…I advocate bringing vocational skills (electrical, carpentry, sewing, typing) back into public high schools. These skills once gave people opportunities to have a career out of high school, particularly those not going to college. It also set other graduates on a clear career path once they entered college. In order to learn these skills nowadays, you have to pay to go to a vocational school. Well, a lot of folks that learned these skills in high school did so because they couldn’t pay for college/higher education but now they’re being expected to take out loans to pay for these once free classes. It’s a cycle of keeping certain groups of people “down” or indebted because a large number of these kids can’t afford college nor can they afford vocational schooling. Young kids need as many different avenues as possible to become successful. Success is the gift the keeps on giving, the more successful we are as a society, the less crime, poverty, and homelessness we will have.
I had the pleasure to interview Dr. Britten Cole. Before she was an anesthesiologist, Britten was an officer in the Navy alongside Dr. Contessa Metcalfe (Married to Medicine Atlanta) who remains one of her best friends to this day. Dr. Britten is one of the breakout stars of Bravo’s newest franchise, Married to Medicine Los Angeles. She’s known for her style, composure and no drama tolerance policy. Dr. Britten is happily married to her husband, Mack Major and she’s a devoted mother to their two children, Ivy and Mack Jr. Dr. Britten also has a popular parenting blog for People.com. Dr. Britten has been featured in People.com, Reality Blurb, Distractify, The Grio, and Hollywood Life.
Thank you so much for joining us! Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
I grew up on the south side of Chicago to a black mom and white dad who divorced when I was relatively young. I grew up in an environment where, because I am so light skinned, I stuck out like a sore thumb. Usually, this attention was negative, however, because I had the mouth of a sailor and the balls of a lion I never really had any problems. My mom worked two jobs to provide for my brother and I so her work ethic rubbed off on me. I was always an over-achiever in school and was determined at a young age to choose a career path that allowed me more time with my family yet provided me enough money to enjoy life.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
There’s no specific one story that brought me to this career but rather many small life events. Early on, my mom inspired me to “become someone”. In high school, I had a science teacher who encouraged me to lean toward the sciences and actually it was the Cosby Show that directed me into medicine, I had never seen what a doctor lived like. Their family lived very comfortably financially and at the same time they were able to be physically and emotionally present in their family’s lives.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
The most interesting story would hands down be from my time in Iraq. Not many of the stories were pleasant, although I did manage to find some enjoyment with colleagues and friends. Instead of giving a particular story, I’ll just say that I was able to capture the feeling of what it’s like to be in a war zone, fighting to keep people alive, not being able to save everyone who crossed my path and seeing what life is like for those who live in war torn areas of the world. It was awakening, to know what’s happening around me thousands of miles away in the comforts of my near perfect American life. It was humbling.
Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
The funniest mistake I made when I first began in medicine was when I first starting drawing blood on patients. I was asked by the senior resident if I knew how and of course I said “yes” so I wouldn’t seem too wet behind the ears. Well, I had no idea what I was doing, every step I took was totally out of sequence of the norm, so it turned out to be a complete blood bath. My only saving grace was, it was just myself and the patient in the room so no one could see me stumble through it. The patient was super sweet and just kept saying “it ok baby, you’re doing great”. Well, despite it being an almost total blunder, I walked out of the room with the sample of blood in hand. So the moral to the story, if you believe in you, others will too or, fake it til you make it, lol.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
Right now, I’m actually working on getting my daughter signed to a talent agency. She wants to start acting professionally so I’m here to support her on that. I also have a couple of other things in the works that I have to plead the 5th on but you’ll hear about them soon!
I’m very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in film and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
Representation is important in every facet of life; science, technology and the arts. Seeing someone who looks like you doing great things in any field moves you to action, its inspirational. It offers opportunities to those who would otherwise not have it. Its normal for people to hire like-minded, same race, same sexuality people as themselves. The opening of a door for one person of a different ethnicity, for example, lends itself to the hiring of more culturally diverse people. The beauty of film and television is that its influence is able to capture a large audience at once. And having diversity on screen as well as behind the scenes helps to tell a wide range of stories of different groups of people. It gives everyone watching a better understanding of other ethnic groups, languages, cultures, and sexualities. This understanding helps everyone grow, to be more empathetic, less fearful or hateful. Diversity teaches us that in the end, we are more alike than we are different.
From your personal experience, can you recommend three things the community/society/the industry can do help address some of the diversity issues in the entertainment business?
In an effort to promote diversity in our society I recommend we all 1) hire equally qualified people that don’t look like the majority of those around you. 2) specific to the entertainment industry — stop booking the same faces for a movie, as a writer, costume designer and touting that as diversity. Branch out, there are more than those same 3 people who are able to do the job. Diversity isn’t always color or ethnicity. sometimes it’s age and experience. 3)as a society — if you don’t feel there’s adequate diversity on tv, movies, or music don’t buy in to it, you have the power to make change by where you spend your money. If you’re sick of not seeing yourself represented well or even at all in the entertainment industry scream it loud by not monetarily supporting that artist, business or project.
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.
I only have a couple. 1) don’t feel guilty for having a little fun. During med school and residency, if I didn’t have a book in front of me I felt so guilty that I rarely hung out with my girls, family, etc. as a result, I missed out on a lot of good times. 2) there’s a bigger plan for you, hold tight. Medicine has a tendency to be monotonous and drains your creativity. I use to draw, sing, I was into fashion, but once I got into medicine all that came to a screeching halt. Now that I’m on a tv show, I’ve been able to revisit my artistic side, but I wouldn’t be on the show if I weren’t a doctor. So, going into medicine has actually served 2 purposes in my life, I just didn’t realize one of those purposes would bring me back into the arts.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Have hobbies outside of medicine, laugh daily, travel as often as you can and never turn down an opportunity to hang with family and friends, otherwise, it will consume you.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
One movement would fall under public education. I advocate bringing vocational skills (electrical, carpentry, sewing, typing) back into public high schools. These skills once gave people opportunities to have a career out of high school, particularly those not going to college. It also set other graduates on a clear career path once they entered college. In order to learn these skills nowadays, you have to pay to go to a vocational school. Well, a lot of folks that learned these skills in high school did so because they couldn’t pay for college/higher education but now they’re being expected to take out loans to pay for these once free classes. It’s a cycle of keeping certain groups of people “down” or indebted because a large number of these kids can’t afford college nor can they afford vocational schooling. Young kids need as many different avenues as possible to become successful. Success is the gift the keeps on giving, the more successful we are as a society, the less crime, poverty, and homelessness we will have.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I had a science teacher in high school, Mr Shavers, who made me realize that smart was cool. This put me on my path into science and eventually medicine. One day in private he asked me if it would be ok to tell the class that I received the highest grade on our last test, I was like “hells yeah”! I never thought it wasn’t cool to be smart, but by him asking that, I realized, wow some people are actually embarrassed to be smart. After that, I wanted my name announced every time we had an exam. So I studied harder and harder, I had stiff competition. Thats when I realized that not only did I enjoy science but I was pretty “good” at it. Soon after, I decided, I was going to become a doctor.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
“I didn’t come this far, just to come this far” — this pretty much sums up every stage of my life and pushes me even today. As a person, race and society, we should all strive for more, do more, learn more, and be more than we were yesterday.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
Whoa, this is a tough one, maybe Angela Davis. She’s an activist who became (in)famous during a very tumultuous time in American history, especially black history. I would love to ask her questions about the racial unrest in America at that time and her involvement in it. I’d also want to know what she thinks of today’s culture and where we are headed in the future.
How can our readers follow you on social media?