‘The word doctor means teacher’: Cleveland Clinic surgeon impacts women all over country, world

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CLEVELAND, Ohio (WJW) — Dr. Linda Bradley’s over 30-year career in medicine all started as a dream at the age of four.

“When you think about young women back in the day…surgery was not considered an option,” she said. “I always supposedly knew from the age of 4, I said I always wanted to be a doctor. There are no doctors in my family.”

Bradley, who is now a gynecologic surgeon, wasn’t just the first doctor in her family. She was the first Black woman to join the staff at the Cleveland Clinic’s OB/GYN and Women’s Institute nearly 30 years ago. And her childhood dream has become a career that’s touched women not just all over the city and the country — but also all over the world.

“There were many bumps and curves in the road to get here, but I made it, and I think I’ve contributed very much to our specialty to the city of Cleveland, nationally and internationally, with the work that I do,” she said.

Bradley grew up not far from the Cleveland Clinic and moved with her family to the Lee-Harvard community. She graduated at the top of her class from John F. Kennedy High School before going to college and medical school.

While she always wanted to be a pediatrician, she ended up loving the breadth and variety of what obstetrics and gynecology provided while in medical school.

“Variety is the spice of life,” she said. “Every day is very different from the other.”

After school, she returned to Cleveland with her husband, and they raised their two children here.

Her work started with mostly clinical medicine: working with patients and performing surgeries. Throughout her career, she’s delivered thousands of babies. She’s performed more than 15,000 office hysteroscopic procedures and more than 2,000 operative procedures.

And over the years at the Cleveland Clinic, she also helped develop a residency to teach interns and residents who choose OB/GYN along with an additional fellowship for those who want more specialty work.

“My parents were both teachers, she said. “And I always say that the word doctor means teacher.”

She’s also been a part of national and international organizations that provide education and insight in her specialty all over the world.

For example, she went to Ethiopia a few years ago to perform the first operative hysteroscopy there. The procedure examines the uterus to help determine things including why a woman can’t get pregnant or stay pregnant.

“It’s been really wonderful to spread the word of education nationally and internationally,” she said. “And especially for under-resourced communities and countries. To be able to help them launch technology that we’ve been doing for 30 years and do it safely. I’ve enjoyed living locally but really traveling nationally and internationally with teaching.”

One accomplishment she’s most proud of is the development of the multicultural women’s program, Cleveland Clinic Celebrate Sisterhood.

The program holds events that provide days of “edu-tainment.” There are speakers and screenings, and the events give participants the ability to make medical appointments and to just have meals together.

“It’s a day of self empowerment, self-care for women,” she said. “It is a celebration of women’s health. When women are healthy, families are healthy. And when women are empowered, they do better.”

This next event is set for March 25 and focuses on vaccinations, she said. It will be virtual rather than in person due to the pandemic.

Her message for young women wanting to get into medicine like she did is: “Just do it.”

“I think about women who came before me,” she said. “It’s hard to believe some doctors in their 80s had to choose between being a mother, a wife or just a doctor. Those barriers are gone.”

She also has a message for all women.

“We’ve got one body,” she said. “We should take care of it. Take time for ourselves. The word ‘no’ is just a two letter word. But it’s one of the most powerful words in our vocabulary, and sometimes we have to say no to a lot of extraneous things that keep us from being focused.”

For more on the Celebrate Sisterhood event in March, click here.

For more on the Celebrate Sisterhood program, click here.

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