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Chicago doctor on a medical mission to improve care for Black women

Chicago doctor on a medical mission to improve care for Black women
Chicago doctor on a medical mission to improve care for Black women 03:12

CHICAGO (CBS) -- Knowing, when it comes to medical care, not all patients are treated equally, a Black doctor at RUSH University Medical Center has made it her mission to help other women of color find their voices and get the care they need.

Dr. Kayla Nixon Marshall knew at an early age she wanted to become a doctor.

"My father's actually in family medicine. … My brother was also sick a lot when we were kids," she said. "Because of the experiences early on, I think medicine really seemed like the path for me."

Marshall is a gynecological surgeon who specializes in minimally invasive care. She helps women suffering from conditions that are not life-threatening, but life-changing nonetheless.

"I see a lot of really severe … large burden of fibroids, I would say; and a lot of severe endometriosis," she said.

Bonnetta Vaughn found Marshall after years of severe bleeding and excruciating pain sent her from physician to physician, leaving her with no help and no hope.

"At least 80% of the time I went to a hospital emergency visit or a doctor visit in pain, that's the way I left," she said. "Dr. Nixon is different, because she's attentive to her patients' needs."

Marshall said symptoms women of color experience often are brushed off as exaggerations.

"One of my biggest goals is to rebuild the trust that's been broken between a lot of Black women and the health care system," she said.

It's a tough job, but Marshall said she's used to dealing with tough stuff.

"In my high school, it was very competitive, and I sensed a need, I would say, to essentially prove myself over and above maybe some other classmates of other races," she said.

She finally found a nurturing environment at Xavier University of Louisiana, an historically Black college, and her parents' alma mater.

Then it was medical school and residency at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota; a place she loved, but the old doubts lingered.

"Even throughout residency training, I felt a similar need to just prove that I deserved to be there," she said.

Marshall found peace in – of all areas – art; getting her masters degree in art history while in medical school.

"For me, it was a way to see how art and medicine can be joined together," she said.

She said the combination promotes healing.

"When healthcare is at its best, it recognizes the humanity of people," she said.

It's an understanding that has led to gratitude.

"I love my job. It's truly the best in the world. I wouldn't choose it any other way," Marshall said.

Gov. JB Pritzker recently named Marshall to a special commission committed to ending racial and ethnic disparities in gynecological cancers.

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