Women in Psychiatry: Donna M. Norris, M.D.: Just a Lucky So-and-So?

Dr. Donna M. Norris, MD calls herself a “just a lucky so-and-so” as the 1945 song originally by Duke Ellington goes. She overcame many obstacles mainly in the form of discrimination based on race and gender. She’s the co-editor of the book “Women in Psychiatry: Personal Perspectives” (see link http://www.appi.org/SearchCenter/Pages/SearchDetail.aspx?ItemId=62408).

The more you know about her, the more you realize that talent more than luck got her as far as she’s come. Her excerpt from the book can be read at link http://www.psychnews.org/update/experts_2_49.html. And I learned something new. I had not heard of Dr. Solomon Carter Fuller who was named for the Solomon Carter Fuller Award, with which Dr. Norris was presented in May of 2010 by the American Psychiatric Association Committee of Black Psychiatrists. He was the first African-American psychiatrist and is credited for his work on Alzheimer’s Disease, see link: http://minorityhealth.hhs.gov/templates/content.aspx?ID=4028.

My favorite quote from Dr. Norris?

“I’m Just a Lucky So-and-So,” a popular Duke Ellington song from 1945, was one of my childhood favorites. At the time, my mother humorously compared the tune’s dissonance with our family’s stressed economic situation. But the lyrics were prophetic about my future…I have indeed been lucky. The most important piece of luck was to have a wonderful extended family who enabled me to seize the opportunities presented, to accept and manage the challenges that might seem beyond my grasp, and to understand that the world, while not always fair, can be a place of excitement
and learning and holds a treasure of life experiences.”

Dr. Norris has enjoyed an extraordinarily successful career, making many lasting contributions to psychiatry– and I guess that makes us a bunch of lucky so-and-sos.


Author: Jim Amos

Dr. James J. Amos is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry in the UI Carver College of Medicine at The University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa. Dr. Amos received a B. S. degree in Distributed Studies (Zoology, Chemistry, and Microbiology) in 1985 from Iowa State University and an M.D. from The University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa in 1992. He completed his psychiatry residency, including a year as Chief Resident, in 1996 at the Department of Psychiatry at The University of Iowa. He has co-edited a practical book about consultation psychiatry with Dr. Robert G. Robinson entitled Psychosomatic Medicine: An Introduction to Consultation-Liaison Psychiatry. As a clinician educator, among Dr. Amos’s most treasured achievements is the Leonard Tow Humanism in Medicine Award.