Dr. Sondema Tarr: Getting Real About Imposter Syndrome.

Dr. Sondema Tarr is a board-certified physician and surgeon who has wanted to be a doctor “ever since she 8 years old.” When she enrolled in med school, many realities about the environment were revealed. “Med school is super competitive,” Dr. Tarr says. “Some people walk in and take themselves super seriously, and they just think they’re above everybody else because of their personality or because of narcissism. There are people in med school who want to see you not do well because they feel like it elevates them and their status, but you just have to tune out the noise. I’m a very sensitive person, and I was very lucky because I had my group of friends that I gelled with and could laugh and cry with.”


She was very grateful for this because med school can be very intense. Dr. Tarr openly stated, “At times, if you’re not willing to assimilate into the culture of a residency program, they’re just not going to pick you even if you have a 4.0. With residency programs, there is so much more than GPA that goes into your placement.”

She adds, “Also, you experience racial biases when you’re black in those spaces because many people don’t expect you to do well at all.” Dr. Tarr describes how sometimes medical professionals of color are viewed as atypical or the exception. “You deal with imposter syndrome a lot because you’re in a space where nobody looks like you. When I was going to hospitals and doing different rotations, nine times out of ten, I was the only one. I went to the operating room one-time, and everyone was white. And I remember thinking - what am I doing here? What am I doing here? Why am I here? I just remember thinking - I don’t belong here. But then, I was like - “wait, you passed all of the classes that you were required to. You took the MCAT and scored high enough. You have wanted this your entire life. Don’t you ever tell yourself that. It's the  psychology of systemic racism that is making you feel inadequate, but you are not lacking of anything. You did everything that you needed to do. You’re just as deserving as anybody else to be here. You are so hardworking. There were no handouts, and you have overcome so many things. You are meant to be here.”

Since Dr. Tarr has graduated med school, she says, “This journey has shown me how bias is so ingrained within people, and if people mistake me for anything but the doctor, I correct them, and I’ll say, “no, I’m not the nurse, I’m not the aide, and I’m not the lab technician. Those are honorable positions, but I have spent my entire life in school. I am the physician. I am here to help you, and I am essentially running the show.”