Natasha Corbitt was told college wasn’t for people like her.
But the Atlantic County native not only went to college, she made history.
Dr. Corbitt is the country’s first African-American female pediatric surgeon with a double doctorate: both an M.D. and Ph.D.
She is only the 16th Black woman to become a pediatric surgeon in the United States.
“It’s really easy to listen to the negative things,” she says.
But she instead listened to a strong support system that included her mother, grandmothers and a host of friends and family.
“I had a lot of people looking out for me,” she says.
There was no idle time and always activities, including basketball and soccer.
But school always took top priority.
“My focus has always been on her education,” said Corbitt’s mother, Nicole Corbitt Harding.
Corbitt’s parents were teenagers when she was born. Her grandmothers were part of the household.
“I definitely had a non-traditional family,” she says.
She grew up in McKee City, Mays Landing, Atlantic City and Egg Harbor Township.
Corbitt said her mother was always looking for the best educational opportunities for her.
“My expectations of our public schools were that they provide what she needed,” Corbitt Harding says. “I spent six years on the Hamilton Township School Board trying to ensure excellence for all students not just mine.
“That wasn’t always easy but she is an example of that working perfectly,” the proud mom adds.
Her daughter didn’t only go to college, she went early. Corbitt graduated Oakcrest High School in 2002, after just three years.
Having already earned credits at Atlantic Cape Community College while in high school, she headed to Howard University as a 16-year-old college sophomore.
Corbitt wasn’t even old enough to have a driver’s license.
“I couldn’t even go to an R-rated movie,” she says.
But she did have a “laser focus of what I wanted to do” and a family friend at Howard that helped look out for her.
Two summer research internships changed her trajectory, she says, sending her to the laboratory side of medicine, with her research becoming published.
She graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2013, when she added both M.D. and Ph.D. to the end of her name.
Her path then took her to Michigan, where she had her Pediatric Surgery Fellowship at Mott’s Children’s Hospital.
On Sept. 1, she will head to Dallas as a pediatric attending surgeon at UT Southwestern Children’s Medical Center.
Her original goal was transplant surgery, but when she was mentored by a pediatric surgeon, things changed.
She saw a warmth there that drew her to it.
“I was energized and invigorated to take care of these kids,” she says.
And unlike other surgeon, pediatrics cover the gamut of surgeries.
But most do have a niche, hers is liver and pancreas.
The youngest patient was a 24-week preemie who weighed just 670 grams.
One of her patients in Michigan had gastroschisis,a defect in the abdominal wall exposing many of her internal organs. The case — including Dr. Corbitt — was highlighted in a special report by 9&10 News.
In January, Corbitt was part of a team that traveled to Peru to see more than 50 children and perform 24 surgeries.
“I’m grateful for her skills, but even more for her service,” her mother wrote on Facebook. “Do your thing, Tashi. Mom loves you.”
Beyond her daughter making history, Corbitt Harding tells BreakingAC it’s the person her daughter is that makes her a true success.
“She is fun and kind and a wonderful daughter, sister and friend,” Corbitt Harding says. “Proud is an understatement.”
Her daughter says she’s grateful for the support she’s had along the way
“It really does take a village,” she says, noting she focused on their words of encouragement rather than those who would tell her she couldn’t.
“If you’re really determined and set your mind to it,” she adds, “the sky’s the limit.”