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Dr. Donna M. Mendes

Medical professor and vascular surgeon Dr. Donna M. Mendes was born to Benjamin and Bernice Mendes on October 25, 1951. The second of three children raised in Oceanside, New York, Mendes attended Hofstra University in New York in 1969. With the help of her parents and Hofstra University counselor, Beatryce Nivens, Mendes became a pre-med major and graduated from Hofstra University in 1973 with her B.A. in biology.

In 1973, Mendes enrolled in Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. Mendes chose to study peripheral vascular surgery, which is the treatment of the vessels that branch out of the heart. Mendes graduated the following year and became an intern at St. Luke’s Hospital and a visiting clinical fellow at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons. She became a resident at St. Luke’s in 1978, and a surgical resident two years later.

In 1981, Mendes was promoted to surgical chief resident at St. Luke’s Hospital, and served as a fellow in vascular surgery at Englewood Hospital in 1982. After completing her vascular surgery fellowship, Mendes returned to St. Luke’s Hospital and became an instructor in clinical surgery at Columbia University’s College of Physicians and Surgeons.

In 1986, Mendes married her husband, Ronald LaMotte, and became the first African American female vascular surgeon certified by the American Board of Surgery. Mendes’ clinical research has focused on the effects of race on vascular disease, and she seeks to discover why peripheral arterial disease (blockages of blood vessels away from the heart) seems to impact African American patients more frequenctly, and with greater severity.

In 1990, Mendes became assistant clinical professor of surgery at Columbia University. She was hired as the chief of St. Luke’s Hospital’s Division of Vascular Surgery in 1993. Five years later, Mendes had become the senior attending surgeon in the Department of Surgery at St. Luke’s, and was hired as the attending vascular surgeon at the Department of Surgery Lenox Hill Hospital in 1999.

Mendes lives in Englewood, New Jersey, with her husband.

Donna M. Mendes was interviewed by The HistoryMakers on March 28, 2007.

Accession Number

A2007.116

Sex

Female

Interview Date

3/28/2007

Last Name

Mendes

Middle Name

M.

Schools

Hofstra University

Columbia University

First Name

Donna

Birth City, State, Country

Oceanside

HM ID

MEN01

Favorite Season

Fall

State

New York

Favorite Vacation Destination

Caribbean

Favorite Quote

I Love That.

Bio Photo
Speakers Bureau Region State

New York

Birth Date

10/25/1951

Birth Place Term
Speakers Bureau Region City

New York

Country

United States

Favorite Food

Chicken

Short Description

Medical professor and vascular surgeon Dr. Donna M. Mendes (1951 - ) became the first African American female vascular surgeon certified by the American Board of Surgery.

Employment

St. Luke's Hospital

Columbia University

Lenox Hill Hospital

Favorite Color

Red

Timing Pairs
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DAStories

Tape: 1 Story: 1 - Slating of Dr. Donna M. Mendes' interview

Tape: 1 Story: 2 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes lists her favorites

Tape: 1 Story: 3 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her mother's family background, pt. 1

Tape: 1 Story: 4 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her mother's family background, pt. 2

Tape: 1 Story: 5 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her earliest childhood memories

Tape: 1 Story: 6 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her father's family background

Tape: 1 Story: 7 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes recalls celebrating the holidays

Tape: 1 Story: 8 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about her parents' marriage

Tape: 1 Story: 9 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her father's career and hobbies

Tape: 1 Story: 10 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes recounts her early education

Tape: 1 Story: 11 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her early racial identity

Tape: 1 Story: 12 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about her experiences in school

Tape: 1 Story: 13 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about notable individuals from Roosevelt, New York

Tape: 1 Story: 14 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes recalls the assassination of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr.

Tape: 2 Story: 1 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her decision to pursue premed at Hofstra University

Tape: 2 Story: 2 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes being encouraged to attend medical school

Tape: 2 Story: 3 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes recalls her first autopsy

Tape: 2 Story: 4 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her classmates at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

Tape: 2 Story: 5 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her experience at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

Tape: 2 Story: 6 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes the Washington Heights neighborhood of New York City in the late 1970s

Tape: 2 Story: 7 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about her decision to pursue a surgical internship at St. Luke's Hospital

Tape: 2 Story: 8 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes discusses the predominance of men in the surgical field

Tape: 2 Story: 9 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her fellowship at Englewood Hospital

Tape: 2 Story: 10 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes opening her own practice after the completion of her fellowship at Englewood Hospital

Tape: 2 Story: 11 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about her mentor, Dr. Dardik

Tape: 2 Story: 12 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes reflects upon her role as the first African American woman certified vascular surgeon

Tape: 2 Story: 13 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her marriage to her husband, Ronald LaMotte

Tape: 2 Story: 14 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her certification by the American Board of Surgery

Tape: 3 Story: 1 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her challenges as an African American female doctor

Tape: 3 Story: 2 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her specialty in limb salvage surgery

Tape: 3 Story: 3 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about the risk factors for amputation

Tape: 3 Story: 4 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about the Association of Black Cardiologists, Inc.

Tape: 3 Story: 5 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about the prevalence of heart disease in black women

Tape: 3 Story: 6 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her own research into vascular disease

Tape: 3 Story: 7 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about racial discrimination in healthcare

Tape: 3 Story: 8 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about her patient relationships

Tape: 3 Story: 9 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes recalls being named the Teacher of the Year

Tape: 3 Story: 10 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes the medical advancements she witnessed

Tape: 3 Story: 11 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about her mentors

Tape: 3 Story: 12 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes the diversity council at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons

Tape: 4 Story: 1 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes recalls her health outreach work with Maya Angelou

Tape: 4 Story: 2 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her health advice for the African American community

Tape: 4 Story: 3 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about the importance of mentorship

Tape: 4 Story: 4 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes reflects upon the role of women in the surgical field

Tape: 4 Story: 5 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes reflects upon her career

Tape: 4 Story: 6 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her goals and how she would like to be remembered

Tape: 4 Story: 7 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about her involvement with The Links, Incorporated

Tape: 4 Story: 8 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes describes her youth education program

Tape: 4 Story: 9 - Dr. Donna M. Mendes reflects upon her life

DASession

1$1

DATape

3$4

DAStory

5$1

DATitle
Dr. Donna M. Mendes talks about the prevalence of heart disease in black women
Dr. Donna M. Mendes recalls her health outreach work with Maya Angelou
Transcript
Why do you think minority women are suffering at higher rates than the general population for heart disease?$$Because risk factors are not controlled as much, because the younger black woman is exercising a lot more. Just, for instance, what I used to say is when I'm in my car, and I'm driving along say Park Avenue [New York, New York]. And I used to be at Lenox Hill Hospital [New York, New York], which is on 74th Street [sic. 77th Street]. So you're, you're passing Lenox, so you see all the women that were about this big. Then you get to 96th Street, and all of a sudden the body habit just changes. Now that's genes, but a lot of it changes also because--and I don't mean jeans with they put on.$$Yeah, yeah (simultaneous)--$$(Simultaneous) That's genes, but it's also--$$--the DNA, yeah.$$Yeah (laughter). But it's also what is, what is eaten. And so we have got to just be a little bit better about that too. So why does it affect black women more? Well, we're, we're not real complainers. So therefore, you might have a heart attack you think something else is going on as, as opposed to it really being an MI [myocardial infarction] and, and, and stress. Those are the reasons.$$And stress plays a much greater role than people have believed in the past?$$Absolutely, absolutely. And I, I don't know the pathophysiolog- physiological answer, but it does, it does play a role. The other reason why black women or African Americans period are affected more is that if, indeed, there is less blood flow to the heart muscle, the heart muscle will no longer pump effectively. It'll develop a, it will, it will develop a cardiomyopathy. So the muscle doesn't--when your, when, when your heart pumps, it's supposed--vigorously pump and get the blood out. But if you have heart disease or you've had some evidence of muscle damage, the heart doesn't, doesn't pump vigorously, so there's a lot of heart failure because of that. So it's--hopefully, hopefully, the message will get out.$My outreach with [HistoryMaker] Maya Angelou is not really my outreach. It was more the Association of Black Cardiologists [Association of Black Cardiologists, Inc.]. And they did a tape on emphasizing the risk factors for heart disease, and they had Maya Angelou speak. It was, it was a cut and paste. They had, they did an interview with, and Sylvia [Sylvia Woods] was a patient of mine, Sylvia of the renowned restaurant [Sylvia's Restaurant, New York, New York]. And she was such a great patient that as soon as we were able to do the angioplasty, she was able to, 'cause it was affecting her leg, she was able to walk really well. And so they, they interviewed me with, with Sylvia. They interviewed Maya. They interviewed Dr. Ann Brown [ph.], who's a professor of medicine at, up in Washington [D.C.] I believe. I could be wrong about where exactly she is. But she helped prove that not--that women who have heart attacks, black women who have heart attacks, have an increased risk of heart failure from this cardiomyopathy that I was discussing before. So that's certainly somebody that you should, that you should try to interview. But Maya spoke about what the risk factors were. And in the tape we have five generations of women who get together for this one Thanksgiving Day, and, and what we, what we strongly push in it is that rather than having Thanksgiving Day and eating the entire day and not getting up and walking around doing some exercise too, during the tape, they had their dinner, and then they went out. And this, and the older woman was with the young--with her god--with her grandchild, great-grandchildren. It was just wonderful. It was just that we--the, the emphasis again is on living and not just sitting. You know, it's like being participatory.