There are she-ros among us. Women who overcome what feels seemingly impossible and passionately pursue changing the status quo.  Raquel Hammonds is one of those remarkable women. She is also the first ever Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine to be fully integrated into a fertility clinic. Her continued efforts to revolutionize fertility care got their start long before Dr. Hammonds joined the team Center for Reproductive Health and Gynecology. They started in her home town and with the endless support from her mother, Margret Hammonds. 

We are excited to feature Dr. Hammonds as part of our National Infertility Awareness Week  #HumansOfInfertility series, in her own words: 

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raquel Hammonds

It would be dishonest of me to say that I always knew I wanted to be a doctor. I did not. What I did know was that I had a deep-seated desire to help people beyond their circumstances. You see, I was raised in a neighborhood where opportunity doesn’t really exist.

 The neighborhood I grew up in defined your future, before you ever had a chance to. I survived because my mother saw beyond where we were. She knew that her faith would be the determining factor—not our circumstances. So, I used that. I used her incessant will to help me navigate college, and graduate school, and finally medical school. 

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raquel Hammonds

During my Master’s of Public Health program, I realized the magnitude of disparities that existed within the United States. There were communities, and people, and babies that I could never touch from my sphere. Although I am just one human being, how could I truly impact change in my little piece of the world? How could God use me beyond my degree or my community?

Finishing my capstone project, I knew that I had to further pursue my passion for people – through medicine.

As I was preparing to take the MCAT, I was introduced to Dr. Rachel Marynowski. When I learned she was a “ND,” or Doctor of Naturopathic Medicine,  my first (skeptical) thought was, “A Whaaaaat? How does that work”? She immediately invited me to her practice in Atlanta, and I got to see firsthand what it means to use medicine for good.

I never knew that doctors existed who were so aligned with the core values of Public Health. What I learned was that ND’s not only endure rigorous four-year, in-residence medical training but they are also trained in clinical nutrition, disease prevention and wellness optimization. I was completely sold. I Finished my MPH program, enrolled in Naturopathic Medical School, and the rest is history.

A consistent theme throughout my training was how Loud women had to speak, simply to be heard.

Throughout medical school, we rotate through different specialties and get to see how medicine influences different populations of people. A consistent theme throughout my training was how Loud women had to speak, simply to be heard. Time and time again, I watched women cry, scream, shout and relentlessly advocate for their health. Why did it have to be so hard? Why doesn’t our voice hold the same weight as our male counterparts? There is no silence greater than that of women, trying to conceive.

What most people don’t know is that after 12 months of trying to get pregnant, most OB/GYNS will refer women out to infertility specialists—but there’s a space there. A space that is often times overlooked. A space that asks, What happened to you during this year? How many times did you miscarry? What fears are you carrying in this journey? What changes have you made to your diet/lifestyle throughout this year? Could you have potentially been exposed to environmental toxins? Has anyone even asked you…how you were?

To the medical field and the general public, this space isn’t significant and won’t influence live birth rates, worldwide. There weren’t any jobs/residencies that fit this role, so…I invented it.

Photo courtesy of Dr. Raquel Hammonds

With the help of a Top Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility Specialist,  Dr. Sam Najmabadi, I created a space for these women. A space that honors where you’re going but doesn’t neglect where you’ve been. A space that is multidimensional and understands the complexities of infertility. As the first Naturopathic Doctor to be fully integrated into a Fertility Clinic, we have created a framework that will shape and influence the next generation of women wherever they are on their reproductive journeys.

The work I do has taught me so much, among the most important is that there is no one definition for “family.” No matter the size, appearance or journey taken to build your family – your family is just that. The same can be said for the word “mother.” Motherhood comes to people in different ways and no matter how you come to inhabit that role – you are still worthy and still a mother – in every sense of the word.

Because I did not see myself when I looked at the medical community, the desire to succeed had to be greater than the desire to fit in. Black Women make up approximately 1% of American Physicians, and yet Black women are three to four times more likely to die from pregnancy-related causes than white women. Why? Is it because their complications are more complex than other races, or is it because…no one is listening? 

My sphere of influence may be small, but to know I can potentially be the voice that saves just one woman’s life—is all that matters to me. It has not been easy to speak up in a space where our voices are muffled, but it’s not for them—it’s for the next little black girl who feels empowered to be the change. It is my greatest honor to live my life in a way that glorifies what God can do through the most unlikely people.