(Shown above: Jacentha Buggs, MD)
Jacentha Buggs, MD, as a member of the Tampa General Medical Group (TGMG) Transplant Surgical Team, recovers livers, kidneys and pancreas for transplantation and oversees TGMG’s summer research program with USF.
Dr. Buggs has always been interested in medicine. “Per my mother, I was always dissecting fish and frogs as a young child,” remembers Buggs. “I thought I wanted to be a trauma surgeon until my mentor, Dr. Victor Bowers, an abdominal transplant surgeon with TGMG, took me on a procurement surgery several months into my internship as a general surgery resident.”
Whether or not she planned to, Dr. Buggs became a trailblazer when she entered the medical field and became the first African American to complete the General Surgery Residency at USF, then became the first Transplant Fellow to complete the Transplant Fellowship with LifeLink® HealthCare Institute, which is now TGMG, Tampa General Hospital and the University of South Florida. Admittedly, she was “married to the job” until she met the man who would become her life partner, their goals of having a healthy family surpassed her career ambitions and she decided to walk away – at least for a time – from the career she loved.
Far from the stereotypical stay-at-home mom whose days are limited to caring for their homes, spouses and children, Dr. Buggs did all of those things, and served as a health reporter for Bay News 9, a consultant for the international nursing program at Hillsborough Community College in their Allied Health Continuing Education Program and founded and served as director of Summer Enrichment Camp, Inc., which was established to cultivate and nurture the self-confidence of young girls while providing essential life skills.
Dr. Buggs was content with her role as a homemaker and medical consultant until an unexpected experience near Tampa General Hospital caused her to once again reconsider her future plans. “I had a meeting on Davis Island near the hospital and heard the helicopter take off. Something inside me ignited,” said Buggs. She met with Dr. Bowers to discuss the possibility of returning to TGMG after 13 years away, and before she knew it was back in the operating room. Dr. Buggs admits to loving every minute of the time she spends at work. “Donor surgery can be a very sacred experience when you realize the details of human anatomy and how fragile life really is,” says Dr. Buggs.
This past year Dr. Buggs added a few more titles to her impressive resume when she wrote, produced and starred in a Christmas play titled The Gift of Life. While traveling for work, she began writing a rough draft of what she hopes will one day become a novel, but then the idea of a stage play developed. “The play was more or less a chapter of my book,” says Dr. Buggs. “The play was an attempt to showcase the parallels between the gift of life (organ and tissue donation) and the ultimate gift of life (salvation through Jesus Christ).”
Finding success in one area of life is a remarkable feat, but blazing trails and creating opportunities where there aren’t any is how one makes a permanent imprint in the lives of others. Dr. Buggs’ life is a testament to the fact that one can achieve all of their dreams if they work hard and never give up.