At the Intersection of Health and Equity with Dr. Cameron Webb

Dr. Cameron Webb

by Sarad Davenport

“I’m surprised I have made it through thirteen months of campaigning without mentioning this,” said Dr. Webb. What you may not know about Dr. Bryant Cameron Webb is that he got cut from his 9th-grade basketball team. What is more, this event proved to be a critical inflection point in the life of the man now vying to represent the 5th District of Virginia in the United States, House of Representatives.

“I got cut from the basketball team in ninth grade,” Dr. Webb emphasized and was sure to state upfront that he would never compare his story to that of Michael Jordan, but revealed that he had a similar experience. “My response to being cut was that I would take 300 to 400 jump shots every day after school. Every day, without fail.” In what could have been a psychologically crushing blow to an adolescent to whom, ball was life; Webb transformed that experience into something that made him a better player, but more importantly a better person and ultimately—leader.

Young Cameron made the team his sophomore year and became the team captain in his senior year of high school. Dr. Webb went on to say, what he learned through this was the power of ‘work ethic.’ “It showed me that I could outwork anybody, and that—hard work created opportunity.” Many of us have borne witness to Dr. Webb’s work ethic as he leads as father and husband, practices medicine, and relentlessly campaigns to be called congressman.

Beyond the Court

Not only did Dr. Webb excel on the basketball court, he also excelled academically. “I went to public school my whole life, and I am a champion for public school education,” said Dr. Webb. Part of the reason that Dr. Webb is such a supporter of public schools is because of the specific experiences he had. Dr. Webb was in the first-ever class of students selected for the Commonwealth Governor’s School which is a school-within-a-school model half-day program ‘designed to challenge students in four major academic content areas, through problem-based instruction… for gifted and highly motivated learners.’

“It was great because I got to take all advanced placement courses. I was in classes with kids who were identified as the most gifted in several different counties,” said Dr. Webb. He went on to discuss how much confidence that experience gave him as a young Black male going into college—fighting against so many “forces that try to undercut your confidence.” This gave me pause as a writer, understanding that much of what young Black males in America face are ‘the forces that try to undercut [their] confidence.’ The experience at the Governor’s School was something that a young Cameron could take forward as he went on to be a pre-med student at the University of Virginia. “This gave me the confidence to know that I was capable of performing at a high level.”

Family

What was key to helping Dr. Webb in his becoming was and still is family. His family came to Virginia years ago from the central Louisiana city of Alexandria when his dad started graduate school at Howard University and inevitably took a job in law enforcement with the DEA. “My parents came here and picked Spotsylvania County as the place to raise their family very deliberately,” said Dr. Webb. Bryant Cameron was the 3rd of 6 kids. “We all rode around in what looked like a church van, and everyone around town knew us as the Webb kids.” Dr. Webb went on to talk about how his mother was a career educator in Orange County and how his family has deep connections throughout the Central Virginia region.

Between his parents’ rootedness in the community to the relationships he developed on and off the basketball court, Dr. Webb is homegrown and one of our own. “It’s not uncommon that I’ll have a patient from say, Culpeper and I’ll mention a player that I used to play [basketball] against with their last name, and they’ll say, ‘Yeah, that’s my cousin.’”

Long before he became a medical student at Wake Forest University, Dr. Webb was thinking about becoming a doctor. When young Cameron was just a 4-year old, his family doctor was a man named Timothy Yarborough. “He was at the time, a young Black man in his mid-30s. Seeing a Black man in a white coat was powerful—transformational.” Then Dr. Webb dropped something that demonstrates the power and importance of seeing what you can eventually become. He said, “When I was 5-years old, I said I was going to become a doctor and eventually when I applied to medical school, I wrote about Dr. Yarborough.”

A young Byrant Cameron Webb

A young Byrant Cameron Webb from the campaign website.

Dr. Webb talked about how his family poured into his goal of becoming a doctor when he was growing up. “My paternal grandmother was a nurse and the head nurse on her unit.” She was a well respected medical professional in that part of Louisiana and heard that her 5-year old grandson wanted to become a doctor. “That Christmas, she bought me a stethoscope. The next year my parents bought me an anatomy book. And the next year they bought me Ben Carson’s “Gifted Hands” to see about this Black neurosurgeon.” What was fascinating about this segment of the interview was the importance of supporting the dreams of our children and young people at the earliest ages and seeding their growth until it becomes a reality.

Education and Beyond

What some people may not know is that in addition to a medical degree, Dr. Webb also holds a law degree from Loyola University Chicago School of Law. Curiously enough, what led Dr. Webb into the legal and policy realm was an Anthropology class he took as a freshman. In that anthropology class, Dr. Cameron learned about the disparities in healthcare, namely diabetes, heart disease, infant mortality, and HIV/AIDS, and how they had a more pronounced effect on communities of color. “It just didn’t make sense to me,” said Dr. Cameron.

“This was 2001, and we had just completed the Human Genome Project and we knew that there was more variation within races than across races. It didn’t add up.” Understanding that race was a social construct and these outcomes had more to do with systems than genetics, this anthropology class led pre-med Dr. Webb to conclude that health disparity was, in fact, a ‘social justice’ issue. That’s what made him certain that not only did he need a degree in medicine but he also needed a law degree.

Meeting Leigh-Ann

While matriculating as a student through the intellectual ecosystem that is the University of Virginia, a young woman caught the eye of soon to be Dr. Webb. “She was in my ‘Intro to Chemistry’ class and I thought to myself right away, that she is real cute.” The thing is, his now-wife, Dr. Leigh-Ann Webb, wasn’t all that interested in dating. She was too a pre-med student and had her own academic and life goals as her central focus.

What many may not have already known is that Dr. Webb is also what is colloquially termed a ‘sneakerhead’ — meaning that he is a connoisseur of choice athletic shoes and namely those under the Nike and Jordan brand. When returning to school one fall, Webb came sporting his fresh Jordan 17 Lows, and across the lecture hall, he noticed Leigh-Ann with the same sneakers on. A perfect time to strike up a conversation, he thought. “She looked down and saw my shoes and said, ‘Oh you’re corny,’ but it sparked a conversation. It did result in me getting friend-zoned for about 2 years though.” Dr. Cameron talked about how he is the great hope of every guy out there who has been friend-zoned before because, by his third year of college, the inevitable Dr. Leigh-Ann agreed to a date.

Dr. Webb and family

Photo provided courtesy of the Webb for Congress campaign.

When speaking about his wife, Dr. Webb takes a very serious and affectionate tone. He said, “She is my best friend.” He goes on to talk about how serious she was about her studies as they matriculated through pre-med together. “Leigh-Ann was better than me in every class. She could buckle down in ways that I couldn’t. We are very complementary in that respect. She is a very impressive woman.” You couldn’t help but be inspired by their story of love and his admiration of his wife. As he spoke, he came across as beyond grateful and appreciative to have her as a wife and also as his ‘best friend.’

Getting Back to Washington

So as Dr. Webb looks to secure a seat in congress, many may not know that he has significant experience working in the nation’s capital. During the Obama administration, Dr. Webb was selected as a White House fellow. “I was able to put together some events for the president and write briefings for him and it was a really special experience being in that administration.”

What really might bake your noodle is that The White House Fellows program is non-partisan, and Dr. Webb’s fellowship extended across administrations. During his time in the Obama administration, he worked on things central to healthcare and also the ‘My Brother’s Keeper’ initiative to name a few. In his six months in the Trump administration, Dr. Webb was able to work on and lead a drug pricing task force. “This is an issue that I’m passionate about, which is reducing the cost of prescription medications. I was able to work closely with the late Congressman Elijah Cummings on some bipartisan work that they were aiming to do.”

There are many things that Dr. Webb would like to do for the 5th District if given the opportunity by the people. Those being, improving rural broadband access, increasing teacher pay, expanding job training programs, and making college more affordable and much more. Dr. Webb describes himself as a man of faith who is committed to his wife Leigh-Ann of 11 years and their two children: daughter Avery, 9; and son Lennox, 5. Dr. Webb enlists equity and justice as his ‘true north’ and has a simple and singular aim in life, that when it’s all said and done, his creator will say, “Well done, thy good and faithful servant.” Many of us get the inclination that the doing has just begun for Dr. Bryant Cameron Webb.

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