Freddy Montero, MD
Name: Freddy J. Montero, MD
Institution: Medical College of Georgia at Augusta University
Title: Associate Professor Obstetrics and Gynecology, Maternal Fetal Medicine; Director, Perinatal Ultrasound; Director, Regional Perinatal Center
Medical School: Rutgers New Jersey Medical School
Residency: Brigham and Women’s Hospital/Massachusetts General Hospital
Fellowship Training Institution: New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center
Tell us about someone who had an influence on you as child: I met Lisa LaMonica, my guidance counselor, as a sophomore in high school. A relationship that started by chance - she was assigned students whose last names started with “M”- has turned into an almost 30 year story about the family you choose. Lisa recognized my potential and held me to the highest standards. When I left home at 16 to start living independently, she became my lifeline. In all the years since, Lisa has been cheering me on, and sending her love to reach me wherever I am.
Was there a mentor(s) who inspired you? One of the first individuals I encountered in medicine that inspired me was Dr. Maria Soto-Greene. When I met her, she served as the director of the Hispanic Center of Excellence at the New Jersey Medical School. Dr. Soto-Greene often spoke about her responsibility as a Latina physician to increase the number of underrepresented minority students in medicine. Her commitment to diversity in medicine stemmed from the challenges she faced on her own journey. That resonated with me.
How did the diversity (or lack of diversity) in your medical educators shape your training? It is a difficult truth to accept, but the higher we climb in academics, the less Black and Latinx representation we see. The diversity I encountered in the patients I cared for was not reflected in the faculty. It is important for learners, at all stages, to see themselves in their teachers. The paucity of minority physicians to guide, mentor, and support students of color can most certainly take an emotional and psychological toll. As a first-generation college student, the feelings of inadequacy started to creep in soon after I started school. That nagging feeling that I wasn’t enough and that I didn’t deserve opportunities, would continue to haunt me as I moved through academia. So, it is now on me to do my part to help combat the negative narrative many disadvantaged students internalize.
How has your cultural background shaped you as an MFM? My mother was born in Cuba, and my father in the Dominican Republic. Spanish was my first language and the only one spoken at home. We grew up poor, on welfare, in an inner-city neighborhood of Miami. Despite life’s circumstances, I grew up with abundant love and support. My mom was not formally educated beyond some high school, but she was bright. She instilled in me the desire to strive for more - to focus on what laid beyond the immediate confines of my barrio, to dream big, and to pursue education. Not having it easy as kid gives you grit. I learned to set goals and to work diligently to achieve them. I learned resilience. I learned to be compassionate and respect everyone’s struggle. Those life lessons have shaped me as person and as a physician.
Tell us about an MFM colleague who has been an important part of your MFM career. I am fortunate to have trained at amazing institutions with wonderful teachers and mentors that are leaders in Maternal-Fetal Medicine. Dr. Lynn Simpson is one of those individuals. She was the MFM fellowship director at Columbia during my training. Dr. Simpson is an outstanding clinician and an exceptional teacher. She was always available and willing to step in to help me with anything - scholarly or personal. Humble and down to earth, Dr. Simpson, has been a mentor and a friend. Although I graduated from fellowship almost a decade ago, I call Dr. Simpson often for guidance and advice.
If you had to live one day in your life over and over (think Groundhog Day 1993 Movie), which would you pick? My white coat ceremony is the day I would choose to live over and over again. As the only person in my family to graduate high school, completing college was already a huge accomplishment. But, going to medical school? That was almost unbelievable. Having my mother there to see me wear a white coat for the first time was amazing. As life would have it, my mom died just a few months after I started medical school. I think about that day often. I remember how happy and proud she felt. My heart was full.
If I could solve one problem in MFM it would be…reducing maternal morbidity and mortality in pregnant people of color.
The best day I ever had as an MFM was…delivering a healthy, vigorous baby into the arms of a friend and colleague.
The hardest day I ever had as an MFM was…the death of a patient from a placenta percreta.
I might be the only MFM who…is an ordained priest of Lukumi - an Afro-Cuban religion with origins in Nigeria.
My MFM colleagues would be shocked to know…that I sang in the gospel choir in college (although I can’t really sing).