Adrina Patterson

Adrina Patterson
Image Credit: Aaron Howard

CLEMSON – At just 19 years old, Adrina Patterson has big goals in mind, and she’s already on her way to achieving them.

The sophomore Language and International Health major plans to attend medical school and specialize in dermatology. She believes her major has given her a holistic view of the healthcare industry by providing a cultural understanding and language proficiency that allow her to see the bigger picture, along with the necessary science courses for medical school.

“I never had an African-American doctor. My primary physicians, dermatologists and dentists have all always been Caucasian,” she said. “I thought to myself, ‘Why does it matter if they are white or black?’ Well, it does matter, because representation matters.”

According to the Journal of the National Medical Association, less than five percent of U.S. physicians are African-American, and only two percent are African-American women. Patterson hopes she will be able to help bridge that gap and provide care for other girls who may be seeking a physician they can relate to.

“I not only want to be a part of that two percent, but I want that number to grow and to flourish,” said Patterson. “I want for a patient to walk into the examination room and feel comfortable.”

Patterson believes she and other physicians of color can provide that sense of comfort to patients in the U.S. and around the world. Her study of Spanish and community development has inspired her to think globally and consider working in communities in South and Central America, as well as the Caribbean.

She hopes that by interacting with under-served populations and especially children she will be able to serve as an example and motivate future generations to study medicine. She says she has experienced this inspiration firsthand when connecting with her current role models.

“Whenever I come across an African-American woman doctor, I see myself in her. I look to her and I know that my dreams are attainable,” said Patterson.

Her dreams may be more attainable than ever, as evidenced by her recent acceptance into the Summer Health Professions Education Program. Through this highly competitive program, she will spend the summer studying, researching and observing clinical rotations at Howard University in Washington, D.C.

On campus, Patterson serves as a College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities Student Ambassador and a student assistant in the Department of Languages. She is also a member of the Women’s Leadership Conference Planning Committee, the African and Caribbean Student Association, the Student Government Election Board and the Language and International Health Society

When she has a free moment to reflect on what she wants to accomplish with her career, Patterson doesn’t mention personal success. Instead, she says she hopes to be part of the change she wants to see in the world.

“I want all of my black women and girls to know that your dreams are valid and worth fighting for,” she said.


The Department of Languages at Clemson University is proud to celebrate a milestone in providing comprehensive educational experiences to a more diverse student population than ever before. According to the magazine Diverse Issues in Higher Education, Clemson University currently ranks 16th in the nation for institutions that confer degrees to African-American students in foreign languages, literatures, and linguistics – a 17 percent increase from just two years ago.