Born to make an impact
Dr. Tra’Chella Johnson Foy is the first African-American woman to be elected president of the Duval County Medical Society.
The image of a child being pulled from the rubble of a collapsed wall is forever seared in her mind.
She vividly remembers people digging with their bare hands in a frantic attempt to extract the boy from the mountain of crumbled bricks. In the confusion of the moment, she noticed something else: No one knew how to properly care for the severely injured victim before medical help arrived.
“It was at that moment that I said to myself, ‘I want to be the person who knows what to do,’” recalled Tra’Chella Johnson Foy, MD, a Baptist Primary Care family physician who witnessed the wall collapse in the early 1980s while growing up in a West Jacksonville public housing project known as Hollybrook.
“A doctor is someone who is trained to save somebody’s life and that’s what I wanted to become.”
That’s easier said than done.
Despite ranking third in her graduation class at Ribault High School, Dr. Foy lacked the financial resources to apply to colleges when she was 17. Her mother was fresh out of rehab, and her father continued to battle drug abuse and mental health issues. If not for the love and support of her uncle and other friends and relatives, Dr. Foy said, she may never have reached her full potential.
“My background is replete with challenges,” added the Jacksonville native, who recently became the first African-American woman to be elected president of the Duval County Medical Society. “Both of my parents were on drugs. For a time, we lived in an abandoned house without lights and running water. I used to pray to God to not wake me up in the morning.”
But Dr. Foy wouldn’t let her dire circumstances define her. She was determined to make it to college and her involvement in Ribault’s Marine Corps Junior Reserve Officers’ Training program, then-headed by retired 1st Sgt. Molbro Roberts, helped ensure her college ambitions.
“Sarge helped me facilitate that dream by paying my application fees to the University of Florida and Florida State,” said Dr. Foy, a former JROTC student who earned a scholarship to Florida, where she spent summers working in the College of Office of Minority Relations.
“Going to college was a big deal. My goal was always to get a medical degree and go back and serve the community where I grew up.”
She made good on that promise. After graduating from medical school at Morehouse College in Atlanta, home to the National Center for Primary Care, Dr. Foy served a three-year residency in primary medicine at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, where she earned awards for excellence in graduate medical education and outstanding clinical skills in patient care.
During her third year of medical school, she was one of only eight students in the country to receive an Arthur Ashe AIDS Care fellowship to the Harvard AIDS Institute in Boston. The fellowship is designed
to increase the number of minority physicians involved in AIDS-related clinical care. As a medical resident in Jacksonville, she volunteered at a free clinic for substance abusers and underserved mental health patients, eventually becoming its volunteer medical director.
Today, the community-conscious family physician and mother of one serves as a board member of several professional and nonprofit organizations, including “We Care Jacksonville,“a volunteer coalition of health care professionals who provide primary and specialty care to the underserved. She’s also an alternate delegate to the American Medical Association and vice president of the minority-based Northeast Florida Medical Society.
After spending 12 years as a primary care physician on Jacksonville’s Northside, Dr. Foy, a diabetes master clinician with expertise in most chronic conditions, joined Baptist Primary Care’s Larmoyeux Family Medicine in downtown Jacksonville earlier this year. The clinic, established in 1938 by Louis J. Larmoyeux Sr., traces its roots to Dr. Julia A. Larmoyeux, a trailblazing female physician in Jacksonville in the early 1900s.
“The Larmoyeuxes have been staples in the community for decades, and I’m honored to be a part of a historic practice and continue the legacy of its founders,” said Dr. Foy, who works at the East Ashley Street clinic with Drs. Louis J. Larmoyeux Jr. and Sandra Laurencin.
“Being a part of Baptist solidifies my future and allows me to care for entire families and, in turn, entire communities. This gives me the opportunity to make the impact on the world that I believe I was born to do.”