Celebrating Black History Month - A Profile on Kevin Southerland, MD

Feb 14, 2024

Kevin Southerland, MD, a vascular surgeon, developed an interest in vascular disease due to the resilience of his patients. Southerland, based at Duke Health in Durham, N.C., has dedicated his career to addressing vascular issues, particularly those affecting arteries supplying vital organs. 

Kevin Southerland's upbringing revolved around performing acts of service. Raised in Washington, D.C., he harbored aspirations of attending Duke University in Durham, N.C., from a young age. Between 2009 and 2018, he undertook his fellowship and residency at Duke, proudly identifying as a "Duke lifer." Southerland's motivation during his time at Duke stemmed from a personal connection— his family and awareness of vascular disease’s impact on minority communities. 

Dr. Southerland headshot no background

“That's what drew me to vascular, the patient population, and just diversity and procedures. This was a good way for me to use my skills and train my talents,” said Southerland. 

Committing to being a force for good, Southerland sees his role as leveraging his skills to provide excellent clinical care, alleviate pain and addressing the health care disparities in these communities. 

During Black History Month, Southerland emphasizes the importance of reflection and gratitude for the opportunities he enjoys today. He recognizes the sacrifices and hardships endured by those who came before him, laying the groundwork for his achievements. Southerland's grandfather, who faced the obstacle of illiteracy growing up and worked as a tobacco farmer, provides a poignant example. This familial journey has evolved in two generations, with Southerland now holding the position of a vascular surgeon at a renowned institution. 

“I try to be intentional in my work; the best way I can do that is by providing excellent service. I view surgery and medicine as a servant theory to use our training and skills to help people,” said Southerland. 

In discussing the critical need for diversity in medicine, Southerland emphasizes the scientific fact that commonality between patient and provider improves outcomes. He calls for increased diversity in surgery and acknowledges surgeons' role in addressing health care disparities. Southerland sees surgeons as uniquely positioned to make a difference, advocating for improved communication, adherence to treatment plans and shared decision-making. 

Southerland urges his colleagues to acknowledge their role in perpetuating these disparities and take ownership in addressing them. He emphasizes the need for surgeons to deliver excellent clinical care consistently, regardless of demographic factors, to eliminate disparities in patient outcomes. 

“It starts with acknowledging disparities in the things we treat and how we can help with that. We're advancing discovery on all fronts, whether translational or basic science, population science, patient engaged research or clinical trials, we’re ensuring diversity across all clinical trials,” said Southerland. 

As a Society for Vascular Surgery member, Southerland believes in the organization's potential to contribute significantly to addressing vascular issues. He sees the SVS Foundation as a key player in promoting science and biomedical discoveries, particularly in the small and specialized field of vascular surgery. 

"The SVS Foundation is super critical to the mission of improving vascular care for everyone in this country. If we invest our money in organizations, it should be in ones like this, said Southerland. "I think the Foundation does a great job of promoting science and biomedical discoveries." 

Southerland’s advocacy for increased representation, acknowledgment of disparities and dedication to advancing research align with the principles of the SVS Foundation’s Voices of Vascular campaign, making him an inspiring figure during Black History Month. 

When you donate to the SVS Foundation, you support Voices of Vascular's important work in promoting diversity, equity, and inclusion. Learn more and make your gift today. 

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