Today we’d like to introduce you to Dr. Aja McCutchen.
Dr. McCutchen, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
Since childhood, I dreamed of becoming a physician. I have always identified with the powerful healing role of the physician. I was a natural born scientist and while others were riding bike and playing double dutch in the urban streets of Cleveland, Ohio where I was born, I was digging in the dirt trying to reach groundwater. I also distinctly recall a man “crazy Dave” in our neighborhood who was suffering from mental illness. I would see him talking to himself and can recall the kids calling him crazy. However, I was intrigued by his “anomaly” and wondered what physiologically was making him different.
My neighborhood at the time was being taken over by drug dealers and users. However, I was fortunate to have a very driven single parent mother who wanted the best for the both of us. We would travel, take road trips, experience different foods and she would drive me to the more affluent areas of town. I knew that I was made for bigger and better things. I was a motivated scientist, intrigued with the nuts and bolts of how medicine worked.
I began working towards my goal of becoming the only physician in my family at a young age. In high school, I participated in summer research programs and this continued through my years at the University of Georgia. I was self driven and would network with those that were in positions that I wanted to be. This was of course with the help of strong mentors and teachers along the way who also recognized that I had something “special.”
During my years at University of Georgia, I did become a very young mother. Most people would have stopped at such a “stumble,” However, I made it a part of the dance and kept going. In fact, my daughter actually further helped me to structure my life and allocate time appropriately. I knew I was born to cure, to heal and to inspire.
Outside of my goals towards medicine, I have always been active in social and community organizations such as 100 black women of Atlanta, Crohns and colitis foundation and Hepatitis C support groups. To add, I have always been told that I could walk the runway at any point because when it was time for a Gala, let’s just say that the room would turn their heads and stop talking upon my entry.
I finally achieved my goal of attending medical school and was accepted at 21 years of age to Case Western University School of Medicine. By age 25, I received my MD. It has been an honor and a pleasure to practice medicine. But even better was that, I was extremely competitive and wanted to break into a male dominated, predominantly white field. I entered the competitive sub-specialty of gastroenterology (intestinal and colon health). I was determined to make women feel confident about their digestive health. Only 13% of gastroenterologist are female and only 1% are African-American female.
Today, I am a mother, wife, physician and mentor. I am on the board of our practice, medical director of the second largest Gastroenterology practice in the US, and I serve on many committees at Northeast Georgia Hospital. I am also on the faculty at the Augusta University/UGA Medical school where I continue to teach students. Further, I personally mentor young African American women and remind them to be authentic and true to themselves, to never dim their light, to remain fabulous and confident at any time and show their black girl magic. I remain active in health fairs and community events. I will never forget where I started and where I am currently. I am also a cheer mom and I put on fabulous charitable events.
In 3 years, I established 3 new offices and surgical centers.
We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
As the saying goes, “a skilled sailor never sails a smooth sea.” I have had many obstacles along the way. First, although beauty is socially accepted, it is sometimes difficult to be heard rather than seen when you are climbing to the executive level. I also had a daughter at a very young age while in college and was able to still graduate early and become a doctor by age 25. I broke into a field with only 4% African americans and 1% African American women and dominated. If it were not for the many struggles, I would not be as strong. I love a challenge, I accept a failure and I love to make the stumble a part of the dance.
We’d love to hear more about your business.
Established more than 40 years ago, AGA has grown from two physicians to more than 90 and from one office in Atlanta to more than 40 locations throughout Metro Atlanta and North Georgia. In addition, the practice operates 13 accredited endoscopy centers where most outpatient gastrointestinal procedures are performed. For patients who may require hospitalization, our physicians have privileges at most local hospitals.
At Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates, we are committed to providing our patients with the most appropriate and cost-effective healthcare available in a comfortable and compassionate setting. Our staff is specially trained to coordinate patient care and ensure that all medical needs are met, making our practice a right choice for those with digestive problems. Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates is a participating provider for Medicare, Medicaid and most healthcare plans offered in the state of Georgia.
To be Georgia’s premier provider of healthcare services dedicated to both the diagnosis and treatment of digestive disorders and liver disease. We are committed to delivering high-quality care in a professional and caring environment to improve the health and well-being of our patients.
Dr. McCutchen is a cum laude graduate of the University of Georgia in Athens where she received a bachelor’s degree in chemistry and served as a National Institutes of Health (NIH) National Heart Lung and Blood Scholar. After completing her medical degree at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio, Dr. McCutchen returned to Georgia to complete her internship and residency at Emory University Hospitals in Atlanta. During her residency, she was a NIH Fellow in Academics Scholar and received the ‘Senior of the Year’ award. She also served as an attending physician at Stephens County Hospital in Toccoa, GA. During her fellowship in gastroenterology at the University of Florida’s College of Medicine in Jacksonville, Dr. McCutchen served as Chief Fellow and also served as an emergency department physician for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Gainesville, FL.
Prior to joining Atlanta Gastroenterology Associates, Dr. McCutchen was in private practice in Athens, GA, for two years. She has been published in the Southern Medical Journal, the Journal of Gastroenterology and Hepatology, and the International Journal of Colorectal Disease. She is also a member of the American College of Gastroenterology, the American Gastroenterological Association and the American Society for Gastrointestinal Endoscopy.
In addition to general gastroenterology, Dr. McCutchen has a special interest in women’s GI health and gastrointestinal neoplasms. She joined the practice in 2013.
I am most proud of the fact that our practice has the largest female presence in the US with 19 female physicians. We offer a diverse group of physicians and comprehensive service. I am known for my expertise in womens health and am consider the QUEEN of colonoscopy. I am also a National Speaker for Crohns disease and Ulcerative colitis.
What were you like growing up?
Growing up, I was always adventurous, curious, an intellect and sassy. I loved to dress well. Loved being the lead in organizations. I performed in beauty pageants and science olympiad at the same time. I was leading student council and was always on homecoming court. I always worked the room even as a child and was known for my intelligence and my contagious smile. I was never shy and did enjoy attention.
- Website: https://www.atlantagastro.com/
- Phone: 1-866-GOTOAGA
- Facebook: atlantagastro
Derek Blanks Photography