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This story was originally published by Undark and is reproduced here as part of the Climate Desk collaboration.

Aaron Bolds didn’t consider becoming a physician until he tore a ligament in his knee while playing in a basketball tournament when he was 15. His orthopedic surgeon was Black, and they hit it off. “He was asking me how my grades were, and I told him, ‘I’m a straight-A student,’ and he was, like, ‘Man, this is a great fallback plan if basketball doesn’t work out,’” recalls Bolds, who is African American.

“He looked like me,” Bolds says, “and that was even more encouraging.”

If not for that chance encounter, Bolds, 34, a doctor at Mount Sinai Health System in New York, might never have gone into medicine, he says. When he was growing up, there were no physicians in his family or extended social network to model that career path. And at the schools he attended, he says, his aptitude for science didn’t trigger the kind of guidance young people often receive in more privileged contexts.

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