Health Careers Director
Barbara Bell's 'Motherly' Mentoring Produces Successful Health Professionals
Take a look around Dr. Barbara Bell’s office, and you immediately see the impact she’s had on Spelman students — and the impact they’ve had on her. Thank you notes, photos and mementos abound. Dozens of photos and notes of appreciation fill one board in her office, while others line the cabinets above her desk. Collected from alumnae who matriculated through the Spelman College Health Careers Program, the photos represent those who have become physicians, dermatologists, chiropractors, dentists, nurses, surgeons and pharmacists.
Dr. Bell said she couldn’t be prouder.
“We really want to ensure that students know all of the opportunities that are available, and that they’re as prepared as possible,” said Dr. Bell, director of the Health Careers Program, whose Spelman career spans nearly 30 years. “The more exposure they get, the better informed decisions they can make.”
While Dr. Bell may not accept much of the credit, her hard work, effective leadership and “motherly” mentoring have undoubtedly led to the success of the Health Careers Program. After coming aboard as director in 1992 and continuing the legacy of the program, more than 750 students have enrolled in the Health Careers Program since its inception in 1971. It now boasts mentorship/shadowing opportunities for students; a health careers pipeline professions scholar program to assist students with applying for internships, health, and allied health professional schools, and post-graduate study; an annual recruitment fair; and a fall reception honoring Health Careers Program students. Other initiatives include Red Cross blood drives, a substance abuse treatment work force development program, and the anticipated return of the popular Pre-Freshman Summer Science Program in 2011.
An affable woman with a warm spirit, Dr. Bell calls her job a “perfect marriage.” A native of New Orleans, Dr. Bell’s Spelman career began in 1981. Then a graduate student at Atlanta University, she was in the midst of completing her doctorate degree in developmental biochemistry when the grant funding her research experienced government budget cuts. She soon received an offer to become a biology laboratory assistant.
“I really liked how students at Spelman helped each other,” she said. “I was impressed by the spirit of sisterhood.”
During her early years at the College, Dr. Bell taught general biology for majors and biology for non-majors while completing her doctorate research. Teaching and research, she soon learned, were her greatest passions.
“I liked research and teaching, working with students, and offering them advice,” recalled Dr. Bell, who also carries the title assistant professor of biology. “I think everything I did during my educational journey has landed me in this place.”
Although she hasn’t taught in more than 15 years, Dr. Bell remains close to students. In fact, she’s so connected with students and alumnae that it’s not unusual for her to bring up a student’s name in conversation, and they’ll soon walk in or call.
“It happens at least three times a week,” she said, laughing. “They come back and they think I don’t remember them, but I do. It makes me proud to see how they have reached their goals.”