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Dr. Velma Scantlebury, MD
Transplant Surgeon


Dr. Velma Patricia Scantlebury is a gift. A gift to the field of medicine, a gift to her family, a gift to those blessed with a new kidney by the miracle of her steady hands and brilliant mind. She is also a gift to those who have the opportunity to hear the smile in her voice as she warmly describes the strength and love she receives from her father, Delacey Scantlebury, who recently celebrated his ninety-first birthday.

Scantlebury is the first African American female kidney transplant surgeon and associate director of the Kidney Transplant Program at Christiana Care Health Systems in Delaware. Born October 6, 1955 in St. Michael, Barbados, she is the youngest of seven children. She comes from humble beginnings on the island of Barbados from which generations of her family hail. This distinguished and celebrated physician received her early education at the Alleyne School in St. Andrew, Barbados until she came to the United States with her father and three of her six siblings. Prior, her oldest sister traveled to England to continue her studies and passed away from an illness when Scantlebury was eight years old. Her mother, Kathleen, journeyed to the US a few years before the rest of the family to find work and help pave the way for an American education for her children, which she and her husband agreed would be beneficial for Scantlebury, who at the time began to express an interest in medicine. As a student at the Alleyne School, Scantlebury had the simple assignment of writing an essay entitled My Career. She thought about some of the career attributes that might interest her. Being her own boss, helping people and having a good deal of autonomy were high on her list. In addition, she wanted to learn more about the illness that took her older sister’s life. She researched several career paths and decided to write about being a doctor. The more she researched the field of medicine, the more it spoke to her.


Scantlebury’s early education in her native Barbados is in some ways reminiscent of the late Shirley Chisholm, the first African American woman elected to Congress and the first woman to run for the Democratic presidential nomination. Though Chisholm was born in the United States to immigrant parents, at the age of three she was sent to live with her strict grandmother in Barbados for seven years. In her 1970 autobiography, Unbought and Unbossed, Chisholm, an awe-inspiring, fearless politician and educator, described her Barbadian education: “Years later I would know what an important gift my parents had given me by seeing to it that I had my early education in the strict, traditional, British-style schools of Barbados. If I speak and write easily now, that early education is the main reason.” Like Chisholm, Scantlebury benefited from a solid Barbadian education before coming to the US. It was on this Caribbean island in the West Indies under the watchful eye of her parents that she received the foundation and the discipline to follow her path to medical greatness.

Scantlebury shares that her father’s dreams have been fulfilled through his children. He takes great pride in seeing them accomplish things he wasn’t able to accomplish. Each time he saw his sons and daughters advance to another grade, learn a new skill, discover something fanciful about the world, or profess their love for math, science, business or the arts, he felt a sense of pride. His dream was to see each of his children grow up, go to college, and become successful professionals no matter where their talents took them.

Without question, Scantlebury’s father is one of the greatest people she has ever come to know. His love for life and his trust in God have given him such a warm spirit. It doesn’t matter how much adversity or hardship he has experienced, he always has a positive attitude. “I think he is so at peace with his life that whenever his time is up, I’ll know that he was content with all that he’s done and all that he’s seen his children accomplish,” says Velma. “I know he has no regrets and he loves us all dearly because he demonstrates to us that it’s all about family, it’s all about love and it’s all about helping others.”

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