Friday, July 19, 2024

Oral History: Like mother, like daughter

by Kimberly Bailey-Tureaud

Dr. Geraldine Joiner Thornton and daughter Dr. Candace Thornton-Spann.

Dr. Candace Thornton- Spann, is a Las Vegas dermatologist who comes from a long line of doctors — including her mother, Dr. Geraldine Joiner Thornton. Both women recently shared their thoughts with Black Image, reflecting on how a mother’s support — and a daughter’s love — are essential ingredients in their family’s success and devotion to one another.

Dr. Candace Spann Thornton
For as long as I can remember, I wanted to become a doctor. I was raised in Las Vegas and attended the public school system. Of course, I was modeling after my parents. My father, Dr. Joseph Thornton, is a colorectal surgeon — but that specialty was ruled out rather quickly (laughing). My mother is a dentist. Becoming a dermatologist was kind of an accident. I had no interest whatsoever in becoming a dermatologist, but actually wanted to be a pediatrician or a plastic surgeon when I was in college.

When I was close to graduating from UCLA, I was applying to medical schools and needed more clinical work experience on the medical school application. So I applied for everything I saw in our college newspaper that related to the medical field. The only offer I received was from a dermatologist, and I got the job to work in his office. I was initially disappointed, but decided I could work anywhere for just a year. The longer I worked there, many things caught my interest. It was fascinating to me that you could diagnose diabetes, hepatitis, HIV, lupus and … cancers just by examining the skin. Another big plus was how the dermatology doctor was able to go home every day at 5 p.m. — with no pager.

Another desire I had all my life is to be a mother and have a family. Becoming a dermatologist would give the flexible time to be a mother and wife. Now I am the mother of an 8-year-old daughter and a 6-year-old son. I think they would tell you, “Even though mom works, she is home with us a lot.”  When I am home … they have my undivided attention. I participate in all of my children’s school events and field trips. I have a supportive husband who is also a doctor. We met in college … attended the same medical school at Meharry Medical College, and completed our residency together in New York City. It is a blessing.

Dr. Geraldine Joiner Thornton
I had a chance to have two beautiful girls, Candace and Alexis (a government events manager in Seattle, Wash.), who are both very bright, intelligent, and who were also very curious about everything as little girls. It was a lot of fun raising them, and they did very well academically. I am proud to have instilled into them good Southern family values, because I was raised in Alabama. We had a big family that worked very hard to achieve goals either as farmers or in the world of education.

Alexis Thornton, is a government events manager in Seattle.

Thornton Spann
My mother is my hero. She has given me so much, and I didn’t realize everything until I entered the real world. I remember being home sick in college, and it was Easter holiday and I received a beautiful Easter basket. She would always send care packages … and my friends and I would enjoy gumbo, jambalaya and all of my favorite foods. My mother has always given me great career and family advice. The best motherly advice she has given me is to be there for your children … sit with them to do homework, read  with them at bedtime and sing with them.

Joiner Thornton
I had five siblings who all did very well with their lives. My family’s emphasis on education was the theme of our household. Education satisfied our curiosity about life, so we always searched to find the truth through education.  Our brains were stimulated at every turn, and now there are seven doctors in my immediate family. We are not all products of advanced education, but we are all very intelligent and hardworking people contributing to the community.

I attended Howard University and Meharry Medical College, where I met my husband. I can’t say that there is a particular secret in raising one’s children. I think parents just have to talk their children’s heads off. Most parents who take the time to listen to their children usually have good children. Giving your children a stable home — whether as a single parent, in a two-parent home, or if it is another relative raising the child — will give your children a head start on life.

Communication is also very important, and it doesn’t cost a dime. We allowed our children to set their own paths for life, but were always aware that they were watching, and took initiatives to feed their minds with positive energy and knowledge. Children want to be fed information, and I talk to all children because I know that I just might influence a new path for them.

Following the footsteps of my parents and going to the same Meharry Medical College, which is an African-American medical school, gave me so much.  Meharry gave me a sense of personal importance as a black woman. I think I am a better doctor today because I went there. I have a responsibility to the history to be better than average, because I am carrying a legacy with me.

My message to other young women desiring to pursue a career in medicine is to go for it!  The only one who can ever hold you back is yourself. Education is something no one can take away from you. Do what you have to do to get it and it will lead to a better road. This Mother’s Day, I want to say to my mother, thank you. I love you so much. I didn’t realize until I got out into the world how incredibly lucky I am to have you as my mom.

Historic Photo in Time: Josephine Baker with her adopted children from around the world.

Joiner Thornton
All children are God’s gifts. My family has always been my priority, and the details were never overlooked. I believe in traditions and making a holiday or just a family dinner something to remember. These are our moments in life and I don’t take anything for granted. I believe in staying positive and surrounding yourself with positive people. I want my girls to know that they are special children. I think the world of them and their progressive minds. They are good decision-making adults, and Candace has now blessed me with my grandchildren, who I adore. My children are the treasures of my life.

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