to patients, and other providers that didn’t have the same education that we had.”

Those opinions only gave her the fuel to work harder. She now says her focus is on mental health, a field she says needs more representation now more than ever.

“I’m an advocate for those who don’t have the voice to speak for themselves, so I enjoy mental health. I enjoy family practice as well, but right now my heart is in mental health.”

As for the next generation of professionals, she advises them to keep going.

“Go forth, they’re needed, there’s so much opportunity out there whether you do family or psychiatry, and so I was just a girl that believed in myself and I did it.”

Now she’s encouraging others to do the same! You can learn more about Dr. Calliste, by clicking here.