The STUDENT MENTOR
BY KERRY FIRTH
A condescending gynecologist and a compassionate minister are two people who influenced Dr. Juliette Lomax-Homier’s decision to become an obstetrician and gynecologist.
“I had a gynecological experience when I was a teenager and the doctor was very condescending,” Lomax-Homier said. “Right then and there I thought I could do better than him. Later, when I mentioned I might be interested in medicine, another doctor suggested I become a dietician. But it was my minister that encouraged me to aim even higher when I told him I was thinking about becoming a nurse. He said ‘You can do better – you can be a physician.’All of these comments had a profound impact on my life.”
These defining moments blazed the trail for Lomax-Homier to pursue her dream of becoming an OB-GYN. Back then black females weren’t expected to become professionals, so she kept her lofty goals to herself.
“Even while I was attending Boston University for my undergraduate degree, I kept my medical school aspirations to myself,” she said. “Every time I mentioned my plans to someone, they would tell me I couldn’t do it. So, I studied hard, made good grades, applied to Boston University School of Medicine and got in.”
After completing her residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Boston City Hospital in 1986, she moved to Fort Pierce to fulfil her three-year commitment to the National Health Service Corp, a federal program that allows physicians to pay off their medical school debt with the promise that they will work in an underserved area. She began her career as a staff obstetrician and gynecologist providing care to the underserved and migrant populations at Florida Health Center in Fort Pierce.
The transition wasn’t easy. Growing up in Cambria Heights, New York, and attending college in Boston, Massachusetts, didn’t prepare her for life in a small town.
“Virginia Avenue was a two-lane road with few stoplights,” Lomax-Homier said. “When I had to make midnight runs to the hospital I could just pause at an intersection and go. Add to that, most of the locals had never seen a young, black, female surgeon in the hospital so it took some getting used to. But gradually I was accepted and fell in love with the community.”
After fulfilling her obligation to the Health Service Corp, she opened Just Ladies Health Care in 1989.
“I’d often deliver 10 babies in a weekend,” she explained. “I was solo in my practice for eight years and served as chief of obstetrics and gynecology at Lawnwood Regional Medical Center, delivering most of the babies for mothers who came into the emergency room without an assigned doctor. After working all day at my practice, I would make two, three trips to the hospital at night to do C-sections for high-risk women. It was just too much.”
After trying futilely to get help for this population of women, she sadly realized that she couldn’t do it by herself and gave up obstetrics, transitioning into gynecology in 2002.
“It broke my heart but I just couldn’t do it all,” she lamented. “I remember one night when my daughter was only nine. I was calling her from the emergency room to make sure she was home, getting dinner and doing homework. I realized I was parenting her by phone and missing her youth. I chose motherhood and family and have never regretted it. Obstetrics is all or nothing. It takes up 100% of your life and I wasn’t willing to do that.”
When Florida State University decided to open a regional medical school at Indian River State College in 2007 for third- and fourth-year medical students, officials visited local hospitals to recruit faculty. She applied, but instead of a faculty position, she was approached about becoming a clerkship director in obstetrics and gynecology. She accepted and began recruiting her OB friends as faculty.
“As the clerkship director of OB-GYN I was in charge of the program for students and recruitment of OB-GYN doctors in the area as faculty who would actually have one-on-one involvement in teaching the students,” she said. “Each student is assigned to a doctor and shadows him in patient consultations, surgeries and deliveries. I’m responsible for monitoring their progress and making sure students have access to the doctors.”
When the founding dean of the campus retired in 2015, Lomax-Homier was named his successor. As regional dean of the Florida State University College of Medicine’s campus in Fort Pierce, she not only oversees the clinical education of students, she also monitors and advises the clerkship directors. Acting as a liaison between the medical community and the students, she establishes relationships with local doctors and hospitals where the students will get their clinical training through one-on-one apprenticeships working directly with the physicians.
“It’s ultimately my responsibility to make sure the students get everything they need to graduate,” she said. “I consult with them, identify their needs and go out into the community to fulfill them. Fortunately, I’ve established relationships with CEOs at hospitals all the way from Holmes Regional Hospital in Melbourne, down to Cleveland Clinic in Stuart and I can just pick up the phone and get it done.”
Those contacts were invaluable during the pandemic when the rules changed daily.
“We literally all became pen pals because one day a student would be allowed in an operating room and the next day he wouldn’t,” she said. “In March, all of the med students were pulled off of in-person rotation, so we had to turn everything we were doing into online offerings.
“We had a class on track to graduate so we had to invent ways to provide the opportunities for them to complete all of the requirements. It was stressful for the students and the teachers to say the least.”
Lomax-Homier is a past board member of Health South Atlantic Surgery Center, an advisory board member for Florida Atlantic University Treasure Coast and Gulfstream Business Bank and a board member of Cleveland Clinic Indian River Hospital. She is also a proud member of the Eta Eta Omega Chapter of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority where she serves as co-chairwoman of the Women’s Health Committee. Through that partnership, the group supports the American Cancer Society with the Making Strides for Breast Cancer Walk. She also is a speaker in the community regarding women’s health issues.
Above all, Lomax-Homier is a champion for the students, encouraging each and every one not to let anyone deter them from their goal.
DR. JULIETTE LOMAX-HOMIER
Lives in: Port St. Lucie
Family: husband Greg, daughter Nicole
Education: Boston University, bachelor of arts degree, 1978; Boston University School of Medicine, medical degree, 1982; obstetrics and gynecology residency, Boston City Hospital, Boston, Massachusetts, 1982-1985; administrative chief resident, Boston City Hospital, 1985-1986; clerkship director school, American Professors of Obstetrics and Gynecology 2007, 2008.
Hobbies: Cooking, biking and gardening
Who inspires you? “My students inspire me to give them enough tools and trade secrets to be successful.”
Something people don’t know about me: “I grew up playing Double Dutch jump rope and I secretly wish there was a Double Dutch jumping team that I could join.”