The journey to become a doctor started well before Xavia Taylor stepped foot onto a college campus. The 28-year-old had desires of becoming a physician before she was old enough to know her timetables or perform long division.
“I started putting it into the atmosphere in second and third grade. At that age kids want to be a lot of different things. But for me, I wanted to be a physician and it stuck,” she said chuckling.
Taylor credits some of her desires to study medicine and early influences in healthcare to her great grandfather, Verdell Blount Sr.
“My grandfather was on the board of directors for the hospital in my hometown of Moultrie, Georgia. He would attend hospital retreats, and I would attend with him. I was able to sit in during meetings and meet doctors and talk to them at a very young age,” Taylor said.
Blount was a respected businessman, who managed a construction business most of his life. He also became the first African American on the hospital board in Colquitt County.
“The board was made up of impactful members of the community, and he was one of those people.”
Taylor recalls fond memories of her grandfather as well as his premature death. When she was 12 years old, Blount died from mesothelioma. In hindsight, Taylor believes exposure to asbestos was likely the cause of his cancer.
“His cancer was very eye opening to me. It was like watching life reverse. He went from an adult to a child,” Taylor said.
It was during that time, the Fort Valley State University (FVSU) alumna had a dream that she would one day be able to create a prevention for cancer and other deadly diseases.
“’Til this day, I do not know the real meaning of that dream, but I can say that it has helped me along the way. ‘What if I’m the person that can help people in their time of need or sickness?’” she said.
With dreams and aspirations in her heart, Taylor finished high school in 2014 and solidified her childhood desires by attending Fort Valley State University on a full scholarship in agriculture with emphasis in plant science biotechnology.
“I was initially on a medicine track, but I did not want a basic biology degree. Plant science biotechnology allowed me to work in the lab all four years,” Taylor said. It also allowed Taylor to see projects outside of medicine and engage in hands on research. From that research, Taylor was able to produce posters and present her research at conferences and win awards as an undergraduate.
In addition to her academic pursuits, Taylor credits herself for pursuing a well-rounded college experience.
“I had a great time at Fort Valley,” she said fondly. “Although I had to be strong in my academics, I was still able to balance it and enjoy my college experience.”
Some of her most memorable moments include pledging Delta Sigma Theta Sorority Incorporated, serving for four years on the Student Government Association (SGA) and being an active member of the FVSU-Peach State- Louis Stokes Alliances for Minority Participation (LSAMP) program.
Taylor also completed a 10-week undergraduate summer research program at the University of Georgia. The summer research at UGA was funded by the National Science Foundation (NSF). The program provided cutting-edge research experiences to undergraduate Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) scholars.
During her summer program, she studied in the bio-molecular lab and conducted clustered regularly interspaced short palindromic repeats (CRISPR) research. This technology allowed her to recognize different diseases and infections that attack the body.
“It is big in cancer research. At the time it was just beginning,” Taylor said.
Her summers also included shadowing a doctor near her hometown. During the summer of 2017, she learned about a medical school opening in Moultrie.
“I’d known of the Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine (PCOM) and their Philadelphia campus, as well as their Suwanee campus in north Georgia. What I did not know is that there would be a campus in Moultrie,” she said. To her surprise, the Moultrie campus would be accepting its first class of medical students the year after she graduated from FVSU.
On May 5, 2018, Taylor graduated from FVSU with a Bachelor of Science degree. Five days later, she began studying for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT). This eight-hour exam is one part of the application process for acceptance into medical school.
“I studied eight hours a day, like a full-time job,” she said.
Soon after, Taylor applied to PCOM South Georgia and was accepted. On August 21, 2019, she began medical school in her hometown and became one of 55 students admitted into the first class. In the spring of 2023, Taylor became a member of the first graduating class of PCOM South Georgia.
“It kind of just unfolded in a unique way,” she said, referencing how she ended up attending medical school in her hometown and serving her community. Now Taylor is an internal medicine resident at Archbold Memorial Medical Center in Thomasville, Georgia.
“I've enjoyed it so far. I have been able to see a lot of pathology. Internal medicine is giving me the ability to become a well-rounded doctor,” she said. Furthermore, the medical resident also enjoys seeing patients from her hometown.
“The fact that I was able to complete a medical degree in my hometown and give back to the people that have been rooting for me the whole time is rewarding,” she said.
As she reflects on her journey, she recounts her successes and challenges. Perseverance and humility are the lessons she’s learned.
“Never be afraid to ask for help. It is a journey, so it is important to remember to have a vision for yourself and to believe in yourself,” she said.
With goals of one day opening her own practice and increasing her knowledge through fellowships, the young doctor keeps two words in mind.
“It’s possible,” she said.